Women's and Children's Development with Karama

Video and Photos


Karama organizes various volunteer opportunities for you who want to help make a change.

* Work in Refugee Camp Palestine

Volunteers from all over the world are most welcome and needed to work with us at Karama.

Come to Deheishe and help us draw a smile on our children's faces!

Volunteers from different countries have already joined us and worked with Karama in the past years. You can for instance help by giving English lessons, sharing your computer skills and musical or artistic talents, giving lectures about democracy or human rights issues or the like.

We also need volunteers for administrational tasks. You are welcome to stay for both short and long periods.

* Volunteer Work with Kids and More!

Since February 2003 Karama has rented a house in Deheishe in which activities and projects for children and adolescents are offered seven days a week. Here are some examples:
  • * Creative workshops
  • * Education and leadership program for Karama children
  • * The right to play
  • * Computer

Related Programs

Questions & Answers


based on 14 reviews
  • Impact 8.3
  • Support 8.4
  • Fun 8.4
  • Value 7.9
  • Safety 8.7
Showing 1 - 14 of 14
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Living among refugees - giving a little and receiving a lot!

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.

What would you improve about this program?
I think I have mentioned some of the challenges I had already in the above information. Overall I had a great time which I do not think could have been improved by the staff of Karama - they were great in running the organization and always open for questions and feedback, when time allowed!
Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

Avoid this organization

I left to Palestine like i am: open minded and willing to experience the conflict in everyday life. I wanted to break my prejudices that I believed we all have and spread the information when I come home. I felt and still feel that getting know different cultures and ways of living would make this world a better place... Unfortunately work experience at Karama was not right place for this kind of thing.

After a year has passed Im starting to get clear picture of my time with Karama. This picture is not bright and sunny, more like full of bad memories and experiences. I have not told about them to so many people so far, even to my family, but now I would like to share my story to people who may consider Karama as place to volunteer. Just to make them see different point of view to this organization after reading all those superpositive reviews that it has gotten earlier.

It's sad that I have to say so, because Karama is very important place for the kids in Deheishe and they really have a big need for volunteers. Karama has all the potention to be the greatest volunteer program, but the lack of management skills and all rules that are unrespecting -i would say- humanrighs, ruins this program totally.

I had planed to stay in Deheishe for 3 months, even I was ready to stay longer if I felt that I liked it there. Well, I did not and quit after two months. This two monts was full of anxiety, fear and stress. What were the things that made me feel like this?


First of all the controlling that the manager wanted to spead among the volunteers by fear. I was not allowed to talk to other volunteers, eather any visitors. Just to show happy face that everything is ok and discuss about the work. The managers opinion was that "You don't understand our culture and will talk and turn things around in your western heads and this is bad for the program". If I did talk with someone else than him I got shouted at his office. He did not want us to share our bad vibes about the Karama as i would united us too much against him.

This led to the situation that you were so afraid to talk to anyone about your true feelings. Have you heard about "divide and conquer"? This was purely it.

Contolling continued outside the workinghours as well. We were not allowed to spend time with other volunteers in the eavning or go enywhere else than home. We could not get any days off together, I had to spend them by myself. What would you do alone? Where would you go? It was forbidden to go anywhere else than Bethlehem alone, or even with a friend.

You needed allways to inform the manager if you wanted to go somewhere and he gave you final permission. This ment you never knew if you can put your plans in to act or not. It was normal that days off were cancelled in the eavning day before. You never knew if his promeses were about to be happen or break again.

So basically, what you saw about Palestine was the refugee camp and a little piece of Bethlehem. I was lucky to get some palestanian friends outside the camp that I got known through a close friend, by accident. They wanted to show me around Bethlehem area and spend time together. Even they were so sorry and shocked for me that I was captivated in Deheishe and saw nothing more. Nevertheless i was not allowed to spend time with them eather because "We western can not recognize who are bad and who are good people and finally we will get us all, ourselves, the organization and the hostfamily, into a big trouple". I did not mind this at first, my family was nice and I liked living with them. In the end i started to feel like a bird in a cage. Bird that was being watched all the time. It felt wrong and uncounfortable.

And btw... I still keep touch with these lovely palestanian friends and they have helped me alot to get over the Karama experience. So that is how bad people they are.

But lets continue about my experiences...

Well... When something went wrong it was allways the volunteers fault. Even when two kids broke in to the volunteers office and stole money from me it was my fault: Our activities were not interesting enought to keep the kids downstairs to avoid them to brake in to the office and steal from us. Can you imagine this? The manager promesed to pay the money (100nis) back to me but he never did.

About the trips they are talking about... Yes, they arranged. Only Few. I asked them for many times but did get only two that were in a 2 following days, during one weekend. This was after working over 1 month at Karama without any days off. Trip happened during the free days (so if they organized a trip, it was your day off) and then when it was ok to the manager or his brother who organized the trips. It was normal that suddenly in the evening the manager came to inform "You will go for a trip tomorrow". So they did not respect the fact that the volunteer could have some other plans, his/her own life to take care of, they wanted to be in control in everything.

Reason for this was also "security", covered with the explanations that "we care about your security", "You westerns always get in to the troubles so if you want to visit other cities, we'll arrange it for you so it will be safe".

All my bad experiences leads to bad management at Karama. That's why my number one tip for the novice volunteer is: Find a place where the management is not only in one mans/womans hands but you have bigger organization behind you. Then ideas can be shared and no-one dictates the rules too easily. At the Karama the managers procedure was: "It's my way or the high way".

