Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Birzeit Advancement Project - our first two weeks

Marhaba and hello from the new Birzeit Advancement Project volunteers! 

The UK volunteers have been in Palestine for just over two weeks now and are settling in well after a great welcome from our Palestinian colleagues.  We spent our first week getting to know each other, eating falafel, attempting some Arabic and learning more about the situation here before getting down to work.

Working in conjunction with Wojdan and Bahor at the Alumni and Career Services Office, we kicked things off last Wednesday with a “we’re back!” event which we organised to introduce ourselves to the BZU students.  Around 75 people turned up over the two events and we were overwhelmed by the support and excitement we were greeted with.  We conducted a survey of our attendees and were surprised that over 70% had never been to a workshop before; we hope we can encourage even more new students to join the project over the next couple of months!  Meeting the students and hearing their reasons for coming has made us all really keen to get going with the workshops this week. 

After the huge successes achieved by the last cohort of volunteers, we have decided to carry on with the same model of English conversation workshops provided three times a day from Monday to Wednesday.  The aim is to provide a space in which students can practice their English, improve their fluency and develop communication skills whilst hopefully having fun and engaging in interesting conversations along the way. After a group brainstorming session, and taking into account the results of the survey, we have come up with lots of ideas to discuss and can’t wait to get started with the first workshop on Tuesday! 

As well as the English conversation classes, we’ll be providing skills and employability workshops on Saturdays, covering general topics such as interview techniques and CV writing.  This will be followed by a drop-in service where students can come to get more specific help with CVs, motivation letters or careers issues.  We’re also hoping to provide a proofreading service and help with scholarship applications as well having some guest speakers come to share their careers experience and offer advice.  With our first guest speaker lined up for Saturday, we’re expecting to make the careers workshops a really useful service for BZU students. 

Aside from work, the UK volunteers have spent some time travelling, with people heading to Jerusalem and Bethlehem and others taking part in the Wadi Qelt Bike Ride in Jericho.  Some of us attended a performance of The Siege by The Freedom Theatre in Jenin and others have hiked in the hills around Ramallah and were even lucky enough to bump into local author Raja Shehadeh! We’ve also been treated to the delicious traditional dish Maklouba and sweet Kanafeh by our Palestinian counterparts. 

With lots of ideas and exciting plans to come, we’re looking forward to continuing the success of the project and making our time here as productive and useful as possible. 

Ma’a Salama for now!

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