Dear Friends of Soliya

March 16, 2007

The headlines today are bleak:  The war in Iraq ravages on.  There is little sign of progress for Palestinians & Israelis looking for peace.  And the threat of terrorist attacks seems to be far from receding.  

All of these observations weigh heavily on us here at Soliya, but we continue to be inspired by the growing number of young people in our program who defy the headlines and reach across the seemingly intractable divide between the "West" and the "Arab & Muslim World."  Our Connect Program continues to expand and develop, and thanks to a number of key supporters, we have significantly enhanced our capacity to enable more universities in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe & the US to participate.  In the coming year, we are conducting a major campaign to scale up the reach of our program from working with hundreds of university students a semester to eventually reaching thousands of young adults each semester.  

On each campus that joins, whether it's in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Brussels, Belgium, or Bowling Green, Kentucky, we are encouraged by the hunger the students exhibit to understand their peers across the ocean, the consistency with which they dispel previously held stereotypes by establishing meaningful human connections, and the resulting responsibility they feel to share that newfound understanding with those around them.

And while the demand for our program grows, the ways in which young people communicate and form their impressions of the world continue to radically evolve.  So we are continuing to explore the ways in which these social networking tools, user-generated media, and mobile technologies can be constructively applied to our work, and we are very excited to unveil some new initiatives in the coming year.  (Please stay tuned!)

So while the headlines & our political leaders may offer us little hope, we feel as confident as ever that connecting young people across this divide using new communication technologies and empowering them to share experiences, build relationships, and influence those around them will play a key role in eventually healing this open wound.  

Thank you for your continued interest in and support for our work.  Please read on below to see some of the recent developments here at Soliya.

Respectfully yours,
Lucas Welch & Liza Chambers

Taking the Connect Program to scale.  Soliya continues to expand the reach and impact of its program.  Soliya is about to launch the fall 2007 Connect Program in which 19 universities and close to 300 students will be participating.  In addition to many of the universities below, Soliya will be working with a number of new universities including Hebron University in Palestine, Brandeis University in Massachusetts, Notre Dame University in Lebanon, Cairo University in Egypt, Sabanci University in Turkey, and Pace University in New York.

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