Ana (Slovenia) is an EVS volunteer at Ramallah, Palestine.
After two months of (empty) promises, I am finally writing this from Ramallah!
I have started working here in early September as an EVS volunteer at a Palestinian organization Palestine: Sports for Life. The organization was founded by Tamara Awartani together with some other professional Palestinian athletes. Tamara used to be a professional basketball player and part of the Palestinian national team. She started the organization in order to make sports and a healthy lifestyle a part of everyday life of Palestinian children and youngsters. For different reasons sport activities (other than football and sometimes basketball) are not common here. This is partly due to the lack of sports infrastructure and culture, combined with tradition which discourages youngsters from participating in sports, even more so for girls.
Currently we are three Slovenians here: Maja from Ankaran, Dino from Bled and Ana from Maribor. We are the first EVS volunteers in this small organization. This is why we are all, including the director Tamara, still in the process of figuring out how to coordinate our work in order to be most useful for the organization. We started off by mostly doing office work (editing the webpage, Facebook page, newsletter, writing applications and proposals for funding), but about a month ago we finally started organizing and implementing sport activities for children.
The primary desire of our organization is to offer sport activities for the children and youngsters that can’t afford it on their own, which is why we were looking for a place we could use free of charge. Luckily, we got help from the Palestine Technical College Ramallah Girls where among other girls are educated to become PE teachers. In exchange for their practical work (they help us conduct activities) we can use their playgrounds and gym for free 3 times a week.
Close to the school, which is in Ramallah city center, there is an (unofficial) refugee camp Qadura, which for a long time now hasn’t been just a tent camp but one of the poorest neighborhoods of one of the richest cities in the West Bank. The narrow streets which resemble more a passage between buildings, in which families live one on top of each other, are not an appropriate playground for children. As in school they don’t have much amusement other than running around and throwing balls at the wall, we are very happy that we can offer them some pastime through sports. They are extremely motivated for everything and chasing after balls and each other enthusiastically (not exactly in a straight line because of the lack of discipline, but we still have fun).
Since our organization is basically a family project, our work is mostly very relaxed – except from the chaotic organization of sport activities. This also leaves us enough time to get to know people, learn Arabic and learn something new about Palestine every day.
Unfortunately the Western media mostly reports negatively about Palestine and only represents one side of the story. People in Europe think it is a very dangerous place where dark terrorists with beards hide, shout Allah Akbar and kill innocent Israelis. I have heard a million times the “why would you go to Palestine, the bombs just keep falling there”. What bombs, people?! In the last 2 years I’ve spent 7 months here and I have never seen a single bomb or witnessed anything dangerous. Just the opposite – the Palestinian people are one of the most welcoming nations I have ever met. As a foreigner you’re basically a star here, as strangers greet you on the streets, the vendor at the market gives you an extra apple just because, children wave at you, teenagers giggle behind your back. Sometimes I feel like I know how Jan Plestenjak feels while walking in Portorož.
Anyway, the three of us are completely safe and we’re having a great time. Until recently we could enjoy the sun, but now winter is slowly coming here as well. The Palestinian Arabic has the same word for winter and rain – matar. The next couple of weeks will be wet and cold, but I’m not too afraid of them. The wide smiles on the faces of people like Mahmud, our lovely vendor of coffee and tea in the ground floor of our building, will chase away even the fog. 🙂