Posted by: Joelle El Bittar | April 23, 2013

LDU retaliates to Lebanon’s creativity brain drain

Believing in Lebanon’s youth potential, and in support of its creative industry, Lebanon Development Union (LDU), in collaboration with the Youth and Culture Center (YCC) – Zouk Mikael organized a series of capacity building workshops for young talents and artists on interaction with the media, self branding and social media. This Anna Lindh Foundation funded program regrouped 30 young participants from throughout Lebanon on April 13, 20 and 21 and was supported by website.


LDU president Eliane Fersan stated “the need to invest in the creative industries is becoming imminent, for our youth are resorting to emigration or complete shift in their career path to other sectors because they do not find support and encouragement”. She noted that there are neither financial facilities nor the basic pillars for the creative sector such as a fast Internet service or governmental support, which is leading to brain drain in the Lebanese creative industry at the benefit of the Gulf countries, Europe and the United States.


On her side, LDU Secretary General Crystel El Chayeb highlighted the importance of the productivity of the Lebanese creative sector: “until we start investing in our newly discovered petroleum wealth, creative industry consists Lebanon’s primary capital”, she said. “LDU’s efforts in bolstering human development should be matched by governmental and academic interest while universities share a part of the blame for not preparing the youth to properly and professionally integrate in the artistic and creative sectors. Subsequently, students lack the sense of initiative and social entrepreneurship and henceforth remain at the mercy of the big companies that abuse and exploit their potential for very little return”, she added.


LDU is currently preparing to collaborate with several Lebanese University branches to bring its expertise right into the classes and stands ready to cooperate with and support individuals and institutions that care for youth development.

As an exemplary municipal initiative in the Arab World for its contribution to urban human development, the Youth and Culture Center (YCC) – Zouk Mikael participated in the Lebanese and Jordanian civil society forum sponsored by the Euro-Med Anna Lindh Foundation Network on December 6, 2012.

The forum gathered 40 non-governmental and civil society organizations at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel, Jordan under the title of Empowering Civil Society for Citizenship: “DAWRAK – Citizens for Dialogue” and was organized by the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies in Jordan in collaboration with the Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO.

Aiming to empower civil society for a more engaged and active citizenship, the forum encourages sharing experiences and initiating exchanges and collaboration between Lebanese and Jordanian NGOs supported by the European Union under the flagship of Euro-Med activities.

Keynote speakers such as Imma Roca Cortes, Head of Politics, Press and Information Section at the EU delegation in Jordan, Dr. Nabila Hamza, President of the Foundation for the Future, Marc Jessel, British Council Country Director, Sylvia de Fonti of the Theatro Valle Occupato and other European development experts shared ideas, concepts and funding opportunities.

YCC was hosted for a testimonial about its successful and innovative municipal human development initiative. Director Eliane Fersan highlighted the role of YCC in promoting youth engagement in municipal work as active citizens in addition to volunteering and developing youth oriented policies at the local government level in addition to supporting the local creative industry. A leader in urban human development, Zouk Mikael was recognized as one of the top 30 worldwide leading cities and awarded a certificate of excellence for its efforts and initiatives by the international organization Metropolis and the United Cities and Local Governments a UN affiliated organization at the Guangzhou International Award for Urban Development last November.


Posted by: Joelle El Bittar | December 19, 2012

The Exhibition of the painter Emile Azar at the Foyer de l’Artisan

The Youth and Culture Center-Zouk Mikael received the exhibition of the Emile Azar on December 18, 2012 at the Foyer de l’Artisan under the patronage of Mayor Nouhad Naufal. Attended the inauguration H.E. Ms. Gilberte Zwein, Sheikh Clovis El Khazen, members of the municipal board and a large art goers community and the civil society organizations.


Exposition de Peinture

Emile Azar is a master of conveying a sense of “joie de vivre” through his acrylic paintings. His works are radiant and dreamy, and represent a world where humans appear not isolated creatures, but as an integral part of their surroundings. The women and men depicted here in a simplified manner are often physically connected and interwoven with the larger, decorative structure that surrounds them. Through this pictorial sturcure, Azar conveys an inseparable connection between the internal and extrnal worlds of human beings.Azar uses a full palette, often emphasizing unmixed, bright cors to bring out a kaleidoscope-like patern that is fresh and intriguing. Azar stays away from geometric figures or angles.Instead, everything in his paintings is fluid and life-like.Azar comes from a large Lebanese family from Keserwan. Although he studied interior design and architecture in Paris and pursued many other courses of study, including business, medicine, and archeology, paintings have remained his favorite occupation since early childhood.

