Upon arriving to Cesar’s Guest House with its affluent greenery and budding crops, a small group of young men and women wait to greet guests and show them around the cabins and farm. Welcoming visitors from all over the world, the guest house is an initiative developed by Cesar Mahmoud following his participation in the UNDP Youth Leadership Programme (YLP) in 2016.
“I benefitted greatly from the experience being part of the UNDP YLP2,” Cesar explained during a tour of the guest house with UNDP Resident Representative a.i, Ms. Celine Moyroud. “The skills I gained allowed me to develop my idea and also boosted my confidence, thus helping me achieve my first success establishing the guest house.”
More than ten young men and women, most of whom have participated in the UNDP YLP before, work or volunteer at the guest house that has received over 2,660 guests from more than 40 different countries in a year and a half. The initiative seeks to emphasize the need for youth to remain in Lebanon and invest in local development, particularly in the rural areas that need the energy and vision of young people.
“The Youth Leadership Programme focused on presenting case studies and drawing solutions from a positive perspective,” Cesar describes. “Because of the YLP, me and my fellow youth were able to develop new tools to help our community, and better understand our strengths, weaknesses, available resources, and possible strategic interventions.”
The Youth Focal Point at the UNDP Social and Local Development Programme, Ms. Nada Dimachkieh Sweidan, explained how the programme allowed youth to put their skills to good practice. “Cesar and the rest of the YLP participants benefitted from the local, regional, and international visits and workshops to be creative and support their local communities. The visit to the Business Innovation Center in Lazio region - Italy (BIC Lazio) inspired Cesar, specifically the field visit conducted to the agricultural entrepreneur intervention,” she said.
One of the young women working at the guest house, Carmen Abu Dargham, described her motive behind her role: “I prefer working to develop the region I am from instead of taking on a traditional job. I love working on a development initiative that revives the experience of the village and brings us back to nature.”
Drawing on the experience of the men and women of the village, Cesar and his friends aim to promote eco-tourism in the area and reinforce the traditional Lebanese character. They believe the guest house contributes to supporting economic development in the Chouf region and provides different opportunities for the local community.
Another young woman working at the guest house and a participant of the YLP4, Lama Mahmoud, highlighted the importance of her participation in the programme that allowed her to communicate her ambition. “I am proud to have participated in the YLP4,” she said, “that enabled me to express myself and be confident about my competences.”
The UNPD Resident Representative a.i., Ms. Celine Moyroud stressed on the vital role of the youth. “We believe in young people; we believe that they can shape the future. We encourage youth who are change makers and leaders in their communities to approach us and be part of the YLP programme activities,” she said.
The Youth Leadership Programme aims to address the needs of young men and women in the Arab Region with a specific focus on advancing gender equality and empowering women. Furthermore, the YLP tackles notions of tolerance, acceptance of others, coexistence, inclusiveness, diversity, and community cohesiveness as principle ways of life.