By Joanna Molina – Poland
My decision to apply for volunteering for the ‘Knowledge saves lives’ project at An-Najah National University was quite unexpected because I came across the information about the workcamp just few weeks before the beginning of it. Not having been familiar with the matter until then, it caught my attention and I was very excited to be accepted. As I had travelled to different countries before, I thought Palestine would be just another destination on my list, however I did not expect that I would soon be able to rate my participation in the Zajel exchange programme as one of the most meaningful weeks of my life.
I highly appreciated the opportunity of being able to form a part of the international team organizing the ‘Icebreaking with English Language’ workshops for An-Najah National University students.
At the beginning I did not know how I would cope with that as I had not had any teaching experience so far but once we met the students, all the doubts disappeared. Not only did we enjoy carrying out discussions on different topics and playing language games which were helpful for the students to brush up on their English skills but as volunteers coming from different parts of the world, we were also given an insight into the Palestinian culture.
I was personally amazed by the presentations that some of the students delivered, varying from Palestinian interesting facts to their own ideas, which made me aware how determined they are to pursue their dreams and how much they appreciate the access to education and the power of education which are often taken for granted by the youth in my country.
Moreover, during the project we were given the chance to visit a lot of admirable places in Palestine. Nevertheless, the most unforgettable part was the two-day trip to Bethlehem, Arab al-Rashayida desert, the Dead Sea and Hebron. In fact, it reflected the combination of feelings which accompanied me throughout my whole stay in Palestine.
On one hand I loved having a great time with the Bedouins and watching the breathtaking sunrise at the Dead Sea, on the other hand I was overwhelmed with negative emotions while standing in front of the apartheid wall in Bethlehem and walking around Hebron because I would have never imagined the extent of occupation, which I witnessed. That is why I can admit that the two weeks spent in Palestine were one of the most valuable experiences of my lifetime as they enabled me to see images and listen to testimonies, which were stories of real people struggling to deal with more and more obstacles to make a decent living.
Last but not least, I would like to mention all the local coordinators and volunteers who contributed to the big success of the workcamp. In every situation I had the impression that doing their best to make us feel welcome and comfortable was not only one of the assumptions of the programme but their friendliness truly reflected the hospitable nature of Palestinian people. Thanks to their willingness to show us different aspects of their homeland, we learnt a lot about Palestine but what enriched me even more as a person, was learning from their personal experiences and I am very grateful for sharing them with us.
After these two intensive weeks I realize that I will need some more time to figure out all that I have experienced in Palestine because once you have lived it, you will never forget. There are still a lot of questions on my mind which remain to be answered and that triggers me to broaden my knowledge of the Palestinian issue and spread the word when I return to my country. I strongly believe that one day we will all be able to meet again in free Palestine.