Also it was confusing you never knew his mood and this was made the athmospere bad. Sometimes he could be the nicest and caring person and at times wicked and agressive. It is crazy how you get use to feel scared and unconfortable. At least this is what I did while working in Karama. Ofcourse this will affect on your mood sooner or later. I remember how my family kept asking me why I was all the time so tired at home. Well, there you have the reason: Working at Karama was so burdening menthally that I lost my joy of working complitely. I hated this because I really liked working with the kids and I felt that I could have so much to give to them! I have education from the field of pedagogy and special education but because I felt so miserable, stressed and frustrated, my head just did not work. I lost my imagination and willingness to work with karama kids. It is unfair that the kids need to suffer for the bad management.

One, but the least thing that made me sad was all that money that I lost. I was robbed two times, ones at Karama (that i told you about allready), ones someone broke in to our house while we were away and stole nothing more but my money (??!!). And this was quite a big amount... Together I lost 900 Nis, so around 200€. In the both cases I was promesed that Karama will pay the money back but it never did. Also I paid my accormidation for 3 monts at ones when I arrived. When I quited after 2 months I never was offered to get my money back eather. At that time I was too tired and just wanted to get out of Deheishe that I did not care anything else. But what I have heard from other volunteers, they have had to start a real fight and argue with the manager to get their money back. Later I have felt bad for it... I had worked so hard to earn the money for making this volunteer trip. I am not the kind of person who cares too much about the money but when feeling like cheated it makes you think... This kind of thinking was also washed away from your head with brainwashing. We were all the time told how the western people cares only about the money, unlike the palestinians who are much more poor than us. After hearing this, would you feel counfortable to go and ask your money back and imprint yourself aa a "rich and selfish westener"?

This I feel was the most unfair: The quilt that I was forced to feel as an western. They explained all the bad treatments with the idea: "You don't understand, you're a western. You don't know anything about hard life. Go live your easy western life if you can not tolerate the palestanian way of living!". This was the way to make volunteer to feel bad if he/she complained f.ex. about the controlling rules. Also working in Karama made you feel like you, as an western, are the one who always screws up everything, and this is why they have to tight the rules and treat like they do. I often heard stories like "We used to let volunteers go and spend their free time like they wanted, but then this one girl came home drunk and we stopped it" . So if ex-volunteers had made mistakes, it was your fault also and you needed to suffer for it. It was not enough if they told the volunteer that "don't do this, it is not acceptable here in our society". Im pretty sure that all the people who are willing to go to the place like Palestine are respectfull and have a skill to use their common sense.

After I got distance to Karama and time passed I started to figure out that my function was just bring money (which was quite a lot compared to my living costs -as in refugee camps people have no living costs like water or electricity) to the organization and work work and work. For free. I did not feel that my work, or me as a human being, was respected.

The best thing during my time in Deheishe and in Karama was my family. They were extra nice and warm people and I felt welcomed! This is why I feel bad when i heard that not all the money that i paid for the accormodation went to my family. I would really want to support their family life as they were so nice to my when at the same time they were struggling a lot.

Also I was lucky to meet other locals outside deheishe as well. After finished at Karama they helped me to get some nice memories and experiences out of Palestine. I am forever thankfull for these loving, helping and caring friends I got! They made me even return to Palestine and made it special place for me. :)

Without meeting them i wouldn't have any nice information to share about Palestine. Now I can say that Palestine is amazing place and most palestinians are kind and big hearted people who respect you. I would absolutely suggest everybody to go visit Palestine! Just avoid Karama organization.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Opening new doors

I came back from volunteering with Karama about a week ago. After extending my stay,I must say it wasn’t easy to leave, for many reasons which I’ll try to explain.

It’s hard to begin writing something, but once you started, it can be hard to stop. That’s kind of how it was for me with Karama because there’s always something new or unexpected happening.
I wouldn’t call the beginning hard, because it depends on you. Yes it is possible that in the first days you will be home alone sometimes as you’re expected to spend the first days with the host family to get to know them, their culture and their habits. And of course sometimes they have to go to the mosque or to the shop or other things. They will not stop their lives for you and they have to get to know you too. During those days for me sometimes I wondered what to do and I thought it would be better to go to Karama so I would be busy. But then all the moments, like drinking mint tea together and them teaching me how to make it, sitting on the roof and talking about how we both see things in life, how things are in Palestine and in Belgium, helping them clean the house and banding. Those moments would not be there if it wasn’t for being at home so much. Those moments made me get to know them better, their culture, their country and how they experience everything. Even though the communication was not always very clear, we could understand each other.

I opened myself up and gave myself to their way of living. Because if, like some of those who wrote bad comments, you don’t open yourself and stick to your living habits, ideas and mentality of Europe or wherever you're from, you will miss out a lot, if not all. The whole experience made me question a lot in life, in the world, about my own personality, my friends, dreams, goals in life, habits and even religion. When I saw how the people live and interact with each other, it touched me very deep. Don't go hide yourself in your room when there's people visiting. Go sit with them, observe them, respect them. It's not that it's not allowed not to talk to visitors, but it's better if you don't too much in the beginning. Just go with the flow and it will all come automatically. In the beginning I didn’t talk much to the people, I didn't want to force myself to them. Once they get to know you or just see you more than once, they will involve you in the conversation.

