The Excellence Center receives copious applications for our volunteer program and accepts applicants from all over the world. To date, we have had volunteers from the Netherlands, Italy, the United States Ireland, the United Kingdom and many more. Our pre-trip preparation looks the same regardless of where you call home. We engage our volunteers in pre-trip instructions and advice on how to get into Hebron via Skype. What we cannot prepare them for is the extraordinary experience they will have while volunteering in Palestine.
Our volunteers know that they will be teaching English and assisting our students with pronunciation and grammar, but they typically cannot grasp what else comes with the package. The students in our programs are incredible self-motivated. They each have their own reasons for learning English and our volunteers are the first to realize this. Students will ask anything from where to find English movies to the differences between “in” versus “at.” In some of our more intermediate and advance classes, students can give their opinions on regional politics and our volunteers have the opportunity to learn first-hand about the Palestinian Occupation. Our volunteers also create games and help plan lessons for our permanent teaching staff.
In addition to teaching English, volunteers also learn Arabic. Volunteers will most certainly pick up common words and expressions from their taxis rides and days in the markets, but we also offer classes along with an Arabic book to complete the full experience of being a volunteer. For beginners, we cover the Arabic alphabet, introductions, and common phrases. Many of our volunteers, if they have studied Arabic, have often learned Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) also known as fusHa. For this reason, we aim to help our volunteers learn spoken Arabic, which in Palestine is ‘amiyya. No matter what level of Arabic our volunteers begin with, we help them achieve their goals in becoming more confident in the Arabic language.
During their stay, volunteers have the opportunity to live with a Palestinian host family and learn more about the language, food, and customs in Hebron. Most often, our female volunteers have priority on staying with a host family; while we also help our male volunteers find apartment housing in the city, if needed. Families sometimes take our volunteers around the city, and show them local sights. However, the Excellence Center also arranges tours to see famous sights such as the Abraham Mosque, Al-Maskubieh Church, and the Old City in Hebron.
Volunteers at the Excellence Center engage with other volunteers and Arabic language students from around the world. Together, they have the ability to discuss what it has been like volunteering in Palestine. It is truly a unique opportunity to learn and to teach all at the same time. Overall, we think our volunteers will experience a holistic engagement in Palestinian community and culture during their time with the Excellence Center.
One of the most important concerns for all of us here at the center is safety. We want to ensure that our volunteers feel safe at all times. For this reason, we take the time to inform our volunteers of the customs in Hebron and how to stay safe. Hebron is a safe place to live, but like any city, we asked that our volunteers use caution like they would elsewhere.