Tenth anniversary FPdGi, FPdGi Awards

Maria Jammal speech

Your Majesties, Royal Highnesses, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends. Bona tarda, Good afternoon.

Honourable guests, dear friends. I would like to start by asking you the most important question of all: how are you feeling?

I never realized the importance of these words, till the day I went to Lesbos and witnessed the arrival of thousands of refugees on crowded rubber boats. Children, babies in their moms’ arms and elderly people, all in deep distress, running away by sea from the violence in their countries. Many offered them food and clothes, but it was their soul that was so desperately in need of support and affection. How are you feeling?, they needed to be asked.

Now if you ask us, the five awardees, how we feel, we would say overwhelmed, moved, proud, excited and happy. We would like to thank the Princess of Girona Foundation, the trustees, the advisory board and the jury members, and all those who have been behind it, for this wonderful award. What a great honour to now bepart of the FPdGi family of awardees and to be recognized for our hard work as innovators and changemakers in our fields.

There is no way you can stop a human being searching for survival: they will always follow the drive for life. I have seen it with my own eyes. Likewise, nobody can stop a determined young person driven by a purpose.

We can say that 2019 has been the year of youth leadership, for the hundreds of thousands of young people making a difference with strikes, climate initiatives, educational innovation, demands for girls’ right to schooling, demanding gun regulation, fighting discrimination, poverty and injustice in every corner of the world.

All youth are one. I strongly believe that. And I find it wonderful that a Spanish institution, this year for the first time, has created an international award. From now on, all the world’s youth who work to make a change can be united in a single family.

So, to conclude, I would like to share with you three ideas that the five of us discussed a few months ago in a meeting held in Girona, and that are crucial to us:

Embrace all. We are all human, and we are all the same yet unique. Diversity is the oxygenated blood of humanity, and it makes us stronger and more resilient. Look at me, I am the daughter of a Palestinian father and a Russian mother, born in Europe, raised in the Middle East, in an area with daily struggles and pain. Yet I chose not to be a victim. I chose to transform decades of war, conflict and suffering into strength and knowledge, and to use them to be better in my work and as a person.

Everyone is a changemaker. Look around you and if you see something you do not like, change it. Learn from your past, and your difficulties. Start small, start local and keep going, little actions are not inconsequential; they are the starting point of all the great things we conquered on this planet. It’s important that you start and start now.

And last, technology is an enormous ally, but nothing will never be more important than human interactions. Looking someone in the eyes, and giving them attention, understanding, hope, giving them a smile and a hug, to be there for them. These are very powerful actions.  I know this because we do that with children and adults in camps, shelters and hospitals.

So, tonight at the end of this session, please do not immediately reach for your mobile. Wait just a moment. Look at the person sitting next to you and ask him or her the most important question of all: how are you feeling?That is where change can start.

Your Majesties and members of the jury, thank you again for this marvellous award.

On behalf of the five of us, and in the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Leonor, young honorary president of the Foundation who is attending this event for the first time, I promise to make the most of this immense gift for you, for our families and for those who support us, and to continue working to make this world a better place. Because nobody can stop a young person with a firm purpose.

Thank you very much.

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