Sometimes when you drink your cup of tea, it feels like you're away from the real problems. But when you open yourself and they see you respect them, they will tell you more about their own lives, how the Palestinian situation effected them. Then you realize that behind every person holding that cup of tea there's a whole story, a whole background.

The people I met are one by one just wonderful. They are very warm and very very generous. They will always ask if you're hungry or thirsty. They really took care of me. I was sick once and my host mother/sister got up in the middle of the night to make me some special herbal tea and waited by my bed to see if I could go back to sleep. The love and friendship I received is indescribable and I will always remember sitting at night with my host sister, drinking tea together, watching some Indian shows, massaging her head and talking about a lot of different stuff.

One of the things I love so much in their culture is that the door is almost always open, people walk in and out, so you're almost always surrounded by people. People still come and ask for a cup of sugar or a lemon or some mint leaves. Eating is all together around the same plate. I love this family feeling and they really involved me in it. I will miss this, because in Belgium I feel we lost some important values. We think too individual and sometimes forget what is really important, like family and other people.

Karama made this possible, they made sure I had a good host family and that I felt good with them. The staff of Karama will always check on your feelings and thoughts because they really care about their volunteers and are open to hear your opinion on a lot of things. I really appreciate this because I was the only volunteer for a while and it's nice to share your thoughts and feelings to someone. We sometimes went really deep with this, sharing visions on the Palestinian situation, on life and the world, thinking out loud together. The director of Karama is a very wise man with a lot of human knowledge and he made it possible for me to grow mentally, get to know my feelings and fears better. I learned a lot from him. He helped me in developing myself becoming a stronger person. He can be very direct I wasn't used to it, because in Belgium people are not, they are more fake with their feelings and will –how we say it in Belgium: 'talk around the pot' instead of getting to the point. Like with everything here, like everywhere you go, you have to open up yourself. Don't be afraid of the unknowing or the differences, challenge yourself.

The work in Karama was different every day. In the beginning I only did activities with the children. It's good to have a lot of ideas and energy. I always prepared things in the morning, but that didn't mean I would actually do it that day. I checked on the mood of the children and I think it's nice to think of stuff together. I think it's important to be flexible and don't force the children in to something but still in the same time stimulate them enough for new games, English lessons,..

Wherever you go and work with children, they will always test you in the beginning. I –although I still had to find my way- showed myself strict and self secure to them. Sometimes it was hard to find activities for all of them, because there can be children from 5 years old till 17. One of the nicest things I think was to see the children's change in behavior. For example some children could be a pain in the ass sometimes, but once they got to know me better and saw me more, they started to get really nice and we had so much more fun together.

Besides that I also did some administrative work, which I liked because I could develop my writing skills and in the same time get to know Karama in a totally different way.

Beside working in Karama and living in Deheishe, I did a ten day travel with a Belgian group, organized by Karama. We went to see a lot of places in the West Bank. I couldn’t imagine better guides for this than the director and his brother. We got to see the places through the eye of a Palestinian instead of just the touristic places. They answered all our questions and made us think about the things we saw and experienced.

I advise this experience for everyone. It’s really a way for opening new doors, opening yourself up for a new culture, new people, new visions.

This experience, the people I met, the whole situation, their culture and traditions touched me very deep and I am very very grateful for the experience and very thankful for how the people took me in their lives and culture. Insha Allah, I will be back soon.

What would you improve about this program?
My critical feedback goes to some of the comments from others about the moneyspending. I must say, I volunteered 5 times abroad before going to Karama. Karama is really cheap compared to other organisations and they really spend their money in their projects,which are all relying on donations and fundings. Even the director works as a volunteer in Karama 7/7 days a week.
I enjoyed the program how it was.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A life changing experience at Karama...

I have been back for 3 months now after spending 3 months volunteering with Karama, and it has taken me this long to be able to put into words what I experienced... It's still hard to know where to begin! so I shall write as it comes and hope that it makes sense and helps you to make an informed decision about whether to volunteer with Karama.
As I'm sure you are aware, the situation in Palestine is hard and dangerous at times, and the week that I was due to arrive was at the time of the last war between Israel and Gaza, back in November 2012. I was feeling very nervous and vulnerable before I left, but I spoke to the director a few days before my flight was due to leave and he put my mind at ease, and rightly so, I felt totally safe and calm once I had arrived in Dehisha Camp. So the support I had from both the director and his brother started way before I arrived in Palestine.

Whilst living there and working at Karama on a daily basis, I continued to feel their support; If I was feeling homesick or finding it challenging (at the beginning, it can be hard being away from loved ones in a totally new place) they were always there for me to talk to. On the odd occasion that I felt unwell and couldn't get into Karama, either one of them or their wonderful sister would be at my door with some delicious medicinal tea and a comforting smile... I never felt left alone and I was always made to feel welcome and part of the community.

Being made to feel part of the community was the highlight of my whole volunteering experience... Being a lone westerner in a place that quite rightly feels some uneasiness about the west and our lack of compassion for their plight, I thought in the back of my head that I may feel slightly unwanted.. how wrong I was! The people of Palestine, and of Dehisha in particular made me feel wanted, respected and loved. Living with a family was THE best part about being there. It truly is the only way to experience real Palestinian and refugee life, sharing with them in moments of laughter, joy, sadness and sometimes distress. I felt my being there brought something new into their lives, through playing music and games with my younger brothers and sisters, and by helping by beautiful mother in cooking and cleaning around the house. I'm sure there have been some volunteers that have gone there and expected not to have to do any of these things, and fair enough, you don't have to, but out of respect and love for your family, I think that helping out when you can is a no-brainer.