Mr Emile Azar

Posted by: Joelle El Bittar | December 15, 2012

Arts for Peace at Zouk Mikael: a Message of Love from Ireland

Faithful to its mission of catalyst of the dialogue of cultures through exchanges and intercultural initiatives, the Youth and Culture Center (YCC) Zouk Mikael opened its doors on December 14, 2012 to a group of young Irish men and women leaders from the Arts for Peace Foundation – Ireland, traveling on a cultural peace mission to Lebanon. The program was organized in collaboration with Mr. Guy Younes, Chairman of the Irish Lebanese Cultural Foundation and Committee member of the Tipperary International Peace Convention in Ireland.


The young peace leaders from the Moyross community in Limerick, Ireland visited Zouk Mikael and different parts of Lebanon for their final year of programs in peace education and ambassadorship with Arts for Peace Foundation. They were received at YCC by a delegation from the Zouk Mikael Animation Scouts group where they exchanged ideas and watched together the movie “Where do We Go Now” by the celebrated actor, producer and director Nadine Labaki. An animated discussion followed the movie, tackling the common aspects of violence and peace that Ireland and Lebanon share.


“The visit was one of the highlights of the group’s visit to Lebanon”, said Elizabeth Garrahy, founder and executive director of the Arts for Peace Foundation. “We look forward to taking this collaboration to the next level and initiate a partnership of friendship, dialogue and exchanges between us and the Youth and Culture Center”, she added. This cultural program and its theme around filmmaking and global peace was the first of a long-term partnership between the two institutions.

Arts for Peace Foundation in Ireland hosts and creates international peace seminars and conferences for youth who show promise in their intentions to support a global culture of peace in their communities by linking and forging friendships with youth from other countries with similar peaceful aspirations.

To know more about the Arts for Peace Foundation – Ireland, visit their website on:

Posted by: Joelle El Bittar | November 13, 2012

One more time Zouk Mikael on the Road to Glory

Once more, Lebanon is represented through the Youth and Culture Center of the city of Zouk Mikael, in the finals of the Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation in China, organized in collaboration with UN affiliated organization United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and the World Association of Major Metropolises (Metropolis) between November 14 and 17, 2012 in the capital of Guangdong, one of the most developed Chinese provinces economically and technologically, Guangzhou in Southern china.

The only two Arab cities to make it to the finals are the cities of Zouk Mikael, Lebanon and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, while the competition received over 255 initiatives from 153 cities from 56 countries and provinces. Zouk Mikael’s deserving initiative entitled “Youth and Culture Center, building better communities” aims at creating youth policies that build bridges between the local government and the city’s youth and includes building youth capacities and opening opportunities in the fields of culture, employment, networking and the creative industry. Recognized as the beating heart of the Kesserwan, Zouk Mikael’s Youth and Culture Center is a platform for the dialogue of cultures as it hosted over 600 artists from around the world, producing cultural events of different disciplines in collaboration with 50 embassies and international organizations. The initiative is equally valuable for its leading role in initiating public private partnerships and engaging the local population and the civil society in a sustainable development movement that keeps growing.

The Guangzhou Award aims to reward innovations to improve the socio-economic environments in cities and regions, promote sustainability, and hence advance the livelihood of their citizens. Presented biennially, the award will encourage and recognize outstanding innovative projects and practices in the public sector.

Reaching the finals is an achievement by itself for Zouk Mikael is once more on the road to glory along with the world’s richest and most advanced cities like Vienna, Seoul, Cape Town, Vancouver, Mexico and Dusseldorf.

إذاعة “صوت لبنان” – برنامج “نقطة على الحرف” الحلقة 1074: عالـميّةٌ جديدةٌ لـــلُبنان من محليّة زوق مكايل


Daily Star



Posted by: Joelle El Bittar | November 1, 2012

The Danish Youth cinema at Zouk Mikael

Zouk Mikael’s Youth and Culture Center received a series of film screenings for children and youth dubbed into Arabic through the – “Danish Youth Cinema on the Road – Lebanon 2012” from October 30 to November 2nd, organized by the Danish Embassy in Lebanon in collaboration with the Danish Film Institute and the Danish Institute in Damascus.

This event, organized for the first time in Lebanon, aims to introduce the Danish culture to Lebanese children and youth through screenings and discussions with the audience. The movies revolve around social and educational topics which are of relevant to children and youth and directly related to their daily lives, problems and aspirations.

The Danish films target children and youth from 6 till 18 years old and include animations, drama, short and long movies. More than 500 children and youth from the Kesserwan Schools took part in this event organized at Zouk Mikael and had heated and interesting discussions with Danish Embassy representatives.

Posted by: Joelle El Bittar | October 24, 2012

Workshop on “Women’s participation in public affairs”

The Women Democratic Gathering, in collaboration with the Youth and Culture Center (YCC) in Zouk Mikael, held a training course on “Women’s participation in public affairs” for two days.

