Volunteers’ Experience of Cultural Exchange in Palestine: One of the core tenants of the work we do here at the Excellence Center in Hebron, Palestine is that of cultural exchange. This dynamic is present for our students, our teachers and our staff with relation to our international volunteers. This cultural exchange is so important for our students because Palestine is often closed off from the rest of the world due to the occupation. Today we hear from our international volunteers on their experience of cultural exchange during their stay with us here in Palestine.
Caleb is one of our international volunteers from the United States and he participates in our “Volunteer to Write about Palestine” program. Caleb tells us, “the first thing I learned is that I knew a lot less than I thought I did before coming to Palestine, it really put into perspective how I view cultures that are not my own as well as how I frame my own culture.” He continues, “even just the momentary exchanges on the street are so new, everyone is welcoming, everyone wants to know where I am from and if I have time they ask me questions about America and then tell me about things of life in Palestine.” Caleb tells us never considered the fact that people at home never talk to one another on the street until he came to Palestine, “there’s a man who sits every day on the same corner in his wheelchair asking for spare change and even he yells out to me each day as I pass, ‘welcome to Palestine!’”
Another one of our volunteers who is Canadian and is participating in our “Teach English and Learn Arabic” program tells us that she has learned the most from her students with regards to cultural exchange. She tells us, “the first and most obvious thing is seeing how eager my students are to learn, and all of our classes together are in additional to their regular school lessons,,” she goes on, “it made me think back to my time as a student in Canada and how I really took school and learning for granted.” She explains that, “in my classes here, all of my lessons and educational games are tied in with this cultural exchange. My students and I, we are both always learning from each other.”
Gabby from the United States participates in our “Volunteer to Write about Palestine” program and she immediately mentions family structure and connections when we spoke with her about cultural exchange. Gabby says, “the closeness of family here, how often they see each other and the support they offer one another is inspiring, they were astonished when I explained my extended and immediate family is scattered across the United States hours and hours by car and sometimes that it is sometimes necessary to take a plane.” Gabby tells us that she believes, “the family structure in Palestine is one of the defining aspects of Palestinian culture.”
Your time here in Palestine volunteering with us at the Excellence Center is constantly filled with opportunities of cultural exchange. The welcoming aspects of Palestinian culture opens up more opportunities for discussion and interaction with locals. Additionally working with your Palestinian students, getting taught Arabic by a local teacher, assisting Palestinian teachers, breakfast with the staff and of course your homestay are all ripe with cultural exchange. You will undoubtedly return to your home country with new perspectives and knowledge.