Who is more inspirational than the young leaders who achieved excellence through Chevening? 

With this in mind, the British Consulate General in Jerusalem organised a series of TED Talk-style events to inspire others and bring in the motivational spirit. The Chevening programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has more than 250 alumni, who have become distinguished leaders and influencers in a variety of fields including medicine, science, economics, the arts, and humanities.

The first Chevening Inspirations event took place in a cosy venue in Ramallah, focusing on creative arts and culture. Four Chevening Alumni introduced us to their personal stories, revealing the hidden influences and adventures that shaped them.

First up, Amer Al-Shomali studied Animations and Arts at Bournemouth University. He told us about his experience using art to reflect the socio-political scene. Amer has become known worldwide for his documentary film ‘The Wanted 18’ which received awards in the Abu Dhabi, Carthage, Traverse City, and Al-Jazeera Film Festivals. The film was also on the official submission lists for the foreign language and documentary categories of the 88th Oscars.

In a journey full of coincidences, Amer took us with him as he told us the story of how he changed his career from being an architect into being first a cartoonist, then an artist and finally a professional filmmaker.

‘Never stick to riding a taxicab! Get into public transportation, you might end up with some stranger on the road, and that stranger may change your life forever– this is what happened with me when I got hooked on filmmaking and the world of animation.’

In 2006, our second speaker Iman Hammouri received a call while she was finishing her MA in Strategic Planning at the London School of Economics. The Popular Art Centre in Ramallah, which represents Palestinian cultural heritage, was dying. Iman decided she had to do something and took responsibility for the centre right after her graduation. Against all odds, Iman has developed the Popular Art Centre to hold the biggest annual Palestinian cultural festival and to promote the freedom of Palestinians to perform in a context of daily restrictions faced on the freedom of basic movement. 

‘When applying for Chevening, I was told that the award was too competitive for me, but I filled out the application anyway. Eventually, it turned out that I was the best competitor after all.’

Manal Awad speaks about her Chevening experience

Manal Awad spoke about her experience as the first Palestinian to specialise in Theatre Directing at the Royal Academy of Art in London. Manal proudly described the look on the faces of the committee that awarded her with the scholarship when she broke the news of her acceptance at the Royal Academy. Manal’s capabilities have enabled her to rise above all the struggles she faces as a comedian, an actor, a director, and above all, as a female performer. You can laugh at one of her stand-up comedy performances, or be drawn in by her strong acting in Dégradé, a locally made film that’s gone universal.

On a different note, Mohammed Rabah, a fresh graduate of Community and Youth Work at Durham University, enthused us with his interest in non-formal learning, education, and intercultural learning. He drew us into his experience in creating a multicultural dialogue between British and Palestinian youth in the UK.

Chevening Inspirations stimulated plenty of thought, discussion and many new resolutions among the audience to work towards their goals. A success provoked by the promising leaders of Chevening.

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