I found the actual working days at Karama to be alot of fun, I was teaching the children the guitar and melodica, and granted, at times, it did get very noisy! but hey, they are children, and that is what children do!
As a volunteer, you are expected to be independent and to work out your own lesson plans, with help from the director, and as long as you are confident with working by yourself then you will have no problem. I was a little nervous about this before, but after a few weeks I soon found my inner strength and found it very rewarding in knowing that I can do something challenging on my own.
The children were wonderful and very friendly, but at times I did find some of their behaviour challenging. All you have to remember is that these children live a very different life from ourselves. They are controlled and oppressed from a very young age, they have most of their human rights robbed away from them, it is understandable if they can sometimes get a bit challenging. I found that as soon as I showed them that I was a friend, and a teacher, and that they could trust me then all those behaviours soon disappeared. I say this as I feel it is important, but as long as you go there remembering where you are and what these children have to live through then you will have absolutely no problem. they really were a fantastic bunch of kids to work with.

I was given the chance to visit some other places around Palestine like Bethlehem, Jericho, Nablus and Hebron...all of which blew my mind. seeing the devastating effects of the occupation first hand, especially in Hebron, is something that I will never forget. I am forever grateful to the Karama team for setting those important trips up for me, and especially to Luay, for acting as my guide. Both Yasser, the director, and his brother Luay were always very keen to answer my questions about life under Israeli occupation and the lessons I learned have mapped my thinking for life.

I was also given Arabic lesson's, you do have to ask for them though as they are not part of the package, but I heartily recommend getting them. Learning even the basic Arabic is very important and it shows the residence and the children that you are making an effort and I know that doesn't go un-noticed. On a personal level, I had alot of fun in my lessons, my teacher was very kind, patient and helpful. and again, it was a real confidence boost to know that I can learn another language, when the last foreign language lessons I had were 7 years ago!

Just a few little things to end on... it is no problem being a vegetarian as long as your family knows before hand, and if like me you have a head of dreadlocks, be prepared for a lot of curious looks and questions! ;)

The decision to volunteer at Karama was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It has changed the way I see the world and her people, It has opened my eyes to a new kind of poverty, one not necessarily just of wealth, but of hope too. It has made me a stronger and more confident person, and taught me how to use my own personal Jihad...to fight for Peace, justice, empathy, compassion and love.

What would you improve about this program?
I understand why there are the guidelines in place, there is not many and they all make total sense as they are protecting both the volunteer and the community, but if i could change one small thing, it would be that it would be a bit easier to mingle with the other volunteers.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

My time with Karama!

After high school I took some months to travel to the Middle East and volunteered with Karama as well; it has been the best decision ever! It made me a lot more independent, more sure of myself and what I want in life (and what not). Traveling to Palestine made me feel I grew 8 years in life experience in just 8 weeks (and at the same time the kids made me believe I never really want to grow up.. ;))

When I met some of the children in the center for the first time, I knew it would be challenging task for me but also one that would give me so many opportunities to grow. I guess children all over the world have their challenges, but the kids in Palestine have to deal with a specific set of difficulties, that make their personal development not straight forward. It was a test for me to try to approach them in the best way, give them something of me and also think practically how to best get them engaged in the games I came up with. I was happy to use the resources available in the center and also the knowledge and support of the local staff. Watching and hearing from their experience and contact with the children, I obtained many new viewpoints.. Learning from them and see all the energy, feeling and dedication they put in their work, all together the experience made me realize child development / psychology is definitely something I would like to continue with!
I also tried to share some of my creativity by helping out with designing some leaflets and newsletters, as well as writing a report. For this I used the computers available in the center, which I could use by the way also for the personal things.. very helpful to stay in contact with people back home! Although I remember there was sometimes something wrong with either electricity/computers itself or the Internet, most of the time it was not a problem to stay in touch with my family and friends.
Together with the other volunteers I received some Arabic lessons, which was really nice to get an introduction in this difficult language. Also it was great to meet the young lady giving these classes and hear some stories about how she experiences life in the camp.

I made some trips organized by Karama and I also traveled some by myself in Palestine after my volunteering time. Both I can really recommend, though the best experience is when you can walk around in a city or holy place with a local, somebody who has a feeling for that place, it makes every thing much more interesting. I can recommend all to see as many things as possible with a local, they know the best places, nature, markets, mosques and monasteries!:)

What would you improve about this program?
I had not much problem to adapt to the local environment, also lot of things are available to buy in the local shops and so on..but still it is though to get used to the poverty and violence all around. I guess most volunteers going here will understand this, and it might also have to do I am pretty young still, but I found it difficult to notice the violence – in many forms - going on here. It think Karama did everything it could to make me feel safe, and I rarely felt unsafe, but potential volunteers should be prepared to adapt for that I think since its not something the project can change.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

An unforgettable experience

For me, volunteering with Karama was unforgettable!

In the beginning, it was somewhat chaotic and it took me some days to find my ways there, but the longer I stayed, the more I appreciated and highly respected the spirit, the philosophy and the amazing work of the NGO, working under a situation of occupation - in difficult circumstances.

