After recommendation of this program by my sister I joined Karama for 3 months and I wish the permit - system by the Israeli occupation would have allowed me to stay longer! It was a very warm, inspiring and rewarding time and I regret not a single day I spent here; any tired evening, any sore body part, any penny was so super worth the wonderful time I had here.
Most of my time I contributed to creating a program for the children, with games and several lesson programs with English for two age groups. I also tried some science/nature classes, and had sometimes spontaneous discussion groups. A small part of my time I did some administrative things (website and newsletter) and helped out a bit when there were international visitors over. When I was not in the community center the staff took us on a few trips in the area – while the several cities were nice I mostly enjoyed just walking in some of the beautiful areas of Palestine. Also I spend a lot of time with my host family, cooking together, eating together, coffee on their roof together, seeing some of their relatives, friends and going shopping with their teenage daughter. I love it how the organization is supported by such a close-knit community; you really feel the commitment they have to their work and how much energy and time they put in this project. (while the staff does not receive a penny for their own benefit from their daily work!!)
My greatest frustration were my tiring efforts to explain my friends back home and my friends with Israeli friends who came to visit me during my stay about our situation here and the systematic problems these people are going through. It is mind-wrecking how people can have such a closed mind, and especially how many Israeli's or people who take their information from them (based on my own experiences) are kept so blind about the hard facts. Once when I had troubles trying to meet one of those friends who was staying with her Israeli friend in Jerusalem (internationally seen as shared capital of Israel and Palestine), she couldn't understand why my friends here couldn't not just drop me off in Jerusalem.. hmmm.. its the occupation stupid!! And does an Israeli really not know West Bank Palestinians can not visit their own capital?? This is just a minor thing.. I am really happy I could receive so much information from the local people here and take their experiences as my first viewpoint, filling this up and adding to this information from my own eyes and other sources along the way! And I will never forget the reaction from my mother when I wrote her a small note to her about why I didn't sleep that well for a few days because the Occupation Army was coming in every night... "I just don't get it, why" she said - yes, so do I.. I don't get it why they have to come in so often and make life here so difficult, creating so much tension among the children and the young generation growing up.
But yes, in this situation Karama is doing an amazing job to keep a safe and fun place open for all children. The staff is really great, they will do everything to make you feel safe and I trust them completely they make the program in the best and safest way possible for us newbies. I had a wonderful family (little privacy though) who treated me as part of their family and made me enjoy laughter and sadness together. I felt really free to make the most of my activities in Karama and could think of how I wanted to engage the children in creative activities and language games. Though I am not a native speaker I feel the kids benefit greatly from interacting and playfully learning more and more English. I think the skills they learned in the center make them more positively aware of their abilities and the time they spend in the center is a great boost for their confidence and character.
My time in Palestine has really given me a lot to think about, reflect on now I am back home and (hopefully) gave me many tools to contribute for positive change. I am sure there is a lot more to see and do so I hope to be back, but this special insight in one of the most disadvantaged parts of Palestinian society will not be taken away by anybody.