One person all foreign volunteers, students, and guests will come in contact with at The Excellence Center is Marwa Shantir. Marwa is the Activities Coordinator in Hebron and manages the day-to-day activities of international volunteers. She is also the first person volunteers will meet upon their arrival to Hebron.
We thought we would sit down with Marwa to give those thinking about volunteering with the Excellence Center a chance to learn a little bit about her and her role there.
What’s your daily routine like?
My routine varies day-to-day. My job description includes talking with Palestinian students, guests, and visitors, creating the schedules for the teachers, both foreign and Palestinian, managing the accommodations of foreign volunteers, and scheduling tours and site visits for the international students, volunteers, and guests.
I also sometimes teach Arabic to English speakers, but not during the summer. My schedule gets really busy in the summertime. Last summer we had roughly 60 foreign volunteers, almost all from the United States. Those were some busy days!
How do you like working with foreign volunteers?
I really like how friendly the foreign volunteers can be. They always smile! And when they speak, either in English or Arabic, to Palestinian students it makes their day. Everyone here loves it when the volunteers are talkative and make an effort to get to know us. They’re also incredibly helpful assisting us, preparing for lessons, and proof-reading for mistakes that non-native English speakers make in paperwork.
Our local students also love working with foreign teachers because it is so rare for them to be exposed to native speakers. Learning the different English accents is also very valuable.
What’s it like working with your brother and sister?
It’s nice. My sister, Khitam, works here at the center in Hebron, but my brother, Rafat, lives with his wife in Germany and works for the center remotely, visiting occasionally. My brother is so helpful and I love working with him. Whenever a new volunteer comes to Hebron he’ll always send me reminders a few days beforehand.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love visiting friends and having fun with them. I actually have some friends who live abroad so I like chatting with them online. I also enjoy reading novels in Arabic. I’m at the center a lot, however, and there isn’t much free time with all the work we have.
What do you wish foreign volunteers knew before coming to Hebron?
It’s great when the volunteers know a little bit about our traditions and culture before coming to Hebron, I think it makes the transition easier. Experience and knowledge of teaching also helps a lot in the classroom.
What characteristics do you look for in foreign volunteers?
The key thing is flexibility. Volunteers from other countries will need to be able to adapt to the Palestinian way of doing things. For instance, things run on Arab time here.
In the West, things run on a strict schedule and meetings start right on time. In Palestine however, things are much more flexible, meetings tend to start late and classes can be rescheduled on short notice. It can be tough for foreigners to adapt but if they do they will certainly enjoy their time in Hebron more.
We hope that anyone thinking of coming to Palestine gets the chance to meet Marwa in person, instead of simply reading about her!