In a special interview, we speak to some of the incredible young women behind the Sudfeh initiative. Sudfeh will be the name of Palestine’s first ever not-for-profit vegan cafeteria, and will be established on the Al Quds University campus in Jerusalem. All profits from the cafeteria will be split between animal welfare projects and scholarship funds for struggling students. Incredibly, the whole plan for Sudfeh was masterminded by a group of 14-year-old schoolgirls, supported by one of PAL’s dedicated volunteers as part of PAL’s Youth for Change programme. Sham and Dana are two members of the group and have joined us today to tell us more about their brilliant project.
What gave you the idea to propose the idea for a vegan cafeteria?
Sham: We had a bunch of ideas that we were thinking about to help spread awareness among people about veganism and animal welfare. We felt that, of all of them, this was the best one.
Dana: We are aware that lots of young people have a diet that is really heavy on meat; and particularly factory-farmed meat. We thought this idea would be a good chance to give an alternative and to encourage veganism.
Sham: The Youth for Change programme is made up of groups of younger people, like us, being mentored and supported by older University students. Our mentor, Arore, studies at Al Quds so we felt that this would be a great location to propose the cafeteria. The other great thing about basing Sudfeh at Al Quds is that it is a well-known and well-respected university.
You have been giving lectures to students about veganism and healthy eating. How did it go? Were you nervous?
Sham: On the day that we presented our idea to the university we gave a Lecture to some students about veganism and healthy eating. Personally, I was really nervous – I thought that I was probably going to mess up or that the students aren’t going to listen or something. But I could not have been more wrong! I said my part and I handled all the questions just fine. All of the students were respectful and understanding
Dana: Lecturing in front of the students Al Quds University made me anxious. I was worried that the idea would not interest the students but, after we had done it, I felt really proud as it was a great success!
Sham: The president of the university was just like the students; respectful and understanding. He welcomed us with open arms.
Dana: It was a great meeting – the president is a very humble and smart man. After the meeting we were so pleased as he offered all the support and help we needed to make Sudfeh a reality.
As a result of this meeting, the president of the university agreed to not only give over a space to establish the café, rent-free, but also agreed that the income from the project could be split between PAL’s work for animals and a scholarship fund. At this point, the team is now fundraising to raise the start-up costs for Sudfeh which, if successful, will lead to the cafeteria being up and running by the end of 2016.
What have you learned from this project?
Sham: After that day, I felt more confident and I started saying what’s on my mind no matter what the results were. I know now it is better to express your thoughts and speak your mind – that way you won’t have regrets. I am more confident in myself because I know that I did my best and gave it my all.
Sham: Everyone wants to make a difference and to put their mark on the world, but many people think that dreams cannot be made into reality. I am now someone who steps forward and works to make my dreams happen. A lot of people used to tell me that I am still young, that I don’t need to worry about making changes in the world until I am “more mature”. But I didn’t listen and kept on moving forward. That’s my message to all girls like me out there: Take a step forward, speak your mind and keep going. Ignore anything or anyone that might stand in your way. It’s YOUR choice. It’s YOUR life.
What happens now? Tell us about where the plans for Sudfeh are at the moment.
Dana: Sudfeh will be more than just a cafeteria; it will also be an activity centre for advocacy and social events. We want to make Sudfeh the centre of focus for those who want to help animals and people. We will be helping to bring an end to animal abuse, reduce meat consumption and encourage veganism.
How can people help you?
Dana: They can help to spread the word about Sudfeh, donate to the campaign, spread this and other ideas to help the animals and people of Palestine.