The University Successfully Concludes the 12th Zajel International Volunteering Camp
September 20th. Through the extensive work and efforts of the International Youth Exchange Program (Zajel) at the Public Relations Department at An-Najah University, the 12th Zajel International Volunteering Camp was successfully concluded. The 15-day Camp was a complete success thanks to the collaborative effort of both local and international volunteers who volunteered also in the Zajel Program to help the University’s students develop their skills in English.
More than 20 internationals volunteered in the Camp through more than 160 training workshops that were dedicated to training the students on a wide spectrum of fields including: English conversation skills, public speaking skills, communication skills and capacity building. More than 300 students benefited from the Camp and the training it offered; the students described the experience as both rich and fun and that it helped them acquire new skills that developed their competency and made them better prepared to join the work field.
The internationals who participated in the Camp represented a wide range of nationalities and universities including: The University of Cambridge in the UK, University of Edinburgh in Scotland, University of Liverpool in the UK, the University of West Scotland in Scotland, University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, University of Vienna in Austria, the University of Lisbon in Portugal, Kyoto University in Japan, University of East Anglia in the UK, Hambold University in Berlin, University of Manchester in the UK, University of Seville in Spain, University of Bristol in the UK, University of Central Lancashire in the UK, Drexel University in the US, Georgetown University in the US and Coventry University in the UK.
The Volunteers in the Zajel International Camp also met with Prof. Rami Hamdallah, President of An-Najah, in his office at the Old Campus. The President expressed his pleasure to have the internationals participate in the University’s Camp and thanked them for their contribution and dedication to training the local students on the different subjects that would enable them to join the work field fully prepared. Additionally, he pointed out the importance of education for the Palestinians as a main field of investment for them and highlighted the University’s role in building the students’ capacities and skills which will lead to a more developed society. He also emphasized the University’s commitment to this strategy which will reflect substantial benefit on the individual and the society alike.
A number of visits, meetings, lectures and workshops were organized for the internationals that aimed to introduce them to the current situations on the ground and the challenges that the Palestinians face under the Israeli occupation.
The first visit was made to the New Campus where the internationals met with the Director of the Media Center there, Mr. Ayman Al-Nimer, who presented a detailed description about the Center, its programs, projects and the future plans. A documentary film was also screened which described the University’s history, development, current accomplishments and facilities, while another one described the City of Nablus, its history, current situation and life.
Moreover, the internationals visited the Old City of Nablus accompanied by local volunteers where they were introduced to the City’s major historical and cultural landmarks. During their tour around the Old City they were also introduced to the social, economical and political situations that the City has gone through over the last ten years, as well as the current and future development and rehabilitation projects in the city.
As important to the Palestinians as the Old City is, refugee camps were also given a special attention by the organizers of Zajel Camp who prepared a number of visits for the internationals to a number of refugee camps located in Nablus including Balata Refugee Camp and New Askar Refugee Camp. During their visit to Balata Camp the internationals met with Mr. Mahmoud Subuh, Public Relations Coordinator at Yafa Cultural Center, who familiarized them with the history of the Camp, its population and the difficult social and economical situations that the refugees are facing. In their visit to the New Askar Camp, the volunteers where introduced to the different issues related to refugees and their life.
The internationals also visited the Joseph Tomb and Prophet Jacob Church where they were educated about the history of Christianity in the City and the current situation surrounding these two landmarks.
In addition to these visits, the international volunteers were engaged in workshops on a variety of topics such as the Water and Environment in Palestine workshop in which Kara Flores from the Coalition of Water and Sanitation in Ramallah delivered a presentation explaining the status of water and environment in Palestine. She also described the water consumption rates, water policies and the mechanisms needed to change water status in the country.
Another workshop addressed the issue of education in Palestine in which Mr. Alaa Abu Dheer, Coordinator of Zajel, introduced a presentation about education in Palestine during the last four decades and the many challenges, difficulties and obstacles that it faced due to the Israeli occupation’s practices. He also spoke about the importance of education for the Palestinian society and emphasized its significance as a main area of investment and a guarantee for social stability and well-being.
