November 2, 2014: Think you know what it means to volunteer in the Bedouin community in Israel? Here’s a reality check from Olivia. (Hint: it may not be what you think – keep reading.) 

Beer Sheva Language Exchange: First Meeting

The past week has been filled with different new projects. I hosted my first Beer Sheva language exchange meeting last Monday. It was something I was very nervous about at first. Probably more than the first day of my internship. When I look back at it I’m not sure why I was so worried about it. Maybe it was because I’m starting to feel more confident working in the school and for the language exchange I was suddenly out of my comfort zone again.

Anyways, as soon as I sat down at Golda’s Bar, it was ok. When people arrived and seemed so laid back and friendly, I realized that this is something people do for fun and it’s not such a big deal. More than 30 people came and it all went really well! We had tables for Hebrew, English and Spanish. Tomorrow, at the next meeting there will probably be even more languages, I hope!

Helping Out the Green Committee With Their Upcoming PerformanceThe aim of me running these meetings is to get some experience and ideas to do the same thing in Rahat. It’s probably going to be very different from the meetings in Beer Sheva, but that’s also why I really want to do it. Every week some teachers are asking me about it and they are looking forward to come to the first meeting. For the past two weeks I’ve done some research asking for people´s opinion on how, where and when to do the exchange. The feedback and ideas I got from people in the school has been positive and very useful.

The science teacher at the Al Salam Elementary School in Rahat asked me to come to help some students to practice for a performance for members of different companies conducting research in the Dead Sea. It’s the first year of a project like this and the goal is to inspire students from an early age to open their eyes for nature science, biology and global thinking.

The participants are teachers and students from three elementary schools in Rahat. One part of the performance is the song “I am the Earth” that I helped teaching the Green Committee last week. We also made choreography and decorations. The exact date for the performance hasn’t been decided yet but I’m looking forward!

Teaching Update

When it comes to the teaching things are going well. I’ve noticed that the kids love to do worksheets for English grammar. This was a bit surprising for me to see, since I remember how I used to dislike these kind of assignments in their age. In the same time it’s fantastic to see how much they love learning English.

Last week I started arranging an English corner in the library, that now has been cleared from a lot of things that were there when I first came to the Al Salam Elementary School. The teachers and the headmaster gives me lots of freedom to do as I wish with the space, which feels great.

I have found out so far that it takes some time just to find the right person to ask to, for example, move the copy machine or print things in color. Everyone is very helpful, but also very busy with their regular duties. I’m hoping to get a lot done this week and then continue to built it gradually by putting more things on the walls and also by letting the kids help out decorating. I will add a picture in my next post.

The Realities of Volunteering in the Bedouin Community in Rahat

Something that I have started to react more to lately is people response when I say that I’m volunteering in Rahat. The questions or sentences that follows is mostly “Be careful over there!”, “Really… why?”, “Wow, that must be very hard…” or “How do you even manage to get to Rahat?” On one hand I think it’s great that they are curious and ask me about my internship. On the other hand it’s making me a bit confused and upset to hear what a they think and know, but mostly doesn’t know about it.

It’s hard to understand them since I love going there every day. I guess what they hear and what I see is not the same things. That makes me very sad but more importantly motivated to start the afterschool English program and the Rahat Language Exchange. Just to make people encounter with the Rahat that I know of.

For example: every day when I’m waiting for the bus there is always some kids keeping me company. We speak a bit but mostly they just want to sit down and smile at me or maybe make sure that I get with the bus. It’s a nice time of the day. It has also become a routine that the bus driver makes sure that if I ever need help I can feel free to ask him, and then he wishes me a wonderful day.

And all of the sudden someone in the school serves me za’atar – lunch on a break.

Even though I can see that there are issues in Rahat as a city it’s a very small piece of my whole experience working there so far. And overall, I have never been in a place where everyone is so caring and hospitable. This is what I wish that everyone knew about Rahat.

Shared with permission from Olivia’s Blog: Volunteering with A New Dawn in the Negev.

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