The eighth cycle of Coca-Cola’s Ripples of Happiness campaign, in partnership with The Coca-Cola Foundation and Injaz Al-Arab, came to an end with Palestine’s Birzeit University team as the first place winner.

Ripples of Happiness (ROH) is a youth entrepreneurship program aimed at empowering students to address social challenges in their communities. Projects were judged by a panel that includes representatives from CNN and Coca-Cola.  

More than 300 students from 20 universities across the region participated in the eighth semester launched in November 2015. The program saw Palestine’s Birzeit University and Palestine Polytechnic University take first and third prize, respectively, while Canadian University in Dubai, UAE came in second. The selection process was based on several criteria, including innovation, scalability and sustainability, as well as impact on the community.

First prize was a USD$10,000 grant to fund and scale the winning project, titled ‘Melody of Happiness’. The initiative involves establishing a specialized center for teaching music to children in the Safa village and surrounding areas.

Melody of Happiness - Team Members

The second place accolade was awarded to the ‘Efhamni’ project (“understand me” in Arabic) from the Canadian University in Dubai, a smart device application that enables communication with individuals with a hearing impairment, and was awarded USD$7,000.

'Efhamni' Project - Team Members

The Palestine Polytechnic University’s Autism Silent Energy project, that claimed the third prize, has raised the Palestinian community’s awareness around Autism. It was awarded USD$5,000

Autism Silent Energy Project - Team Members

Omar Bennis, Director of Public Affairs and Communications at The Coca-Cola Company Middle East, said, “At The Coca-Cola Company, we are deeply committed to empowering the region’s youth by providing them with the knowledge and skills necessary for them to become the leaders of tomorrow. Since its inception in 2012, the Ripples of Happiness program has impacted the lives of over 2,600 university students and subsequently their communities and we are particularly impressed with the caliber of entries from this eighth cycle.”

The Ripples of Happiness program was originally launched in 2012, in a bid to encourage youth entrepreneurship, and tackle unemployment in the Middle East.  According to the International Labor Organization, youth unemployment is 27.2 percent in the Middle East, and 29 per cent in North Africa, which is more than double the global average.

“Initiatives such as the Ripples of Happiness program play a big role in addressing one of the region’s biggest challenges, youth unemployment, by arming university students with essential skills and knowledge to empower them to be successful in the business world today,” said Caroline Faraj, CNN Vice-President of Arabic Services.

Stay tuned to know more about the winning teams of this semester, and how they overcame certain challenges within their communities.