Project Hope played a large role in shaping the person that I am today, particularly at a professional level. My first encounter with Project Hope was at a local community centre in Balata refugee camp (the largest refugee camp in the West Bank) as a primary school student in 2004. That year, school education suffered a great deal of disruption due to curfews and invasions. I joined an English conversation class led by a Project Hope volunteer at a local community centre in Balata camp. The frequent shut down of school was a great source of concern for everyone and I was thankful to have the opportunity to learn English conversation at the Project Hope class.
When the opportunity arose a few years later, I was delighted to be able to give back, by joining Project Hope as a local volunteer in the role of a teaching assistant. The experience of co-teaching a class was incredibly useful for me as an English language student. It was a great exercise in simultaneous translation, connecting with students, communicating the information to them, but more importantly, working together in a classroom environment with a lead teacher who didn’t know any Arabic. The teaming up of locals and internationals is very important in reinforcing cultural understanding between Palestine and all the rest of the world. Project Hope provides a platform for the international volunteers to listen to the Palestinian stories from their students or their Palestinian helpers. So when the international volunteers go home, they are able to challenge the distorted image that the media has created about Palestine and the Palestinians.
Shortly after graduating from university, I joined the organization as an English program assistant. My job involved streamlining the student registration processes, updating the English curriculum and building community connections between Project Hope, An-Najah National University and the local community centres in Nablus and beyond. The English classes attracted university students, housewives, school teachers, engineers and even university professors. They all shared an interest in learning the English language and getting to know our international volunteers and making friends with them.
I think of myself as the ultimate Project Hope success story. I started as a student when I was a 14 year old kid, moved on to become a local volunteer (assistant teacher), got a job at Project Hope as a manager for the English programme – and even became involved in the recruitment of international volunteers. It has been transformational in my life, inspiring not only my own hope, ambition and belief in a better future but also observing it does the same for new generations. The local volunteers benefit from the opportunity of joining the international volunteers essentially as assistant teachers. In many cases, myself included, they go and get better opportunities by getting higher paid jobs in or outside Palestine, or by winning scholarships and excelling in very competitive environments outside of Palestine.
Project Hope, therefore, contributed immensely in the bringing up of a generation of confident Palestinian young people who are able to speak up for themselves and tell the world about the difficulties they face in Palestine. Being a Palestinian refugee from Balata camp, I understand how important the work of Project Hope is. It is so impressive for a local organisation, completely run by Palestinians, to be able to do all the work it’s doing – offering classes to a thousand Palestinian students a month in over 40 locations in some of the most neglected and deprived areas of the West Bank.
Finally, I want to stress the fact that Project Hope brings Palestinians together. I was able to make friends with so many students who came to Project Hope to learn English. I’m also thankful for Project Hope because of the genuine friendships I made with the volunteers. I was able to witness the fantastic work that they are committed to doing even after they left Palestine. It is so important to make sure that we continue to support Project Hope in every way possible as it opens the doors wide for young Palestinians and brings hope to an otherwise difficult reality. I’m proud to be associated with the organization, and I look forward to my return to An-Najah University where I hope to strengthen the links we have with Project Hope.
Abdalkarim started at Project Hope as a Teaching Assistant at the beginning of 2008. He joined the staff of Project Hope in 2011 as an English program assistant and shortly after became responsible for the English program and involved in the recruitment of international and local volunteers. Currently, Abdalkarim is a PhD Candidate at Lancaster University. Following the submission of his PhD thesis in a couple of months, Abdalkarim will return to Nablus and join the English Department at An-Najah National University,