Awards and Honors, Student News

Amar Pursues Peace Through Leadership Training

With the support of a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant, Ahmed Amar '24 established Peace Through Leadership Training, an empowerment program for unemployed youth in Senegal. 

"My love for the world and for its people empowers me," wrote Amar in his project report to the Davis Foundation. "I see this same kind of love reflected within providing a space for young people to explore their own creativity and learn about leadership, friendship, and community involvement."

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Ahmed Amar '24 and a PTLT participant

Growing up in Touba, one of the biggest cities of Senegal, Amar realized that many young people in his community fail to continue their education because families believe that educational institutions change people’s minds and beliefs about Islam.

"The result is that many young people with very limited education drop out of the system in Touba," said Amar.

To combat the dual issues of unemployment and undereducation, Amar focused his grant project on providing leadership training and community collaboration to Senegalese youth—sowing peace, mentorship, and empowerment within this community.

At Bennington, Amar studies Political Economy with a concentration in financial inclusion and development economics. Through his Davis Projects for Peace grant, Amar was able to help combat important issues in his community while witnessing the power of possibilities held by Senegalese youth, a "community of future leaders who inspired me to keep on learning development economics and to work tirelessly to improve aspects of society."

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Participants presenting their community project about raising awareness of mental health
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Participants playing a game
Image of poster about seawater pollution
Participants developed a range solutions against seawater pollution

Peace Through Leadership Training

Amar's project was entitled Peace Through Leadership Training (PTLT), which took place in the summer of 2021.

"The goal of PTLT was to provide a supporting foundation and network to a population of young, unemployed Senegalese, enabling them to start small scale businesses to earn income," said Amar. "With the grant from the Davis Foundation, I hosted an entrepreneurship camp that promoted the uptake of small-scale businesses among the youth of Touba and offered financial literacy training and hands-on, one-on-one coaching from experienced business people in Senegal."

To support the project, Amar also received donations of food supplies, masks, hand sanitizers, and clothes for the participants. PTLT was held as a six-day residential leadership program for 45 students.

"The project had a tremendous impact on the prospect of peace in Touba," said Amar. "The camp targeted youths from almost every ethnic group in Touba, allowing them to interact and inspire each other, and to create lifelong friendships. Training these youths and equipping them with skills to support themselves financially was a way of showing them they matter as valuable members of this society. The hope is that these students will keep pursuing opportunities that will help them excel in life."

Through this project, Amar learned a great deal about himself, as well.

"I learned that I will constantly devote myself to promoting peace by empowering youth, especially those with meager or no education," said Amar.

Building upon the success of PTLT, Amar created Empower Africa (EmA), which helps financially support young people as they design and implement community service projects in their communities. EmA was launched at the end of the PTLT with a $600 donation to the winning project proposal from a group of PTLT participants, who designed an innovative project targeting waste management in Touba.

Going forward, the EmA group will fundraise and donate to youth-designed community service projects in Senegal, and Amar has hopes to expand the project across Africa in the future.

At Bennington, Amar is currently designing EmA fundraising strategies, with the hope of collecting funds that will be invested in youth-designed projects in Senegal over summer 2022. 

"Designing and actualizing a space for young people in which they can reach their full potential – be it in expressing their creativity, acquiring leadership skills, forging meaningful friendships, or contributing to their community – was an invaluable opportunity for me to articulate my allegiance and faith in them," said Amar. "It is with great honor and optimism that I envision my endeavors empowering and supporting a rising generation of young leaders who recognize the true value of peace and choose to promote it within their community, every single day.”

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Participants building their marshmallow towers
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Lunch break
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Camp closing picture with participants, parents, and staff