Jim Chandler is from Maine, USA. He has a Masters in Science Education and is currently a partially retired Science Teacher. He has worked in a wide range of settings for over 42 years including teaching students from kindergarten to adults, environmental projects, and educational computer programming. He also has a wide background in international travel working with teachers and students in Australia and Palestine as well as traveling all over the United States and Canada.
Which programs did you participate in at the Excellence Center and why did you want to participate in them?
I volunteered at the Excellence Center in the summer of 2015 for only a week and a half. I assisted with some of the English classes and did a Science workshop for local students and participants from the Excellence Center. I very much enjoyed my experience. It was a very rich environment to work side by side with Palestinians and people from all over the world. Not only was I able to assist in English classes, but I also shared with many international students, learned some Arabic, and learned more about Palestinian culture. The Excellence Center organizes many trips and experiences for its volunteers. I recommend that all people volunteering at the Excellence Center participate fully in what they have to offer. They will find it very rewarding and it is a great way to learn.
What would you tell any future participants about Palestine and the Center?
Not only did I take Arabic lessons, but the staff and volunteers helped me to apply what I learned by using Arabic in everyday life at the Center. This involved requesting refreshments in the break room in Arabic and applying the lessons including introductions and greetings. I always felt at home at the Excellence Center and made good friends there. In my stay in Palestine I was able to visit some other cities, but when I returned to the Excellence Center I felt like I was home and among friends who could help me in both Arabic and English. Likewise it was a comfortable place where I felt welcome to share my knowledge of American culture and other topics.
What did you like most about the Palestinian culture and society?
I found Palestinians to be most welcoming and could always count on a cup of refreshment wherever I went. The coffee and teapots were always active at the Excellence Center. Palestine and the Center were filled with very hard working and ambitious people. This included younger students working to become more fluent in English, business people developing their language skills, and teachers who provided excellent and friendly instruction in both English and Arabic. Everyone worked to make the experience the Excellence Center to be a warm and productive place to learn and share. Not only did they help with my language skills but helped me find what he needed, like getting my money exchanged, and providing a comfortable place for me to stay.
Describe a typical day in Hebron, Palestine
A typical day would include going from the Excellence Center apartment to the Center by taxi and an enjoyable walk. I felt totally safe in the city and the Excellence Center looked after my wellbeing. After arriving at the Excellence Center I would be greeted enthusiastically by the staff and shared breakfast in the kitchen, the hub of activity for the volunteers and staff. This was followed by the day’s assignment of classes and sharing with other volunteers and Palestinian teachers. I particularly enjoyed participating in and facilitating discussions on different topics in the classes. Not only was this a good place to help students practice their English, but it was an interesting way to share how different cultures deal with various topics like travel, food, books and current events. This work would continue throughout the day, interspersed with generous breaks where I could share with the diverse group of international volunteers and staff. Break times were as informative as the class time. There was often a trip to a cultural location that also highlighted the day. Many times the day ended with a shared time of relaxation or a meal. I have very fond memories of my time with the Excellence Center and all who are involved with the program.