Our Dutch Volunteer Experience in Palestine

” Hi all,  My name is Fabian and I live in the Netherlands. In university, I studied Commercial Economics and Marketing Management and I currently work as an International Sales Engineer. I travel a lot because of my job, but I have never been to a place that has

left such a lasting impression on my heart as Palestine has and in the following, I will explain why.

One might say the reason of my visit to Palestine was somewhat selfish. When you grow up in a country like Holland, you take a lot of things for granted. Education, facilities, money, opportunities and especially freedom. I wanted to change my outlook on life and to see what life is really all about. To find out what matters most in life.

My first impression of the Excellence Center was positive from the start. I had a Skype interview with Rafat and I could see in his eyes how passionate he was about his work at the Excellence Center.  He told me about the dreams and hopes he had for this country which convinced me that traveling to volunteer with the Excellence Center was the right move for me to take.

Ideally, I would have preferred to live with a host family and fully experience the way of life in Palestine. However, due to my last minute arrangement of this trip, this was not possible so I stayed in a dorm instead. I found the dorm experience to contained a lot of qualities I would have hoped to get from living with a host family. The host of the dorm was named Sheikh Abed and he was truly amazing. He is a kind-hearted, funny person with many stories to tell about life in Palestine. He took perfect care of me.  Over the past two weeks, I have seen him every day, we have played football together, prayed together, and so much more.  Throughout my stay, I have never felt unsafe.  I am very grateful to have met him, his kids, his whole family, and friends. They truly make you feel like you are part of a big family. 

During my time at the Excellence Center, I participated in a volunteership but that categorization would not do justice to the work I was able to do here in Palestine alongside the Excellence Center. I have been teaching English to young children, teenagers, and young adults but I have come out of this experience having learned far more than any language skills I may have imparted upon them. My time with the young children has left a particularly deep impression upon me. They were absolutely amazing.  The enthusiasm they showed, the politeness, the joy in their eyes and their dreams taught me a lot more than what I would be able to teach them.  The children were studying English in addition to their regular program at school but still came to class every day with a big smile on their faces. They taught me to work hard, believe in your dreams, keep smiling no matter your circumstances, to educate yourself and to say alhamdulilah for everything that is given to us.  

The Excellence Center showed great professional guidance, was very helpful and flexible to make your stay as good as possible. Trips were arranged for me to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Old City, Jericho and several other places like glass factories and a Kufiya factory right here in Hebron. Thus, this has been a great cultural experience for me as well. Special thanks to the team I worked with who were absolutely amazing: Marwa, Khitam, Ahlam, Ibrahim, Ibrahim, Dua, Maryam, Osama, and Muhammad. Shukran Khateer!

I would like to write and share one of my favorite moments or experiences but I find myself unable to choose as there were so many special moments which defied this trip. If I had to name one, it would be the football match that I organized for children of the Excellence Center. We played Barcelona – Real Madrid and while I was looking at the kids running after the ball with concentrated but smiley faces, I realized that this is something we should do more often. Make each other happy. Make each other smile more often. We tend to care too much about our own happiness that we forgot about the happiness of somebody else. For one moment they forgot about the world around them. This world is not so big for these small kids with big dreams. They live in a small world which is literally surrounded by gates. Borders which prevent them from traveling and accessing opportunities but not from dreaming. 

My overall experience is one with a lot of mixed feelings. I am sad to leave, sad to see the limited amount of opportunities for the communities I worked with, sad to see certain circumstances, angry about injustice, sad to leave behind great people but also some feelings of happiness. Happy to have met great people, happy for personal growth, happy for what I’ve learned and happy to realize that God has blessed me with everything I have. Alhamdulilah! In addition to feelings of happiness and sadness, I am also hopeful. Hopefully that the Excellence Center can contribute to the education and potential of young people in order to provide for a better future. As my great friend Ibrahim told me ‘Education is the key to freedom’. 

I am already happy if you took the time to read this whole review. I hope this review will make you realize that you have the opportunity to have a great cultural experience in which you will experience personal growth, see many things and are able to give back something to children and people that don’t have the opportunities that you have. I promise you, they will not let you down…”