We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
The following is a guest blog from AUA Mosaic Scholarship recipient Lindsay Michael. She is currently volunteering with Project Hope in the Palestinian Territories. To find an opportunity like this one, search the AUA Directory of Recommended Organizations©.
You won’t be searching very far to find the spirit of hope in Nablus. It seems to be in the dreams and actions – in the collective breath of the city. That spirit is here in everything from grandfathers passing on the secrets of Arabic spices to their grandchildren – to the passionate chants of young revolutionary leaders taking advantage of the citywide celebration of the U.N. bid for Palestinian statehood – to the children within the confines of outdoor playgrounds, whose boundaries are “adorned” in barbed wire fencing. These are my students, the embodiment of hope.
I am fortunate to have five very different classes. I teach art and English to students ranging in age from eight to seventy-three – and ranging from college professors, pre-teens and teens at an after-school facility, women’s center and refugee camp, and a single mother.
Aside from the classes I’ve been given by Project Hope, I spend a few hours a week working with a group of young artists in Askar.
I recognize my responsibility to provide those with whom I encounter with a different perspective of people in America. As a teacher, no matter the subject, one of my main goals is to see my students succeed. In turn, they share a desire for me to succeed in experiencing all that Palestine has to offer. Since it is all but impossible for the majority of my students to travel within the West Bank, let alone outside, they want me to succeed in sharing my experiences of Nablus. It is a bittersweet concept.
I am not just an observer. My students have taken me by the hand to share their world: a partially destroyed castle in the Old City; a family-owned orchard of figs, pomegranates, almonds, apricots, lemons and olives; and a charming café where the poems of Samih al-Qasim and Mahmoud Darwish are often recited, and the beloved Egyptian legend, Oum Kalthoum, once sang – all immense sources of Palestinian pride and identity. My students are acutely aware of their rich and colorful surroundings and take great joy in sharing it with others.
Getting to know the people of Nablus is as important to me as providing an opportunity for students to learn and practice English with a native speaker. An emphasis on building ties between community members and volunteers is one of my most favorite things about working with an organization like Project Hope. They go out of their way to ensure that everyone involved benefits from their experiences working together. Their pledge to foster a partnership between the local and international volunteers is paramount, and this spirit extends into the community. I wholeheartedly believe that the friendships and connections we are building, while enjoying all that Nablus has to offer and working together as volunteers, will continue to evolve long after I return to America.