Week One Comes to a Close

It’s hard to believe that after months of planning, the Recrear Apply! team is half-way through our project here in Palestine.

When I arrived here, I was so unsure of what it would be like, what the university would look like and how the people here would react to us. I was beyond surprised to be met at the entrance of a multi-million dollar university facility, funded by many different organizations in the Middle East, including OPEC.  I was so happy to meet our main volunteers, Yazan and Ba’ha as well as our main faculty contact Mr. Mohammad.  People who have treated us like family.

As soon as we arrived, we were thrown into a lecture hall with 200+ students waiting to learn about our organization Recrear.  So many students inquired as to how to join our movement, of how they could start their own development projects here in Palestine.  I can’t wait to see how Recrear can help change their ideas into reality.

Nablus is a very beautiful city.  It is set in between two mountains and most buildings are made of while concrete stones (concrete is very well known in this area).  The architecture here is very different from anything I’ve ever seen before – a very distinct memorable style.  The Old City of Nablus is filled with so much life, I was very happy to see this after having read that citizens of Nablus, during the last Intifada, would only be able to leave their homes for one hour in the evenings to get food and essentials.

On almost every corner, memorials have been made for families or fighters who were killed in the Intifada.  One of the Recrear Apply! volunteers (Loai) showed us a memorial for his family relatives who were killed during Israeli occupation in the city.  It is hard to believe that in a city that was only a few years ago a centre of violence, so much energy and life exists!

Yazan, Baha’a and Loai took us to an olive oil soap making shop, we were given a tour of an original ‘factory’ that has been preserved as a museum.  Nablus is internationally known for its olive oil soap. We then went on an adventure through the Old City exploring the beautiful sites that surround us.

Although we have been non-stop on-the-go, my time here in Israel and Palestine has included some of the most intense and profound experiences I’ve ever had.

The people in this region have survived. Each day, when I speak with the volunteers and Mr. Mohammad, there is very little mention of sadness, anger or resentment. Rather, there is an intense energy of hope and belief that one day there will be sustained peace in this area.  The student participants ask questions revolving around the innovative work they want to do to affect change in the world, the work they want to do to educate people in Europe, North America, Israel… the world about Palestine – how each of them plan to challenge the current stigmas and stereotypes associated with Palestinians and with Palestine.

Just take a look at the pictures.  Nablus is developing at an incredible pace.  The potential in every student that I have met so far has been immeasurable and I am so excited by that!

As a side note, for those of you who know me well… my very loud laughing has become a topic of discussion here, so I’ve tried to keep a lid on it… but last night, Mr. Mohammad, Yazan and Loai took us to a lookout at the top of the mountain and I SCREAMED! I hope you heard me!!

Time for a wrap… or rather, time to create the next session on Interview Skills.  Talk to you soon!

– KM

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