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December 8, 2007

More Than a Pretty Face: Queen Noor of Jordan

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Q. What’s your plan for the coming year?
We’re setting up special centers that will provide schooling for refugee children, and also guidance for mothers on how to develop their own home-based businesses - for instance, growing herbs and selling them. And for young people, we’ll have IT training that can help them avoid becoming absolutely marginalized and hopeless. The kids who benefit from this, and from counseling, are less likely to revert to delinquency and violence.

Q. Have you seen firsthand how education can prevent violence?
Yes, I have, in many of the conflict regions where I work around the world. Two international programs that have been uniquely successful are Seeds of Peace and the United World Colleges. Seeds of Peace brings together young people across the Mideast; whether they’re Palestinian refugees or Israelis who have been targeted by bombings, they share their own personal stories, so both sides can learn how things look the other way around. Too often, outside conflict zones, it’s hard to understand what drives people to violent extremes, because the media and politicians aren’t focusing on the human suffering behind the headlines.

Q. What should Americans know about the Middle East?
In America, there’s a sense that anything’s possible. Even people in difficult circumstances, for the most part, believe that their hard work can make a difference, at least for their children. I have realized from my work around the world that it’s a luxury, that blind faith and idealism, that sense of, “I can do something about my life.” I read some polling data from Gaza, where a phenomenal number of young people thought that the only way they could imagine really expressing themselves, having meaning in their lives, was to become suicide bombers. It’s because they saw no economic opportunity, no life, no horizon, no vision for the future.

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