This isn’t my usual religion wrap-up column because I honestly haven’t been in Spokane much this week. I’ve been down at WSU in Pullman working with 20 young journalists from the Middle East through the Arab Journalism Project and I’ve become completely enveloped in their stories. Instead of sharing blurbs with you about Spokane’s religious scene, I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you about these students.

The students are here to study American journalism and want to use the tools they learn to make a difference back in their home countries, which include Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Palestine and Bahrain. They are writers, videographers, broadcasters and photographers and best of all they are unwavering in their will to become storytellers.

Take Ala’a Jarban, for instance. This 22-year-old has been documenting the protests against the Yemeni Regime through the campaign SupportYemen (#SupportYemen on Twitter). See the below video to learn more about him.

Or take Wasan Bumadan, a gifted photographer from Bahrain, who wrote, “Through my work in Bahrain TV in short documentary profile series, University of Bahrain projects, and participating in art exhibitions I found that people are the same, we are all looking for the exacts needs just under different covers and through my photos hopefully you could sense it.”

Check out her flickr gallery here.

Hala Kanan is from Palestine. She was born in a refugee camp in Bethlehem and has made a name for her young self by writing about her struggle with diabetes. And like most 20-year-olds, Hala is also interested in fashion and has began producing short documentary films on the subject.

Another student, Reem Alnairi, from Bahrain, writes that it’s her dream to be in America — a dream she thought she lost after the attacks of Sept 11.

“After September 11 I felt very sad about what happened. I’m an Arabic and Muslim lady but I hate the terrorist. They are not a part of us, and in every country there are good and bad people. In that moment I felt that American get wrong idea about Arabic and Muslim countries. I thought that I lose my dream to going to U.S.”

Alnairi is studying to become a TV reporter.

Finally, meet Omar Jouda from Palestine. He’s a computer engineer, photographer and filmmaker whose heart is breaking for his country.

“Just another Gaza’n person wondering if Palestine is actually on the same planet with all the other countries out there,” he writes. “I’m concerned with all the political and environmental issues that is happening around the planet, but living here makes it impossible to write about anything except the tragedy that is happening, living with 5 hours of electricity a day, no gasoline and no water, and F16′s jets bombing all day long just makes it better and better.”

I wish I could share all their stories with you, and maybe I can in time, but I think it’s important to know that these amazing students are in rural, little Pullman (through July). They’re here to learn about American life and about how to become better journalists to change their countries, but I don’t know if I’m actually teaching them anything.

At the end of the day I’m the one learning from them.

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