The Excellence Center in Palestine

The Excellence Center

About

The Excellence Center was established in June 2011 as a youth initiative to offer educational and community services to its diverse group of internationals and Palestinians. It is located in the main heart of Hebron on Ein Sarah street which is under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority.

The Excellence Center invites internationals year round to come to Palestine to volunteer, intern, visit or study Arabic. The Center organizes educational, cultural and community activities to introduce international interns, volunteers and students to Palestinian culture and daily life. Participants in the international programs have the opportunity to meet the local Palestinians who will share their lives and culture. Since the beginning, the Excellence Center has hosted over 250 international volunteers, interns and students from every corner of the world.

The Excellence Center is fully licensed as a cultural and educational center by the Palestinian Ministry of Education.

Founded
2011
Headquarters

Ein Sarah Street across from Al Hussein High School
Hebron
Palestinian Territories

Reviews

Caroline
9/10

The Teach English and Learn Arabic the Excellence Center has to offer is great. Us volunteers have the opportunity of leading activities with a wide range of Palestinian English students on various topics. It is a lot of fun to organize activities on subjects for which we are passionate about, but also to hear about what our students want to discuss. Along with these classes, we also receive one on one Arabic classes. I did not expect to be alone with my teacher, which is perfect because we can go through the lessons at my own pace, but also to learn about the Palestinian dialect, offering me a real chance to integrate and participate in the community. The host family the Center has found me is also a big contributor to my experience being so enriching. My host parents, brothers and sisters are always there to help me and happy to receive at their dining table every night. I have mostly enjoyed being part of the family during the time of Ramadan. They were very encouraging of my fasting for the first time and doing iftar (breaking fast) with them has made my difficult days more than worth it.

How can this program be improved?
During Ramadan, things are a little bit up in the air. It is understandable, but I wish we had a more tangible work schedule during this period.
Yes, I recommend
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Bryan
10/10

I love the Excellence Center. It helps local Palestinians learn English and gives international volunteers a chance to experience Palestinian culture and hospitality. It is a good way to see the occupation first hand and support people living under apartheid. You will makes friends for a life time, while improving your Arabic and teaching skills. I highly recommend anyone joining the Palestine Excellence Center.

How can this program be improved?
I have no complaints
Yes, I recommend
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Luke
9/10

I spent 2 weeks volunteering in Hebron in March at very short notice (I was already in Palestine at the time), with Rafat and all the staff being extremely accommodating and welcoming of me in every possible way. The volunteering schedules allowed for very worthwhile work whilst also ensuring enough free time to explore Hebron. The other volunteers were always both amazingly friendly and very interesting, and the house I shared with the other male volunteers was lovely and very well-located.

It was a truly eye-opening experience in so many ways, and all of the trips that Excellence Center organised (such as to the keffiyeh factory, al-Ibrahimi mosque and the ceramics factory) enabled me to explore parts of Palestinian society that I otherwise may never have considered. The locals were often just as welcoming as those involved with the Center, and I spent many fun evenings outside of the Center with some of the students that I had been working with.

There were periods when there were tensions in the Old City of Hebron due to escalations between Israel and Gaza, but nonetheless any violence is generally very localised and possible to avoid if you so wish. All in all, I had the most fantastic time imaginable and I’m extremely thankful to Osama, Rafat, Ahlam and all the wonderful staff, volunteers and others that made this such a fascinating trip. Thanks a lot!

How can this program be improved?
I think that forming greater links between volunteers and other charitable organisations working in Hebron could allow for those with free time to help out even more on the side if they would like to.
Yes, I recommend
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Matt
9/10

My name is Matt. I’m from Utah, USA and I’m studying Information Systems at Brigham Young University. I had a wonderful experience at the Excellence Center in Hebron. I did the month-long internship program here at the Center. It was incredible. I didn’t know any Arabic at all when I came, but the instruction was really helpful and I was able to hold a conversation by the end of my time here. The staff do a great job creating a friendly and comfortable environment. They were very accommodating with our schedule, allowing us to explore the things we wanted to while still giving us responsibilities and opportunities to serve. They’ve become my good friends and I’m sure we’ll stay in contact. I got to go see Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, Jerusalem, and even took time to go to Petra, Jordan. Almost everyone is really friendly here and wants to help you feel welcome. I felt safe throughout my time here and I’ve so much enjoyed seeing daily life here. The Palestinians are a happy people, even in the face of many difficulties. My favorite experience here was getting chased by on ostrich in the town of Kharas. True story! Palestine has left a lasting impression on me of really good people and a vibrant lifestyle. I’m so glad I came and would recommend it to anyone looking for an adventure.

