Discovering the unknown

Growth: 8
Support: 9
Fun: 8
Housing: 8
Safety: 8

My name is Joëlle Morard and I come from Switzerland. I have a Masters in English and French and I teach teenagers and young adults. I took part in the Program “Teach English and Study Arabic in Palestine” at the Excellence Center in Hebron.
During my three weeks there, I mainly taught English in some villages and in Hebron. The children and teenagers were very welcoming and eager to learn. I enjoyed teaching basic English to children in Siraa (Dura) and in Soureef. In addition, the exchanges with the students with a more advanced level (in Hebron) was a great opportunity for me to discover many elements about Palestinian culture and lifestyle.
I also had great Arabic lessons with Nadine; she is very sweet, motivating, patient, and she explains the concepts clearly! I have learnt some basic Arabic and I hope to keep on studying this beautiful language. The Center’s environment is good: the staff is always available and helpful, the teachers are kind and talkative. Regarding the volunteers, they are friendly and funny.
Moreover, I participated in various activities with the Center. I visited the Old City of Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque, as well as the Russian Orthodox Church. The Center also organized a visit of a Bedouin village: it was tough to realize how the life of its inhabitants is affected by the presence of settlers. I enjoyed the evening where we played soccer, went to the swimming pool, and had a barbecue with some people of the neighborhood. Perhaps the most memorable experience was the trip to Akka: it was nice to spend time on the beach and to visit this beautiful city with the staff, volunteers, and Palestinian families.
Beyond my visits with the Center, I went to Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth – cities that I really appreciate. I also (re)discovered Jenin and Nablus. I love travelling in Palestine, admiring nature, visiting cities and meeting people.
I lived in Halhul with a lovely family: they welcomed me well, spent time with me, wanted to improve their English and taught me a bit of Arabic. However, living in this part of Palestine was challenging for me because it was really different of my previous experiences in other Palestinian cities. Here, the majority of people is not used to see foreigners and feeling awkward while walking into the streets is not a good impression.
Concerning safety and security in Palestine, I did not have any problems: all went well to arrive in Hebron and to travel to the different cities. Nevertheless, it is impressive and depressing to see occupation all over the place, with the soldiers, towers, wall and checkpoints.
What I like the most about Palestine is its importance for religion, its history and its landscapes. It goes without saying that I love the friends that I have here. I have had many good experiences in Palestine but if I had to remember only one, it would be having spent time in the Old City of Jerusalem with a local friend: indeed, it is very different to discover how people live there instead of visiting as a tourist.
To be honest, I do not have a clear lasting impression about Palestine, I suppose that it will me take time to grasp the meaning of this experience and to realize how much I have learnt. My overall experience at the Excellence Center and in Palestine is challenging but worthwhile.
Last but not least, I would recommend the following: it would be great to improve the organization. For example, the visits are very nice but not always “officially” announced; thus, it would be good to receive more information about them.
It would also be welcomed to have a better connection between the old center (where I had my Arabic lessons) and the new one (where I taught and from which I left for the villages). Indeed, I almost never had the opportunity to have breakfast with the volunteers because I had to move from one center to the other.
Additionally, fifty children in one class (like in Siraa) is often overwhelming. I hope that it will be possible to split the class into two groups in order to adapt the teaching to the level of children. Effectively, with so many of them, the noise is inevitable, and the gaps between the levels is huge.
Finally, benefiting more from the presence of volunteers would be a good idea: we are often in a hurry only to end up waiting for a long time; the schedules are not clear and change frequently. With an improvement of organization – namely regarding the transports to the villages –, teaching could be more effective.
I want to thank all the people involved with the Center: the job done here is crucial, the programs are various and interesting.

Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would