Why should you volunteer in Palestine in Summer?
Travelling to Palestine may be very foreign to some. In fact, many are afraid to visit the country, as it is often portrayed as an unsafe country in the media due to the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. However, this is often not true. Palestinians here lead a normal life just like everybody else around the world. They go to school, work and go shopping in their everyday life. Travelling around Palestine as a tourist allows you to visit the many tourist attractions here such as the religious places like the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, and also the old cities that can be found in Hebron and Jerusalem. However, why not do all these as a volunteer!
As a volunteer, you would not only be given the opportunity to travel around Palestine, but also experience the culture and lifestyle here. When you volunteer in Palestine, such as at the Excellence Center, you get to meet and interact with many Palestinians. You may be assisting or even conducting an English lesson on your own. The students are of various ages, so you get to experience teaching both the young and old. In a week, you volunteer for 5 days and will be given 2 free days. With this break, you can travel to the different cities in Palestine. Travelling on your own is definitely not a problem as you can easily take a taxi to whichever destination that you want. But don’t taxis cost a lot? Not to worry! The taxis here are indeed affordable.
If you are worried about volunteering alone, the staff here at the Excellence Center will definitely take good care of you. The day starts with breakfast in the kitchen with the staff and other volunteers. Here you get to meet everybody. As volunteers, the staff is always concerned in making sure that you are well adjusted and will gladly address any concerns that you have. The staff here too sometimes organizes trips in Hebron such as the old city and glass factories. Having someone who lives here, to introduce you to the local places will help you understand the historical and cultural context of these places better.
Another way to deeply engage in the Palestinian culture is by living with a host family. What better way to learn the culture and lifestyle of a Palestinian than to live with one? If you are a female volunteer, you will be assigned to a host family during your stay here. The Palestinians are very friendly and will definitely welcome you warmly. You will get to see how important familial ties are to them. Relatives often visit one another so you will not only get to meet the large members of your host family but also their relatives as well. Also, when one is talking about culture, food definitely comes to mind. Even though you can easily buy any street food here in Hebron such as Falafel, nothing beats home-cooked food. After volunteering for the day, it is indeed nice to have dinner with your host family at home. If you are a male volunteer, you would be staying with the other male volunteers at a dormitory. Even though you would not be staying with a host family, you would get to develop close brotherly ties with the other male volunteers by staying together.
Do you need to know Arabic before coming to Palestine? It may be good to know some basics but knowing Arabic is not a must. Many Palestinians know some basic English. Even if there were a language barrier, many Palestinians are always determined to assist you if you are facing any difficulties such as seeking directions. Also, when you volunteer at the Excellence Center, you would get to study Arabic twice a week. The Arabic teachers here would definitely help to equip you with the basic Arabic conversational skills.
Volunteering in Palestine in summer is a meaningful and also eye-opening experience. You get to help the locals here achieve their dream of learning English while experiencing the daily living here.