Experience of Palestinian Community : One of the many things volunteers gain from volunteering in Palestine with us at the Excellence Center is the experience of community. This sense of belonging and connection takes many forms for our volunteers and encompasses a ride array of social interactions with both internationals and Palestinian locals.
Edward, who is participating in our “Volunteer to teach English and Study Arabic in Palestine” program explains his experience of community as such, “for me, the community amongst all the internationals volunteering is definitely like a family.” He tells us he experiences a different sense of community out on the street as he walks from his housing accommodation to us at the Excellence Center and such, “you get to know the people along your usual walking routes and they always are welcoming you in or offering you coffee.” Despite the fact that he is far from fluent in Arabic he says, “you still are made to feel a part of the local community because people are so welcoming. Edward is more than satisfied with the connections he has made and the communities of which he has become part of here in Palestine, both international and local.
Gabby from the United States is working in our “Volunteer to Write about Palestine” program. She tells us that the main source of her community is the vast extended family of her host mother. However, “at the Excellence Center I have made connections with the other Palestinian teachers and staff.” Gabby adds that the bonds of this community are reinforced by the daily community breakfast at the EC and by the tea and coffee shared throughout the day. “I love catching up with the other international volunteers and we really support one another. It is helpful sometimes to check in with other foreigners who are going through the same experiences as you are,” she tells us. Yet Gabby clarifies, “without a doubt the community I feel the most part of and which I spend the most time within is large extended family of my host mother.”
Jenn, also from the United States seconds Gabby’s experience and tells us that her community includes the many children and grandchildren of her host parents. “I love playing with their grandkids, there is one little three year old that is partial to me and additionally they have several teenage granddaughters who always want to practice their English with me.” As a whole I continue to be blown away and humbled by the experience of being welcomed into this family, just as if I had always been a part of.
Olivia is from the United States and participating in our “Intern and Learn Arabic in Palestine” program here in Palestine. Her community is “definitely mixed” with regards to international and local relations. She tells us that for her the local and international members of the community she has found in Palestine are all part of one group and not separate. As with Edward Olivia feels like the community of international volunteers at the EC are like family. She tells us, “we built quick and strong bonds, perhaps because we all know we are here for such a short time, there is a temporary nature.” However Olivia hastens, “we are not bound together just because we are all internationals here in Palestine. We all have similar interests and that is what has brought us here to Palestine and brought us together, we are not just friends because we have to be.” With regard to unexpected aspects of her community experience here in Palestine she says, “I met people way quicker than I thought I would. Also before arriving, I had hoped that I would have friendships with locals, beyond just basic interactions but I thought maybe that would not happen. And I am really glad that it did.”
As you can see community takes many forms when you volunteer with us at the Excellence Center in Palestine. The common thread amongst all our volunteers’ experiences is the degree to which they are welcomed and made to be a part of. This experience is shared by all despite cultural differences or language barriers. The kindness and welcoming hospitality shown to foreigners is sewn into the very fabric of Palestinian culture. We look forward to hearing your unique story the community you experience with us here in Palestine!