The evenings, I spent with my host family, that made me feel like part of the family. All the cousins, nephews, aunts, uncles, neighbours... came in and out, so I got to know the whole street during my two-months stay, and I was sad to say goodbye to them when it was time to leave Deheishe... It was amazing to get to know and to feel the warmth of society in Deheishe, this is something I won't forget.

I am so grateful for everything I experienced and learned there, both in Karama as in my family - about the world, about Palestine and the occupation, about politics et cetera but probably even much more about the important things in life, such as friendship.

If you are looking for a fun and relaxed working atmosphere, try another NGO, but if you want to learn, if you are ambitious and with strong personality, I can highly recommend Karama, you will come back as another person! You can decide yourself on what you want to work on with the children - and don't be suprised if you learn more from them than they from you! Exchange and you will enjoy the experience!

Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program


As a volunteer in Karama you live under hard rules which can be difficult for you to adapt to. You are not allowed to visit houses of other volunteers, you are not allowed to have a free day off with another volunteer, and you are not allowed to travel to Jerusalem or leave Palestine. What is expected of you is to work (preferably 7 days/week) and stay at home. My days were the same: I woke up, went to Karama and after that I went home. And yes, we were told not to walk home together even though we all worked the same hours, this was just a stupid rule!

I can conclude my volunteer experience in one word: solitude. You will feel lonely and separated from the other volunteers as well as the locals. Oh yes, I was not allowed to interact with locals and get to know them on a deeper basis. I could say hi but nothing more. But I could barely say hi when visitors came since we were told not to interact with anyone visiting and this was made very clear to us. What you will learn is to endure. Probably you will find that you are stronger than what you think.

Because the conditions were bad I did not have much ambition in my work with the children. This is sad, because I came for the children and people of Deheishe. I paid more money than was justified and for the money I gave to Karama I could have travelled and lived in Palestine for maybe six months. As a grown up you are better off travelling on your own and helping people in other ways. If you are maybe younger and easier to influence you might like it there. I have some solid advice based on my own experience that are useful if you want to volunteer at any place:

-Find out before you go how many days/week you will work and how many hours
-Find out if you will receive money back if you leave early (I did not get my money back from Karama!)
-Volunteer with bigger organizations that have more than one or two people working in it, this way you can easier talk to people within the organization if problems arise
-If you plan to stay a longer time, do not give all your money upon arrival. Try two-three weeks first and then decide
-My experience is that educated staff and directors possess more leadership skills and will probably understand you as a westerner better

Truthfully, the volunteers at Karama when I was there were not treated equally. The conditions at Karama were very bad and we were not supposed to talk to each other much during the hours there. Lack of leadership skills, insecurity will create this unfriendly environment. I did like my family but was not genuinely happy and when you are not happy it is difficult to act as if you are. Try some other place, maybe in another Arab country. Sadly, after speaking to friends who volunteered in other places in Palestine, the volunteer industry there is corrupt, especially when the initiatives are run by Palestinians. Accepting volunteers is not about providing enough food and a place to stay. It is about sharing the culture, be grateful, acknowledge that your volunteer is an independent thinker, exchanging, taking the volunteer on fun trips, letting them interact with locals and create an inspirational and motivational environment for the volunteer to be creative in. This is what Karama did not succeed in.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A wonderful way to discover Palestine!

My volunteering with Karama was amazing, because it allowed me to go beyond the stereotypical views on Palestinians and really get to know them - their hopes, their dreams, their fears and ... their amazing warm and passionate character!

Concerning my work, I organized a photography workshop with the children and luckely there was also time just to sit down an talk to the children, it is a very rewarding experience! The smiles on their faces are the best motivation to volunteer.

The difficulties mostly concern the language barrier I faced, as I don't speak Arabic... Luckely some of the Karama children are very good at English, and they helped me out whenever I needed help!

The highlight for me was definitely spending time with the children and seeing them everyday more passionate about photography!

What would you improve about this program?
I would have wanted more time to learn Arabic, to be able to communicate with the children better.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteering at Karama definitely recommendable to open-minded people

My stay at Karama was a very interesting and of course a tough experience. The NGO is small, there is not many resources and the situation in Deheishe and Palestine in general is very tough to bear. The NGO is run with fierce principles and strong ideas, so during my time I have met volunteers that didn't like the experience. I would say that a volunteer's experience depends on its own position and openness to learn from the Palestinians - and not thinking you are there to teach them. Trust me, they know better than anyone else which problems they face and if you are open to learn and to open up to the Karama's principles and ideas, you will have the best experience and you will return with a lot of knowledge and good experiences. If you open up, you realize it is a very passionate NGO, that does an amazing job with the few resources available.

What would you improve about this program?
The experience you get also depends on the other volunteers, so what I would have wanted to change was the mind of some other volunteers...
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Visit Palestine!

Its a very amazing experience to meet so many Palestinians, interact with them and learn from them. It helped me a lot to understand my own background better (half my family palestinian, but never went there before) and I am extremely thankful for the great time Karama and my host family gave them. I could practice my Arabic and learn more, also make the children smile and they made me smile even more. Sometimes tough, to see the difficulties they go through, sometimes not understand the situation, but always very warm and hospitable people!! I enjoyed the trips, saw many interesting things and also the center is a very nice place for the children to meet, play and learn. I had a few great weeks, so take a chance, and enjoy beautiful Palestine!