A group of women activists from Kesrouan and its whereabouts, several representatives of the women sector in Lebanese political parties and women members of municipal councils and municipalities, women lawyers and women in the media attended the workshop. This workshop comes within the framework of the “Women’s rights program” which aims to empower women to participate in policy-making and national dialogues and be actively present in the Lebanese parties.

Facts indicate that Lebanese women are still systematically excluded from participating in the processes of decision-making, although they participated actively and with a high responsibility in all the uprisings throughout the Arab world, including Lebanon.

The workshop included four lectures. Trainer Caroline Succar initiated the talks on the women’s political participation in international treaties as well as on the issue of the women’s quota. Trainer Carmel Mhanna discussed electoral reforms.The closing session was held with the trainer Kholoud Ashram who raised the issue about obstacles facing women to participate in political life.

In addition to the lectures, a number of women shared their experiences in the field of public affairs, which gave the women the feeling of being able to access and achieve participation in spite of all obstacles.

(Wednesday August 14, 2012) Lebanon Development Union (LDU) in collaboration with Microsoft Corporation and the Youth and Culture Center – Zouk Mikaël, graduated today, the fourth class of the Microsoft Corporate Citizenship: Community Technical Skills Program: Unlimited Potential, in presence of Mukhtara Josiane Khalil, President of the League of Mukhtars of Kesserwan-Ftouh, Eliane Fersan, Director of the Youth and Culture Center – Zouk Mikael, the trainees, as well as local community representatives.

A large number of women were trained in this intensive three-months-course on the basics of the Microsoft Office Programs that help them develop their skills by using information technology both at work and at home. This program is one of many women’s empowerment programs organized by LDU aimed at increasing women’s role in their local communities and societies.

During the graduation ceremony held at the Youth and Culture Center, a Zouk Mikaël municipal initiative, Crystel El Chayeb, Secretary General of LDU, focused on the importance of the certificate that the participants received from Microsoft and the seriousness of the program which was developed by the corporation in a way that suits persons who don’t master the English language and those who don’t have an academic background. “This program will give them the opportunity to step into the world of information technology and learn to use it in both their personal and professional lives”, she added. Believing in the importance of building women’s skills and qualifications, LDU launched the first training session of this program in 2010, and it continues to attract beneficiaries from all over Kesserwan, she continued.

”The first objective of this program is to create jobs and empower the trainees inside the organizations they are already working for,” said El Chayeb who thanked Microsoft for its support, which made these training sessions possible and opened new horizons to the beneficiaries. She then distributed the certificates.

The participants presented their testimonies and highlighted the changes this program has brought into their personal and professional lives in addition to the networking opportunity in presented them, and asked LDU to organize more economic empowerment programs. Participant Nohad Safi said “this program broadened my involvement in the social work and connected me with other women who also are seeking to develop their skills”. Participant Therese Rizkallah, noted that graduating from this program made her more self-confident and able to use her acquired skills in a way that brought her closer to her children.

Posted by: ellefersan | August 18, 2012

“Silk, a Tender Caress between Lebanon and México”

The Textile Museum of Oaxaca and the Municipality of Zouk Mikaël in close collaboration with the Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation and the Embassy of Mexico in Lebanon inaugurated on Thursday 5th of July, the textile exhibition entitled “Silk, a Tender Caress between Lebanon and México” in the presence of HE Ambassador of Mexico, Mr. Jorge Alvarez Fuentes, HE Ambassador of Canada, Ms. Hilary Childs-Adams, HE Ambassador of Turkey, Mr. Inan Özyildiz, HE Ambassador of Uruguay, Dr. Jorge Luis Jure Arnoletti, Mayor of Zouk Mikael, Mr. Nouhad Naufal, Mr. Nabil Semaan, representative in Lebanon of the Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation, director of the Textile Museum of Oaxaca, Mr. Hector Manuel Meneses Lozano, director of the Youth and Culture Center, Ms. Eliane Fersan, President of the Institute of Progressive Women, Ms. Wafa Abed, director of cultural affairs at the Mexican Embassy, Ms. Claudia Maroun, director of the commercial affairs at the Canadian embassy, Ms. Nathalie Nercessian, diplomats, artisans and several personalities from Lebanon and particularly from Zouk Mikael.

For such a unique event, more than 100 pieces were exhibited to the public highlighting the talent and the tradition of the weavers of the State of Oaxaca and the city of Zouk Mikael. The primary purpose of this exhibition is to emphasize the value of hand-woven textiles and the importance of the silk which are considered an essential artistic component of the culture of Mexico and Lebanon. The handcrafts represented do not just illustrate the history of the fabric in Mexico and Lebanon, but also a cultural past that imposes itself on a world that keeps on changing.

