- ZainTime flies when you’re having fun.
I became aware of this saying only this year when I participated in my first ever Zajel Workcamp. It was one of the best life-changing experiences that I have ever had; I learnt so much about life, work, time, friendships and other cultures.
At first I was worried that I wouldn’t do a good job as I had never done this sort of thing before, but after all the preparation sessions and lectures I felt more comfortable by the time the internationals arrived. We received a lot of help with everything and everybody was very supportive.
Working in Askar refugee camp, teaching the kids simple things like handcrafts, face painting, English or sports, I felt that we achieved so much; we touched people’s hearts and we gave them some hope for tomorrow.
The most eye-opening event for me was going to Balata refugee camp and seeing the terrible conditions that people live in there, but I was so glad that I got to do that because it got me to look at the situation from a different perspective.
The Zajel Workcamp this year was the best thing that has happened to me in my whole life because I became a deeper believer in the justice of our struggle for freedom and I feel that I’m a real Palestinian now. It is a strange feeling because although I have been a Palestinian since I was born, I felt that for all these years I had been in a deep sleep until the tears of Abu Mahmoud, the Nakba witness who spoke to us in Balata camp, woke me up as he told us his story.
Zajel will always be special for me because it brought together great individuals and made us feel as if we were a single body working together for the people of Palestine. Every one of the local volunteers and the internationals added something to my personality.
The Zajel program is such a wonderful thing, which has affected my life and my character, and has enabled me to form amazing relationships with many different people from different backgrounds, countries and professions.
As we’ve always said, “One for all, all for one!” – nobody cared just about himself or herself as an individual, but rather we all wanted to participate together, take care of each other and share the moments of happiness and sadness with each other.
I learnt how to love the kids in the refugee camp and it was the first time I have met children who are so eager to have fun, learn or teach you things, despite all the suffering they endure, yet my favourite times were the hours spent talking to the international volunteers about the cultures of countries like Palestine, Spain, Italy, USA, Canada, Estonia and many others.
Volunteering in Askar camp gave me a great sense of pride and my heart filled with joy each time I saw the happy faces of these poor children. I also learnt so much from this camp about Western cultures and other religions in particular.
A lot of unfamiliar faces; noise and rush – that sums up how I felt on the first day, the moment the international volunteers began arriving and we started helping them settle in. But as days went by, those initial doubts gave way to the warmth of true smiles and laughter.
I remember moments like running to catch the bus in the mornings, gathering for breakfast, playing with the kids at the refugee camp, deep discussions and silly jokes at the lunch table, and those emotional moments when tears filled our eyes. They made me realize that the boundaries of language and distance do not matter when humanity a common desire to make a positive difference take over.
That’s why 34 people from over 14 different countries came together in the Holy Land to ignite the flame of justice that is being smothered by the occupation. What started as a gathering of complete strangers ended with us feeling that we are one big family.
I consider myself very lucky to have been part of this camp. It was a great opportunity to meet new people from different cultures. We’re one family of sisters and brothers working together to achieve a common goal. This camp gave me the chance to help my community and made me feel useful. During this camp I met some great children who inspired me and taught me a lot. I was able to see a spark in the children’s eyes. By the end of the experience, I felt like a new person, full of hope for a better future and with the self-confidence to change this world.
Honestly, there are many things that make this camp different from others. The idea of balancing the voluntary work with the cultural and social dimension and entertainment is really unique. Personally, I found that the feeling of emptiness after finishing the camp was a clear sign that this camp is really worthwhile.
I want to say that there are many experiences that can teach you something in your life, but gathering people from different countries, living together, sharing time, efforts, food, feelings, tears – I think this was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had.
The camp was a great experience! I made a lot of friends and I met a lot of new people from all over the glob e, so it was like visiting the whole world in one spot! The international volunteers were nice to us and so friendly. We had a great time together, we all enjoyed working with the kids and I hope I’ll participate in the next camp.
The “Hope for Tomorrow” 2008 Workcamp was really a life changing experience for me even though it was my second camp with Zajel. It opened my eyes to many new things, allowed me to discover a new side of me. It also introduced me to many different cultures, languages, religions, and gave me the chance to meet new people and make lifelong friendships.
I wanted the camp to last at least for one more week, because it ended at the time that we were really getting to know each other. I will definitely participate in the camp again, because each time it will bring something new and different to my life.
The idea of the voluntary work is to let the internationals interact with Palestinian children and to let them see how difficult their lives are. For the children, the internationals are angels – the children want to shake hands with all of them, they dance and sing and always smile when they are around, but the most exciting thing is that they speak a different language. We try so hard to help the internationals have a connection with the children, and in fact I found that our job wasn’t to create the connection but rather to facilitate it, because it’s already there from the beginning. The connection starts with exchanging names and then signals flow between the child and the volunteer – the children become the teachers, teaching the internationals how to speak their own language. They become the guides who want to show the internationals their lives, their friends, and their games; everything that is theirs. At the same time they want to hear the internationals’ stories.
As a local volunteer, I think we were so worried about ensuring that all the voluntary work ran smoothly by trying to translate and explain everything that we forgot just how easy it is for the internationals to form a bond with the children. We did an evaluation at the end of every day to hear from every activity corner how their day went and what they needed for the next day. I’m so thankful to all the volunteers who did their best to make this a wonderful two weeks, but my special thanks are for the great children that we had at the centre.
I will never forget that I participated at the Zajel “Hope for Tomorrow” Workcamp. I will never forget that I found another meaning for some things that I used to believe I already knew all about – things like the voluntary work, where now I know what are the right kinds of things to do with kids, how to work under pressure and believe in others’ ability.
Two weeks of sharing everything makes me feel that I have friends, family and people who care about me and I care about them. Everything comes to an end but memories live forever, and I have a lot to remember!