What would you improve about this program?
nothing worth writing - everything i found difficult i discussed with my family
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

encouraging and useful experience

I joined Karama for almost 3 months in July 2011 and I have recommended many friends to consider taking time to visit Palestine and volunteer with Karama as well, as it was a great chance for me and I have met some amazing people. To give you an idea what my time was like.. in the first weeks we had many children in the center as they were having summer holidays. Together with volunteers from all over the world (all very enthusiastic, some little crazy people) and local volunteers we prepared activities, some made lessons, I took some sports and outside-games for my account. Saw some really talents with the football and base-bat and its great to notice how involved they are in football competitions from all over the world (Spanish? Come on..) They knew some German teams as well though.. But it shows how sports can help them see through their daily difficulties, and how a game can give them excitement and positive feeling. Despite the heat we tried to come up with as many activities as possible.

Later on, I became involved in the garden as well, since the center has a very nice plot of land (small though) and they are trying to make the most out of it, growing huge tomato plants for example. We took out some plants, and put in new seeds, and I was happy to help out with this. More great was as well I could take a few kids now and then, and I undertook some activities with them in the garden. Personally I think the nature has a lot to teach us, and it was my idea beforehand to do something with this in Deheishe as well. I felt very much supported by the director in this, as I saw Yasser believes this as well and I think its great kids can interact with nature as well in Karama. Its such a shame the land Palestinians have access to is still declining, since it is an important source of income but also of life importance that people can connect to their land and the earth. Even people in Germany forget that sometimes, but I met people in Deheishe who strongly believe in this and are trying in many ways to protect this land that is so valuable for them. It was personally a very deep experience to meet people who need to fight for their basic rights, and feel so deep connected to the nature..it was a great lessons and encouragement to me!! I also helped a bit with their rooftop gardens Karama established in the camp. These are small tubes with soil, and they gave them to a few family's in the camp so they can grow some vegetables for themselves. Another great way to help people connect with nature again and take hope in seeing a seed grow to a small green piece, than becoming a huge plant carrying zucchini..

All in all, I had a great time which gave me new insights and encouragement to continue with my normal job here in Germany.

What would you improve about this program?
If I would have to come up with one thing..I stayed in a small flat in the camp, sharing it with the other male volunteers and later when they left I was by myself. I would have found it much nicer if I could stay with a host family as well, to interact more with a family on a daily basis.(though positive was I had privacy and could relax at home) Still I discussed this of course with Yasser and he explained me why he needs to place all the males in an apartment, so I accepted this but for me, if something could be different it would have been a nice experience to stay with a family. (All the excessive dinners I was invited for made up a lot though!!)
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Active small NGO - can recommend

It has been some times since I was here (first time, summer 2010 it was)! Time flies, but I remember Karama very well as it was my first experience in Palestine and the Arab world and one that made me go back very often to the arab world. I remember it as a very active but small organization, with lots of energy and many things going on always. The director was full of ideas, principles and with a strong commitment for his work and society. In the past years I have worked more in the NGO sector and from my point of view Karama did a lot with very little resources and under very difficult circumstances. Motivated and positive volunteers are key in the day-to-day success of a small NGO and from those I wish plenty for Karama!! I remember paying a financial contribution, and I still think that is very normal as volunteers are treated very well here when it comes to food and accommodation and you know you are helping out a charity. If you consider volunteering as someone in a rich country from Europe or America but do not like to contribute financially to a charity – reconsider your reasons! Yes, do not pay to large agencies (but pick a locally run one, trust me!), and for sure be critical when the director starts to drive a big car!! But the ones who have been there, will know this director will be the last one to get himself a fancy car. (and contact me if you have the proof he did by now!;)) Anyway, just my story.. furthermore the center had a nice building and many possibilities to establish activities, with computers as well, and outside area's. From what I hear and saw when I recently payed a short visit, things are still running in this way, and I hope many people will take the dive into Palestinian life and culture as it changed my outlook on life and I enjoyed the beautiful hills, cities, mosques and nature, delicious food and interesting people a lot!

What would you improve about this program?
If you go in summer: its HOT here! If you have any indication you will be unable to move in hot weather, just change to the spring/fall season to enjoy your time more! Just for your information, since its best if you can give lots of energy to the children who are always in for some active dancing/singing/games.

And wish Palestine would be free, that would make the program a lot better, so lets work for that more you all!
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

I had grate time with karama

I am 23 year old girl from Belgium, and I am currently taking a master’s program in Developmental Studies in Brussels. In April 2011 I came to Palestine for the first time. I had been closely following the Palestinian situation for about 7 years and last year I had enough of only reading about it, I wanted to see and experience Palestine myself. I don’t remember how I landed on this subject, but once I got involved with Palestine, it didn’t let me go. This summer I wanted to come back, to get to know the people and the culture, to learn more about the situation and to understand what it means to live under occupation. Moreover, I hoped I could do something positive and constructive, in addition to expressing support to the Palestinian cause. My stay at Deheishe and volunteering with Karama outstripped my expectations and got me still more involved with the Palestinian cause. Since I am back in Belgium, I tell the story of Palestine, to those who are eager to hear it and to those that are not so eager at first, because I believe it should be told. I organized a Palestinian evening for friends and family and in the next months I will go to a school, a lawyer’s office, a volunteer organization for refugees and inshallah to more places to talk about Palestine. I tell people about the BDS campaign, because every single person can contribute to the Palestinian cause. Lastly, plans are being made to take a group of friends and family to Palestine, as many of them got interested and concerned.

