Staff Spotlight: Rafat Shantir



Rafat Shantir is the manager of the Excellence Center. Rafat has participated and volunteered in many community development projects in places as diverse as Mongolia, Denmark, Egypt, and Jordan. He has worked for community development for several years in Palestine, and he strongly believes in the role of community activities and cultural exchanges in the lives of Palestinians and members of the world community. Rafat has received his higher education in Germany. As manager, Rafat answers some interview questions:

What does the future hold for the Excellence Center – any exciting and new programs to share?

In Summer 2015 the Excellence Center sponsored more than 40 internationals from all over the world, and the Center looks forward to continued growth in international volunteers, interns, visitors, and Arabic students. Recently, the Excellence Center has launched a new program called “Trip to Palestine” which will provide services to tourists who come to Palestine.

What sets the Excellence Center apart from other organizations?

The Excellence Center offers unique programs that provide international students, interns, volunteers, and visitors with direct participation and immersion into Palestinian culture and daily life. This immersion occurs by virtue of living with Palestinian host families and participating in family life, visiting local universities and meeting university students, visiting local businesses and industries, and the chance to learn Arabic where it is spoken. All of these opportunities create a unique learning environment.

Should program participants learn Arabic before they arrive at the Excellence Center? If so, why?

The answer to this depends on certain factors: the length of the person’s stay and the purpose for the journey. In the last four years, the Excellence Center has sponsored more than 150 internationals; many of them did not speak Arabic and relied solely on English. Many internationals began to learn Arabic due to their immersion in the environment. They related that it was much easier to learn Arabic in Palestine simply because they were immersed in the culture and language on a 24/7 basis.

Rafat, what is your favorite participant story in the Excellence Center’s programs?

Excellence Center had an Irish volunteer who was only 18 years old. Before she came to Palestine, she told us, her family was vehemently opposed to her going to volunteer in Palestine. Nevertheless, she made her decision to come to Palestine, and she developed a bit of anxiety before her arrival. After she had spent one month here, she did not want to return home. She said that she wished to stay in Palestine to learn Arabic and to help the Palestinian people. How happy we all were to hear her expression of deep feeling.

What would you tell someone who is thinking of becoming a future participant at the Excellence Center?

The Excellence Center has so many unique cultural, social, educational, and community opportunities available to international students, interns, volunteers, and visitors. If you want to meet Palestinian people, interact with them, and travel Palestine, then the Excellence Center is the place for you. The opportunities offered by the Excellence Center are unique and singular. They are opportunities for those wanting to make a difference in the lives of others, as well as your own!