Sunday, May 17, 2015



We are part of the second cohort of UK and Palestinian volunteers who will be working together, delivering skills sessions with the Sharek Youth Forum.

The UK volunteers have been working in Ramallah for three weeks now and it is abundantly clear that the skewed portrayal of Palestine in the western media fails to align with the reality on the ground. Ramallah is a bustling, cosmopolitan and incredibly friendly place to live. Whether visiting the satirically named ‘Stars and Bucks’ cafĂ© for an Arabic coffee or frequenting the Mexican Bar ‘Fuego’ for happy hour, the local people are very hospitable and have been pleased to welcome us to Palestine.

The UK volunteers and in-country volunteers have enjoyed meeting each other and exploring their respective cultures. We have found our new working environment offers a combination of passionate and open minded people in a positive atmosphere; we feel very lucky to be able to experience this journey together. We have talked openly and inquisitively about cultures, relationships and even religion. The good thing is that we can share anything without expecting to be judged.

With regard to our work, given that the unemployment rate amount young Palestinians stands at over 40%, we have spent much of our time during the first three weeks planning and devising a programme of skills sessions relating to the broad subject of employability skills.

We have delivered our introductory session to students from Al Quds University as well as travelling to Tulkarem and Hebron and have been delighted with the feedback so far. We used these sessions to find out more about the specific areas the students would like to work on and were not surprised that the overwhelming majority wanted to focus on their English language skills. It has been great to meet so many enthusiastic young people and we are all excited about progressing with the workshops.
Away from the office we have spent time travelling around the West Bank with trips to the old city in Jerusalem, a tour of Banksy’s notorious work in Bethlehem and a marathon bike ride in Jericho. A particular highlight came with a visit to the Freedom Theatre in Jenin where some of us were lucky enough to attend the performance of their latest production; The Siege.

In the face of massive adversity (the founder, Juliano Mer Khamis, was murdered outside the theatre in 2011) the project has continued to thrive. It was inspiring to see their powerful message delivered first hand; using the arts as a catalyst for social change - generating a peaceful, cultural resistance to fight against the occupation.

The programme has given us all the unique opportunity to visit many places in Palestine that even the in-country volunteers had never had the chance to visit before. With lots of ideas, stimulating workshops and travelling to come, we’re looking forward to continuing the success of the project here at Sharek!

Ma’a Salama 

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