Living in Deheishe

When trying to describe how I experienced living with a host family in Deheishe, I would say it is indescribable. I have written and rewritten my experiences, because so many things are worth saying. For one thing, the unconditional hospitality and warmth of the people I met. It is something that is rare in the society I grew up in. I only stayed for two months, but I didn’t feel like a guest, I felt at home thanks to my wonderful family. The way my mother took care of me when I was sick, how her brother wanted to make sure I was fine during a power cut at night when I was alone in the house (he immediately came to our house to check on me, fixed me candles and woke up his wife to keep me company), how they all made sure I would never be hungry (and they managed extremely well by the way, I put on several kilos) ... They are one of a kind.

I arrived in Deheishe with my sisters, with whom I had been traveling in Jordan and the Westbank for two weeks. They stayed one night in Deheishe, before heading back to Belgium. Because we were three, we didn’t stay with my family, but with one of their relatives. This was already the first experience with the hospitality in Deheishe: our host slept outside in front of the door, partly because of the heat (it was August,) but also to let us sleep in his bed.

The next day I moved one floor down to my host family. During my first weeks there, it was mostly a woman’s affair as the brother of my mother, with whom she lives with, was abroad and as our female neighbors were around very often. I will always remember how we all watched cooking programs on TV together! At times it was difficult for me, because I only learnt some basic Arabic while I was there, and my mother only knows basic English, but gradually I think we managed to communicate well. She, her brother that lives right across the street and his wife helped me a lot with learning Arabic. And after the man of the house had returned, I also spent many hours sharing (English) conversations with him about Palestine, world politics and all sorts of things.

What was striking for me was that in Deheishe doors are always open (ours was literally always open, as the lock of the door was broken). People drop by unannounced to have coffee or tea, and the children run from one house to the other. As a result, it took me some time to figure out who lives where and which children belong to which family. Especially during the first month I was there, because it was the school holiday so the children didn’t have to go to school or study. Moreover, it was Ramadan, a family time. So often we had visitors or we went to our neighbors to share the break-the-fast with them. The most delicious meals were cooked, in impressive quantities.

Because of the wonderful time and experience I had with my family and neighbors, life in Deheishe sometimes felt more cheerful to me as it is at times. The lack of water or the power cuts are only practical examples of the encompassing reality that it is a life under occupation and in exile. But I will tell a bit about my experiences with this later on.

One story of many more that would be in place here, is about when my family took me with them to have a barbecue at one of their relatives’ house outside Deheishe. I found the ride to his house very amusing, I’ll describe why. Apparently for the barbecue we needed something from the shop, which seemed difficult to find. I still don’t know what they were looking for, but we stopped at every shop that we passed en route and every time somebody else stepped out of the car, went inside, came out again without the ‘thing’, followed by a discussion in the car, after which we left again to stop at the next shop. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to explain, but being in the car and observing without understanding was pretty funny. The barbecue itself was wonderful and I ate body parts of animals I had never tried before or even imagined they could be tasty. After we had finished the meal, or at least I thought we had finished, the barbecue host insisted I would try some pieces of meat. Some were delicious, some I didn’t like so much, but it was nice to sit around the barbecue and feel part of it. Even though I couldn’t understand much of the conversations (though my mother’s brother translated sometimes for me), I noticed the party seemed in a way similar to Belgian family parties. Sadly in Belgium and in other parts of the world, many people forget or do not realize that Palestinians are ordinary people, just like them. They have family parties, they go to work (if there is work for them), they sleep (or they can’t sleep when something makes them sad or angry), they dream, they hope, they joke around. Yet in the same time, in my opinion, there is a big difference between the Palestinians I met and for example Belgians, and this is their intense and conscious way of life. I guess we in the West are lulled and asleep somehow, due to all the rights and the economic development we have on the collective level, or should I say we had, while I feel like Palestinians are wide awake. They don’t have freedom, their rights are permanently violated, there is high unemployment, no social security system... But I believe the difference in way of life is mostly a cultural thing.

Anyhow, what I would like to say is the following: living under occupation and in exile is something I cannot feel as a foreigner. What I do feel is a dizzying contrast between the injustice and inhumanity of the situation caused by the occupying power on the one hand and the humanity of the people and the way they interact on the other. In my experience with Palestinians, I feel like they are somehow more human than Belgians, as in that we tend to reduce our way of life to earning money and not ‘wasting’ time. And in this rush we tend to forget to say hi to our neighbor, to take the time to know his name or to enjoy the company of a friend. Sometimes I wonder what the hell we are doing, but that is another issue.

Maybe you can understand it was difficult for me to leave my family and Deheishe, to come back to Belgium?

Working at Karama

On my first day at Karama, the children and volunteers shared the break-the-fast meal at the organization. It was overwhelming and chaotic, but in the same time intimate, and I knew immediately on which children I would have to keep an eye on… During the first weeks I volunteered at Karama, I gave Spanish courses and did sports, games, art and handicraft activities with the children. Additionally I took Arabic courses four times a week, together with the other international volunteers. Later on I focused on administration work, while now and then I assisted some children with their English or French homework.