His Excellency the Ambassador of Mexico stressed that this exhibition is the evidence of the willingness of the Lebanese people and particularly the weavers to bring Mexico and its culture to Lebanon, while preserving their heritage. Alvarez added that this cultural activity has strengthened the already cordial bonds of friendship existing between two countries although geographically distant but very close in their mutual affection, allowing to our compatriots to see and to understand the value of our traditions and roots.

Mr. Nouhad Naufal, Mayor of Zouk Mikael, considered that the main objective of this exhibition is to bring together two cultures marked by the silk and the tradition of weaving. Moreover, this exhibition aims to show the importance of the silk crafts, an art which is sadly disappearing in Lebanon, as well as to encourage the art of Nawl (craft of weaving) which characterizes many Lebanese regions and especially the region of Zouk Mikaël.

The exhibition remains open daily from 19:00 until midnight till September 15, at the House of the Artisan in Zouk Mikael. Rich of colors of Mexico and art crafts pieces marked by two different civilizations, this exhibition led by Hector Meneses and Eric Chavez is the evidence of a historical and cultural rapprochement between Oaxaca and Zouk Mikael.

Canadian poet of Lebanese descent Leila Gorguis tells through her poems the story of an immigrant who has seen herself incarnated within many different women. Her poetic style ranges from rebellious to serene and mellifluous.

In «I am here; I am there», Leila steps into the shoes of an emancipated Shirazad, liberated from mythology: « For a very long time, women in our sad Middle-East were confined to use their innate intelligence to merely survive, not to live ».

She believes that the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990 has given her not only strength but also the will to live and tell her story to her people; half of which have survived while the others immigrated.

Today, she is a free woman, telling the story of an immortal Lebanon, of a peaceful Canada and of a Montreal filled with dreams and opportunity.

On August 2nd, 2012, the Youth and Culture Center (YCC) – Zouk Mikaël, partnered with Lebanon Development Union (LDU) and the St-Doumit Parish to organize a book signing for Leila Gorguis’ poetry anthology « I am here; I am there » (published by Al-Farabi). The event took place in the Parish’s reception hall and in the presence of many dignitaries, of whom Josiane Khalil, President of the League of Mukhtars of Kesrouan/Ftouh, Father Boulos El-Reyfouni, head of the St-Doumit parish, Antoine Abou Jaoudé, president of the National Cultural, Environmental and Heritage Union, General Emile Abou Hamad, head of Public Relations of the Union, Fouad Abou Farhat, representative of the Cultural Dialogue Circle and Élise Moussa, board member of Lebanon Development Union – LDU.

YCC Director, Eliane Fersan, launched the evening by highlighting the creative minds of the foreign Lebanese community and the responsibility taken on by Lebanese emigrants to promote the Arabic language in their respective countries of residence and in the western world in general. Ms Fersan stated as an example the fact that Leila Gorguis is a member of the UNEQ (Writer’s Union of Quebec) and the importance that the union attributes to her published works, especially to her books in Arabic which are now a part of the Quebecois and Canadian culture and body of literature.

Several literary figures took an active role in the event by sharing their own analysis of the anthology.

Writer Mireille Saab described « I am here; I am there » as a dialogue between shadow and fire, and whispers of passionate exhilaration. She views the poems as a sanctuary for lovers, rebels and universal femininity, failures and successes, with words that emanate light and salvation.

Dr. Zahi Nader, member of the Lebanese Writer’s Union and Secretary general of the Arabic Folk Union, mentioned that Leila’s poetic path reflects the poet from here and from there, both inside and out. The « I » goes beyond the individual who disappears in his own shadow, absorbing the one cast by life as an immigrant. This writing style demonstrates uniqueness, reborn within its femininity, maternity and within the distance from the far-away land one’s soul was torn away from.

Writer Isabelle Zougheib Kesrewani follows suit by commenting that she sees through Leila’s work, a woman who is her own best friend, refusing to drag along used up traditions; that she sees a woman whose life experience has made keener and within whom has awoken the voice of a woman proud of her existence and humanity; like a tree full of fruits and branches.

Father Boulos El-Reyfouni then took the stage and thanked Leila Gorguis for the donation she made to the parish describing her as a woman swimming in Phoenician ink only to cross over and reach the shores of her reader’s minds.

After having read a few poems, the poet extended her gratitude towards the Youth and Culture Centre and the City of Zouk Mikael for their warm welcome during her stay in Lebanon. «  My soul, torn between Beirut and Montreal, has for the first time landed in a place that has allowed me to embrace all of Lebanon at once. I am grateful for its homes, hanging like a gift from history, and for its stairways, leading towards a sky full of dreams and warming my Canadian winters.

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