Yes, I recommend
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Mie Vibeke
9/10

My name is Mie and I am 21 years old . I live in Denmark and went to The Excellence Center during my second gap year. I finished the Danish ‘gymnasium’ (equivalent to high school) in 2016 and have worked as a substitute teacher since then. It was my work with children and my interest in art and travelling that lead me to The Excellence Center. I applied for the Art and Music program in the hope of teaching art here in Palestine.
The moment I walked inside the center I was welcomed by the other volunteers. My trip here was not as smooth as I expected, so it was nice to be welcomed in that way. As I sat in one of the chairs in the reception I heard volunteers speaking fluently with the staff – and I was speechless, I thought that if they all are fluent in Arabic I will be left behind in the social life at the center. This turned out not to be true, and at every activity and the everyday life at the center, English will always be the main language, especially when your Arabic is lacking or non existing, as it was in my case.
As you probably could guess from the text above – I DID NOT KNOW A WORD OF ARABIC. I knew the word for ‘dog’ and ‘animal’, but I learned from and Iraqi, which means that even those words were a different.
My very intelligent and sweet teacher Raghad learned me everything I know now from scratch. We started with the common greetings and during each class she would teach me five new letters. At first I didn’t see the use of learning the alphabet, but it will help me continuing my studies at home. She adjusted the classes to my needs, so I learned the different colours (to make my art class easier for the children and myself) and the numbers so I could go shopping and hackle with the prices as you are supposed to.
I quickly received many classes at schools and got my own class at the center. They do not have art at the schools, so no matter what kind of creative class I broad it was an improvement. The way of seeing art classes was also different: I was asked to choose the best drawing but refused – art is for me a place where judgment is put aside and it is more about the act of creating and the process than the product itself (especially when we are talking about children). It is the same reaction that art can bring children no matter the geographical place. Their smiles are the same in Denmark and in Palestine.
I also had drawing classes three times a week at the center, one for children and two for adults, who would also learn something about drawing techniques.
I was very fortunate and got the opportunity to travel around Palestine during my stay, even though I didn’t expect this when I planned my trip here. I have been to Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, The Dead Sea and Jericho during my five week stay and I have travelled both with friends I have met at the center and staff from the center. Seeing more than just Hebron has broaden my view on what Palestine is and what it is like living in Palestine. I have met different Palestinians living different lives both in Hebron, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem, this have helped me colour my view of what it means to be Palestinian.
I lived at a host family with another Danish volunteer for the first 3\4 weeks of my stay, and to have her as a link between the new and the known has been a big part of my positive experience in Palestine. There will always be some adjustments when you travel to a new place and live at a family, but to be honest it wasn’t hard. There is the language barrier – but one of my host sister was excellent in English and the other children spoke it okay as well, so it was only in my conversations with the parents that I needed help. The most different thing when it comes to food is how the Palestinians loves their bread, hummus and oily food. My skin bears the clear signs of the oily food (which tasted good but my body had to get used to all the grease). I have eaten grey food, and it tasted just as you might imagine, I have also eaten yellow rice, so much that I think I am going to stay away from rice when I come back home, and I have avoided all the neon pink pickles (food should NOT be neon pink!) – but dear Lord if eating falafel and hummus was a sin, I would be deemed to hell. I have had falafel for breakfast, lunch and dinner and tried many different falafel spots, but I must admit that I got the best falafel in Jerusalem.
I can only recommend coming to Palestine and volunteering at The Excellence Center. Prepare yourself to have very busy days that feels overbooked and very slow days where you (seemingly) have nothing to do. Be open-minded towards the staff, the Palestinians, their culture and the other volunteers – they will make you feel sad when you are leaving if you open yourself up to them. Say yes to new things such as wedding invitations, trips with the center, time with the family, grey food, and no when you feel like everything is a bit too much. I will definitely come back. Or as they say it down here to make sure that you know that their promises and plans can change any minute it should be (also when you have arrived) INSHALLAH

How can this program be improved?
Better contact with the students. Maybe have a facebook group just with the teacher and the students so it will be easier to ask and answer questions
Yes, I recommend

Programs

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