Thursday, March 5, 2015

Getting out there: Meeting the grassroot charities resisting the occupation

Week six: getting out there

So here we are, over half way through! With all of our capacity building sessions planned we've been focussing on meeting with people about Voice of the Youth and building the project's links with Palestinian NGOs. We've had some really valuable meetings and since Jenni gave such a wonderful account of the people of Palestine in our last post, I thought I'd tell you more about some of the Palestinian organisations we have encountered and their work.

Visiting the Beit Ommar Centre for Freedom and Justice

Last week several of us travelled to Beit Ommar, a town 11km north of Hebron, to visit the town's Centre for Freedom and Justice. Beit Ommar is surrounded by six illegal Israeli settlements to which it has lost thousands of donums of fertile agricultural land through expansion and improper disposal of waste. The centre works with farmers to reclaim land, and to engage the local community in acts of peaceful resistance. 
Center for Freedom and Justice

We met with Muna, the centre's director, to discuss their work and to ask her expert opinion on some key issues. In particular we were interested in the centre's projects for women and how women engage in peaceful resistance, as we're working on a Voice of the Youth video on the subject. The meeting gave us lots to think about for our video, but also helped us gain an insight into the impact of the occupation on the community in Beit Ommar. In a town where youth unemployment is a major issue and residents are regularly subjected to abuse from settlers, it was inspiring to visit an organisation dedicated to strengthening the local community and resisting occupation in the face of considerable challenges.

Women's empowerment at Aida Refugee Camp

We gained equally valuable insight when we visited the Noor Women's Empowerment Group en masse on our day off. Noor WEG is an organisation in the Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem, established by a group of women living in the camp and in the neighbouring Al-Azzeh camp, who have disabled children and/or are solely in charge of their families. The group offer cooking lessons, tours of the camp and home stays to raise money and improve the lives of their children and families
Noor Women's Empowerment Group

We were given a culinary master class by the amazing Islam, who welcomed us into her home and showed us how to make delicious bread with za'atar and famous Palestinian maqluba. We had a wonderful time learning how to make traditional food and about the lives of the women in the group. Far from conforming to what most people's ideas of a refugee camp would be, the visit proved to be just another example of the endless Palestinian hospitality and openness.

Learning about Palestinian prisoners at Addameer

More recently, we visited Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, the leading Palestinian NGO that supports Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons. Addameer provide legal aid and advocacy for prisoners, as well as documenting violations of prisoners rights and campaigning for change.

We were distressed, though not surprised, to hear about the conditions Palestinian prisoners are kept in by Israeli authorities. Arbitrary arrest, the absence of due course in trials and detention conditions that violate human rights are all routine experiences for Palestinian prisoners. The meeting gave us some idea of the systemic injustice faced by Palestinians living under occupation, and has certainly encouraged us to think of ways we can continue to advocate for the Palestinian cause when we return home.

Other goings on

Aside from our meetings we have been busy delivering capacity building sessions to our brilliant Tamayyaz groups and even starting to think about our handover to the next cohort (sob sob). We've decided to create a Voice of the Youth board of editors to make sure the project is truly where it belongs, i.e. in the hands of young Palestinians. To this end, we've begun recruiting Tamayyaz students to work alongside the next batch of ICS volunteers as VOTY editors. With so much talent and enthusiasm in each of the Tamayyaz groups we know we're going to have an amazing editorial team, and are already excited about seeing where they take the project when we leave. We've also sent our first Voice of the Youth monthly newsletter, and are coming up with even more ways to promote the project and grow its audience.

With only three weeks left we're all trying not to think too much about the prospect of going home, and have plenty to keep us busy until then so make sure you carry on checking this blog for updates. Until the next time...


No comments:

Post a Comment