Sunday 28 July 2019

Sunday July 28

Today we took our kids on their first outing of the camp! We hired a mini bus to take us all to the nearby Bedouin camp Jabal Al Baba, funded by the pope. When we arrived at our destination the first thing that grabbed the kids’ attention was the lovely playground and football field. Two things we have missed in Abu Dis so far. As you can imagine it was hard to pull them away from playing! Hanaa took us on a little tour of the area and she pointed out the tents and shacks the Bedouin community live in nowadays. We also got to see some of the livestock that is the main source of income. In the not too far distance you could see (yet another!!) illegal settlement... this settlement is a huge threat to the people living in Jabal Al Baba as they want to demolish the camp to expand the settlement. Remember that settlements are illegal under international law; however they keep on popping up and expanding all over the West Bank... unfortunately we didn’t get to meet any of the locals so we couldn’t ask if we were allowed to take pictures but here are some of the kids having a great day playing!!

Thursday 25 July 2019

The first week

On Saturday afternoon I took a service from Ramallah to Abu Dis where Wendy and Abed (the Cadfa coordinator in Palestine) were waiting for me. We made our way to Abed’s house where we met his lovely family and were treated to a delicious meal. After dinner we sat on the rooftop terrace from where Abed pointed out the Al Aqsa mosque and Jordan and talked about the situation in Abu Dis.

On Sunday, our first day at the camp, we started with an introduction to the other volunteers, kids and Dar Assadaqa. Hannah, who will be helping us translate took us on a tour of Abu Dis, showing us the university, the church of Lazarus, the wall and a half torn down buildings. We saw tear gas canisters, where people had tried to knock holes in the wall, graffiti, black areas where fires had been started, watchtowers and the only ‘playground’ in Abu dis.

Monday was our first real day of teaching! The kids are split into three groups, 7-10 and two groups of around 10-13. We came armed with a lot of ideas but not a whole lot of experience so the first day was a big learning curve! We did some yoga, talked about different body parts in English and played a couple of games practicing the days of the week and counting in English. Some of the kids’ English is very good and others are still a bit shy but by the end of the day we got hugs and smiles so it went well.

Knowing a little better what is expected of us we spent the rest of the day coming up with a plan for
 the classes on Tuesday. One of the things we are working on during this camp is getting the kids to talk about their feelings and helping them become more confident talking to other people about themselves and their lives in Abu dis. On Saturday we have a group of kids coming from East Jerusalem and we’d like our kids to put together a presentation with facts and drawings they would like to share with them and also prepare some questions they would like to ask the other kids about life in East Jerusalem, a place they all know and can see from Abu dis but most are not allowed to enter.

In the evening we were invited to join a quiet, peaceful protest with the female relatives and supporters of Huthaifa Badr who has been imprisoned for over 14 months and has been on a hunger strike for 25 days and has now been taken to the prison hospital. Please sign the petition for his release.. He has an infant son who he hasn’t met yet due to his imprisonment….

Tuesday we arrived and first spent some time talking with all of the kids about the things they remembered from yesterday and we asked them to share with us and the group two things they liked and one thing they disliked. Some kids didn’t enjoy yoga but a lot of them said they like everything! Hurrah!

Then we split them into pairs and asked them to make a drawing about themselves and their lives in Abu Dis which they then presented to the group in English. One boy drew a computer and a PlayStation and a smartphone because he loves programming and wants to design video games when he’s older! Another boy drew the wall and soldiers and boys throwing rocks and shooting and blood…. Absolutely heartbreaking.

In the afternoon Wendy and myself took a service to Bethlehem where we visited the Church of the Nativity and the Milk Grotto before making our way down to Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel. The exhibition at the hotel about the occupation is very informative in a fun way and as far as I’m concerned a must see for everyone!! After, we had some tea and cake and made our way back to the bus station walking along the metres high separation wall full of interesting and provocative artwork.

Yesterday was the last day before our two day weekend and we spent time making more drawings to present to the kids from Jerusalem.

We have today and tomorrow off and I’m taking some time to reflect on everything I’ve learned so far as well as relax and get reenergised for a new week of teaching English.

Even though I cherish the peace and quiet I do miss the kids’ loud and sincere ‘Welcome!’,
‘Good morning!’, ‘How are you?’ and ‘I love you!’; they are the best bunch!

Thursday 18 July 2019

Made it

After a long, delayed, overnight flight; this morning I was treated to some of Israel’s famous hospitality. Some questioning and two baggage checks later I was on my way to Jerusalem by shared taxi to then get on a bus to Ramallah. For some reason the bus couldn’t go past The Qalandiya checkpoint and so I dragged my suitcase through the prison style gates and the dust into Palestine to get on another bus that would take me into town.
On Saturday I start helping out at the ‘New Horizons’ Summer camp in Abu Dis but until then I’m visiting with friends. I’m very much looking forward to meeting the other volunteers and the kids I will be working with over the next few weeks.
I have been waiting for this day for the last 7 months and could not be happier that we are finally there!
I’ve been here before so I have a little bit of an idea about life for the Palestinian people under Israel’s occupation. However I have been told that life in Abu Dis is far different to life in Ramallah. In a way I am looking forward to seeing for myself what goes on there every day so that I can report back to all of you. So that we can stand united in the fight against the horrible injustices that happen here EVERY SINGLE DAY!
For now I am adapting to the heat and catching up with my friends.
More to follow soon!