How did friends and family react when you told them you were coming to volunteer in Palestine? Tips on how to handle and change negative reactions before arriving and also after arrival: It is common for our volunteers to experience some pushback, skepticism and sometimes our right horror from friends and family at home when they announce their plan to come volunteer with us at the Excellence Center in Hebron, Palestine. These negative reactions are not always the case, however, we understand why they happen. Western media shows a skewed and one-sided picture of Palestine as a war-torn radicalized place and tends not to differentiate between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The beautiful thing about our program of international volunteers is that when our volunteers return home they bring with them their stories and experience of what life is really like in Palestine. We spoke with some of our international volunteers about what kind of reactions they received from friends and family before coming to volunteer in Palestine.
Gabby from the United States participates in our, “Volunteer to Write about Palestine” program and talked to her about this subject. She said, “since I had already spent time in some hot spots around the Middle East a few year ago my immediate family was not freaked out, they were very supportive and happy I was getting to return to the region.” Gabby explains more, “however, my friends and extended family, that’s a different story. My friends thought I was crazy and just trying to get a thrill from going somewhere unsafe, I tried to explain that it is not unsafe and getting a thrill was not my goal.” We asked Gabby what, if anything, helped her combat these negative opinions and she said, “immediately after arriving in Palestine I started a group chat on my Whatsapp and I just post tons of pictures there, of me and my students, sightseeing, me and my host family, etc. I think seeing those along with keeping in contact with them calm down and realize I’m ok here.”
Lina from Finland who participated in our “Intern and Learn Arabic” program has a little bit of a different story. She tells us, “Everyone I knew at home was against me coming to volunteer in Palestine.” Lina continues,” and everyone I know at home is still very worried. I was hoping they might be little more relaxed after I was settled here but that hasn’t been the case, I think once I am finally home they can breathe deeply and I plan on showing them all my pictures and my experiences.”
Maneesha from the United States and contributed her knowledge of software engineering to our technology program, laughs and tells us, “most of the family didn’t even know what or where Palestine was, so no I did not get negative reactions.” Maneesha also tells us, “my goal for when I return from my time in Palestine I for everyone to know where and what Palestine is and why it is so important.”
Families, friends and loved ones showing hesitation to your decision to come volunteer with us at the Excellence Center in Palestine are completely normal and understandable. It is our hope that during or after your stay with us that their fears will be put to rest. The more exposure of what real life is like in Palestine the more we can show what a welcoming, caring and deep culture we have here.