We have come to Week 7 of our placement here at Birzeit University and it definitely feels like the end is coming too soon!
The last few weeks have been very up and down for our group. Our project went through a quiet patch for a week or so, where the attendance at our workshops dropped. There were many reasons for this, the main being that the election week preceded these workshops. During election week we had no workshops due to the importance of the elections to the students and their desire to attend election-related events. Previous to this we had good attendance, but the loss of momentum in our classes left people with less awareness of our project! This led to a small crisis moment and doubts that we were not doing a good job. However, this made us decide to focus on advertising and raising awareness of the existence of our workshops. At one point we even went out onto campus with food and tried to bribe people to join us! All of this worked and I'm happy to say we have had great attendance since.
On Saturday we went to the Jordan valley and it was definitely very informative, although it was a little bit disappointing that we were not able to speak to any of the families. The tour guides told us about the different illegal settlements that are built there and how Palestinians are not allowed to access water or electricity. We were also informed that the boycott of the settlements products has decreased the exploitation of land by 14% and it definitely gave us something to think about. Some of the UK volunteers have been discussing the idea of writing to shop owners back in the UK to raise awareness.
This Monday we had International Day at the university. This involved the students setting up stalls celebrating the cultures and customs of different countries. This was a very big deal for the students due to the difficulty Palestinians have leaving the country. So the students re-created cultures from across the world and celebrated them for themselves!
There were many different stalls, all set up inside a fake castle wall. The variety and fun that the students had, and the amount of work that went into it, really makes you think about how so many people lack the right to movement and the ability to go abroad to actually see the places they were representing.
Later on in the day people began to pack up the stalls and move to the stage, where there were many cultural performances and dances for people to see. The best by far was the dabkah dance (which our fabulous in country volunteer Jumanna was involved in!). The ability to remember the entire dance and the energy to keep it going for so long in the intense heat was very impressive!
It was such a pleasure to be a part of such a fun day and was definitely one of the best days we’ve had at Birzeit University. Even though we faced a lot of difficulties in the last two weeks, we managed to keep it going and we didn’t lose our enthusiasm. We hope the upcoming two weeks will be filled with much more positive energy and adventures!