International Volunteersí Reflections 2015

The Reflection of the international volunteers who attended the “Defy the Present” exchange program from 02-16 August 2015.

Peri Guler
The idea of a trip to this beautiful country came to my mind no less than 5 years ago, when I was starting to become a Human Rights activist. When I finally decided to travel to Palestine, I was looking for a program that would be based on an exchange with Palestinians living in the West Bank. I knew that we had many things to share and that we could learn from each other. Because of this, I immediately knew that the Zajel program was for me when I heard about it a few months ago.

The students were more than motivated to learn what I taught them and by the end of the programme I felt as if I had known both my students and the other volunteers for far longer than two weeks. Everyone was very willing to help me learn Arabic with lots of patience. All the visits we took part of were very relevant to the culture, history, society and politics of Palestine. As a former student of International Peace, it was priceless to receive first-hand information about the conflict. The camp had no distinct political orientation and our safety was constantly prioritized. Zajel also provided me with a clear idea about peaceful organisation among the grassroots of Palestinian resistance. I feel grateful to all those who generously shared their story with us without expecting anything in exchange, especially in Duma village and in the city Hebron where the stories from local Palestinians made me feel as if my heart was falling apart.

I hope to become a volunteer worker here in Palestine so that I can improve the standard of living for those living under harsh conditions. Even if the camp is almost done, Thank you Zajel for everything, you have become my home in Palestine.

Maria Bandeira
Zajel means ‘carrier pigeon’ in Arabic, a symbol of peace and sharing. Not only did we share our emotions and discover together the Palestinian reality, but we also lived together as brothers and sisters for two magical weeks. The university and its workshops have brought me so much. I taught each day giving 120% of my energy. It was my pleasure to volunteer and to share my expertise on public speaking with the amazing students of An-Najah University. I observed their nervous hands and hesitation evolve into smiles and strong voices during the course of our two-week workshop. Answering the students’ questions and reviewing their speeches, I found that I learned so much from the Palestinian youth. All my students had fantastic personalities and strengthened my passion for teaching. Long live An-Najah National University.

Abrar Hussein
Zajel 2015: A great life experience! When I applied to the Zajel programme, I was looking for a new challenge. Volunteering and meeting new people at An-Najah, I fulfilled this goal.

I worked with a fellow volunteer to create a course in public speaking which attracted a full class of students. All of the students were very eager to learn new things and were very open to new concepts. Through games and debates, we were also able to help the students build their confidence in speaking the English language and shared many laughs in the process.

Through Zajel, I had the chance to meet other volunteers from all over the world and experience Palestine with them through trips around this beautiful country. It was inspiring to see how people from across Europe loved Palestine after having been here for just few days. The Zajel group became like my family during this short time and I really feel that the experiences at Zajel became a part of my personality, identity and liberty. Hope to see you as soon as possible my dear friends!

Because of my educational background, I analyse everything I see psychologically. When I first traveled from Tel Aviv airport into the city center, I saw Israelis partying, having fun and drinking alcohol in excess. To see them living a very luxurious life while Palestinians few kilometers away do not even have a reliable supply of food and water was upsetting and sickening. I have learnt through Zajel that it is a great experience to study for your degree at An-Najah National University. The students here are motivated to learn and they are always very welcoming and hospitable.

All the students that I met in Palestine were really motivated to study and were very rarely too shy to ask questions about the workshops I was giving. What surprised me was that the English language skills of many of the students here at An-Najah were superb and far beyond what I initially expected.

I came to the Zajel programme wanting to see the villages and settlements in order to understand how the situation really is. The way the country is currently ruled over and dominated, it seems there is no hope for refugees in the camps or the people in Gaza. Learning about all of this with the wonderful international team is what I will miss the most about Zajel. These volunteers, myself included, will be back to complete our mission for the Palestinian people and I can't wait to return. I feel devastated that I am going back to my country soon... I can't say going back "home" because my home is now Palestine.

After going back to Poland I'm going to tell everyone about what I saw in Palestine. The world has the right to know and everyone on the Zajel programme has the duty to be the messengers of the Palestinian cause.

Layan Malhis
I just think what makes Zajel very special is the fact that everyone loves helping. You will constantly find a local volunteer approaching you to make sure everything is alright. Everyone is friendly, strangely enough in the morning as well. I loved every second of the program through its ups and downs, including organising and giving workshops, as well as providing icebreaking games.

One thing to note is the trip to the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights, it made me more attached to the country than I ever have been before and I have never learned as much information as I did this summer through the exchange programme. Thank you Zajel.

Atsuko Shuota
During my time at Zajel I taught Japanese culture and language. This was challenging as it was my first time to teach something in English, yet it was pleasantly surprising that so many Palestinians are interested in Japanese culture. Upon meeting them, all of my students already knew how to greet me in Japanese.