As an important element in educating the internationals about the situation in Palestine, the Camp’s coordinators organized a number of field visits to several Palestinian villages and towns including the Village of Burin and Iraq Burin where the internationals met with representatives of the villages’ councils who described to the guests the political, security, social and agricultural situations that the villagers face because of the occupation’s practices against them and their lands. Another visit was made to Yanoon Village in cooperation with the World Council of Churches which educated the volunteers about the difficulties that farmers face due to settlement expansion and confiscation of land.
Moreover, a visit was made to the Samaritan Sect in Nablus where the internationals were educated about the history of this Sect, its traditions and rituals by Priest Husni Al-Samri. He also explained that the Samaritans are part of the Palestinian society and have lived in harmony with the Palestinians for long years.
In their visit to the Palestinian Financial Market Mr. Ahmed Awaydah, Chief Executive of Palestine Stock Exchange, gave a presentation about the Stock Market and the companies involved, in addition to the achievements of the Market, the challenges that the Palestinian market has faced, as well as the developments that were made which would contribute to the building of the Palestinian institutions.
Besides Nablus, the internationals also visited other cities including Hebron and Bethlehem. In Hebron, the volunteers visited the Old City where they were introduced to the many rehabilitation and reconstruction projects that are currently implemented in the city. The visit covered a number of key places in the Old City such as the markets and the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi).
In Bethlehem, the internationals visited the Old City and the Church of Nativity where Mr. Nidal Abu Al-Zuluf from the Young Men’s Christian Association presented a lecture describing the current afforestation efforts of the Palestinian lands. The Association also organized a number of visits to the villages near the Israeli settlements to educate the internationals about the impact of settlement on agriculture in Palestine. The volunteers also visited Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Aida Refugee Camp and the Separation Wall.
Back in Nablus, the internationals met with the new council of Nablus Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The meeting was headed by Mr. Omar Hashem, Chairperson of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who delivered a presentation in which he summarized the main economical activities in the city and the role of the Chamber in developing the economical and commercial situation in Palestine. He also described the challenges that the Palestinian economy faces that prevent it from achieving sustainable development in the country.
Furthermore, as part of the International Volunteering Camp, the Global Village Exhibition was organized at the University’s New Campus in which international volunteers from various countries including the United States, the UK, Scotland, Australia, Portuguese, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Greece, Japan and Jordan held several corners where each group presented the traditions, culture and cuisine that characterized each of the participating countries in the Camp.
The International Camp was concluded in an official ceremony that was attended by Professor Jawad Fatayer, President Assistant for Graduate Affairs at An-Najah, who thanked the volunteers for their efforts and dedication to make this Camp a success which brought about mutual benefit both to them and to the local students.
The local volunteers said their participation and involvement in the International Camp has enabled them to become familiar with the world’s different cultures and gave them the chance to contact other people. The Camp made others from outside Palestine more aware of the situation in the country and educated them about the life of the Palestinians and the challenges they face under the Israeli occupation.
Mohammed Al-Sayeh, a student from the Faculty of Engineering at An-Najah and one of the local volunteers, said the experience was rich and full of great stuff and that he was able to learn other cultures and come closer to people from other countries. Naser Toucan, the Camp’s Leader and Direct Supervisor, said work on the Camp took several months to finish and the team faced a number of challenges and difficulties; however, all that effort and hard work translated into substantial benefit for the local students. The Camp also helped in changing the image of the Palestinians in the mind of people all over the world which led to a better understanding of the situation on the ground and the reality of the conditions that the Palestinians experience in their daily life.
Mr. Abu Dheer commented on the event by saying that the Camp represented a chance for the students to interact and communicate with other cultures which reinforced mutual understanding and inter-cultural dialogue. Such interaction leads to more support by the western communities of the Palestinian cause and more recognition of the right of the Palestinians to live in freedom.
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