What was interesting and often essential to me, especially when I was with the smaller children, was the cooperation with the Palestinians volunteering at Karama. It was challenging because I only speak a little Arabic and some of them don’t speak English, but playing with the children together with them was great. In general I enjoyed spending time with the Karama children a lot. They are straightforward: if they don’t like your idea for a game or activity, they will tell you. And they test you in the beginning. Once you’ve more or less earned it, they respect and appreciate you. But I believe this is how it works with all children. One thing I won’t forget is how some of the older ones helped me out when I needed them, for example during the few days I was the only international volunteer at Karama. Another moment of the many I will remember is when it rained, it was the first rain after the summer. The international volunteers got a bit cranky and stayed inside, while all the children were thrilled and ran outside. They played in the rain and collected the water that was flowing down the street in bottles to throw it at each other. And I was lucky to be there at harvest time, to pick the olives from the tree in the Karama garden together with some of the children.

Lastly, there is my beautiful experience with Karama’s director. During my last month at the organization, I spent a lot of time in his and in the other office as I was mostly doing administration work. For hours and hours I racked my brain on technical problems with the website, so I didn’t always feel as useful as I would have wanted to. But what is of great value to me is that he shared much of his experience with me. I learnt many things from him, that I will carry with me in my heart and mind.

Traveling in the Westbank

Before coming to Deheishe for two months I had been in Palestine for about ten days. At that time I came with a Belgian organization that set up the trip and the program together with a Palestinian travel agency. The program was mainly political, consisting of meetings with NGOs, political parties and different kinds of organizations and people. This first experience with Palestine was an eye-opener, seeing the settlements, the checkpoints, the bypass roads, the road blocks, the soldiers. At once, it became very concrete and real, while before I could only imagine in my head how it was like. But the trip was only ten days and with a packed program, so we didn’t have the opportunity to truly get in touch with the Palestinian society and culture, with the Palestinians and their ways of life. Luckily, I got this chance later on, because it is a pity to let this side of Palestine slip!

I returned to Palestine with my sisters about a week before I would start to volunteer at Karama. We stayed in Bethlehem in a lovely hotel, where we immediately got in touch with the Palestinian hospitality (they really made us feel at home). From Bethlehem we went one day to Hebron, with a Palestinian guide, because I think you have to hear the stories when you go to Hebron. For me the situation there shows well what the Zionists have in my mind for the Palestinians and it is a model example of how apartheid looks like. At least in H2, the part of Hebron that is under Israeli control, because the other part is alike other cities in Palestine: lively and buzzing, many shops and little markets, many people on the streets, busy traffic, mostly taxis, lots of food being bought and sold. Furthermore, we went to Ramallah for one night and made a little trip to Taybeh, we went to Jerusalem for one day and of course we spent some time in Bethlehem.

What is wonderful in Palestine, beside its people, is to be on the go by car. Not so much on the highways that connect the Palestinian cities, because there the landscape is offset by the settlements, but on the minor roads. I like the hilly and sometimes rough scenes, the donkeys by the side of the road, the olive trees, the banana and orange trees near Jericho and I like to see the villages in the distance. Maybe it’s odd, because they shouldn’t be there, but I like the view of the black water tanks on top of the roofs of the houses. It’s something I associate with Palestine. On the trips I made organized by Karama (while volunteering with them), to Hebron, to Jericho and the Dead Sea, to Nablus and to Ramallah, I very much enjoyed this being on the go. Traveling is so much more interesting when you are with Palestinians explaining, describing and telling stories, on the road as well as in the cities itself. So as a Karama volunteer, I was lucky to have these experiences.

When my time as a volunteer was finished, my parents came to Palestine. They met my family, they saw Karama, they saw Deheishe, they saw our house. The brother of my mother came with my parents and me to Ramallah, to Nablus, to Hebron, to Jericho, to Solomon’s pools, to Herodium, to Bethlehem to see the wall and to Aida camp. It was wonderful to travel around with him and he is a fantastic guide. In one week, he showed and told us a lot, so it was an intense, absorbing and surely an eye-opening experience for my parents. Like my stay in Deheishe and at Karama was for me. This is why it was brilliant to be able to share it with them.

What would you improve about this program?
I am happy with how karama is working
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

The best way to open Palestine

Actually, it was my first volunteering experience and I have nothing to compare, but this was great. First, I was attracted by the opportunity to learn more about Palestine and to finally visit this country. Second, I liked the programme's easy application procedure and appropriate participation fees:)
All my main worries were about work with children, as I had no experience and we didn't study it at our Trade University:) However, children left me only good memories about these happy days. Sometimes one can be upset by thinking that children cannot understand activities and may be one's idea was bad, but next day they can start surprisingly do the same by themselves without any help! And of course, it's great to study them something new, see their happy smiles when they want to share with you their new small but very important for them achievements.
Further, such volunteering is the best way to open the country, to learn more about its people, their lives and traditions. Only there it's possible to understand that in fact life is much easier than we used to think in our "civilized" societies, that happiness is not in some up-to-date electronics or expensive clothes and a huge amount of strange rules and stereotypes that we create everyday, but in our open hearts, real communication, families, best friends who are realy glad to see you everyday. It was also so interesting to find similarities in our cultures and to study Arabic of course! Now I'm so proud of being the only person among my friends who's able to read arabic and... to write these "mysterious" symbols)
Finally, living in Palestinian family is something speial. I didn't feel myself as a guest or a stranger. I was a part of a big lovely family, at the home that was always full of life by children and guests. As for Palestinian food, I can discuss through the whole day this amazing food prepared by our host family's mother, who is, I strongly beleive, the best cook!
Now I often think about any possibility to come back for some longer time to see again these honest and open people, feel again this aroma of Palestinian coffee and spices, to spend the whole energy for creation some new ideas for activities with children in order to receive the main prize - their smiles.