NEWTON, MA | May 26, 2009
The U.S. government continues to bring together American and Palestinian young people as part of a program to create and strengthen economic and leadership opportunities for youth in the West Bank. During a visit facilitated by the USAID-Ruwwad Youth Empowerment Program, a student delegation from American University in Washington D.C. traveled to the city of Ramallah May 19, meeting with Palestinian young people for a day of community service. The Ruwwad project is managed by the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Education Development Center, Inc.
The 17 American students, who are enrolled in a Middle Eastern Studies program focused on Arab language, history and culture, visited with Ruwwad youth leaders, volunteers from the Ehna Falasteen (“We are Palestine”) network, National Youth Corps (NYC), and other Palestinian youth advocates.
During the visit, the university students and Palestinian youth volunteers traveled together to the Abu-Rayyah Rehabilitation Center in Ramallah City for a one-day service project where they volunteered to clean and paint the facility and plant new trees.
“The activities were aimed at encouraging Palestinian youth to get involved in volunteering and humanitarian work in their community,” said EDC’s Hisham Jabi who directs the Ruwwad program. “Our day of service with the American students also instilled the concept of community and civic involvement as part of one’s education,” he said.
As part of the day, the delegation enjoyed a traditional Palestinian meal with the volunteers and learned first-hand about Palestinian culture.
“This is an important visit because it promotes the integration of Palestinian and American youth, the exchange of ideas, experiences and opinions between them,” said Dr. Howard Sumka, Director of the USAID Mission in the West Bank and Gaza who was on hand for the day’s events. “The visit also introduces American students to Palestinian youth, which promotes friendship, integration and interaction between the Palestinian and American people.”
“The visit helped us to understand and connect with Palestinian youth in a different light than what we see in the American media,” said visiting student Tracy Pierce. “Palestinian youth are full of hope.”
At the end of the day, the visiting delegation went to al Bireh Youth Resource and Development Center, one of a network of youth centers across the West Bank being programmed by EDC and the Ruwwad youth program.