Could you tell us a bit about your YMCA background?
My YMCA journey began when I was only a child. My father used to work for the YMCA, so I was always participating in camps, training, and exchanges. So I could say I grew up in the YMCA. Many years passed, and I would be still participating and volunteering at my local YMCA. Then, I signed up for the YMCA Change Agents program. After graduating from Cohort 3, I was offered the position of Youth Coordinator at the East Jerusalem YMCA, where I run and manage youth programs.
How do you feel during these uncertain post-pandemic times?
The pandemic was a challenge! It still is. It was a very difficult time in so many ways. It changed a lot, especially human interaction, which is a very important part of our work. We had to adapt and overcome, and believe me it was not easy because people’s lives and health were at stake. Now, in “post-pandemic” times, it is still confusing. It is a lot better now with the vaccines, fewer restrictions and most importantly the awareness that people have about the Virus. And as always, we will always find a way.
Can you tell us a little bit about the project you are currently working on in your YMCA?
One of our main projects at the moment is “Hope Makers” with the Global Youth Mobilization. The main aim of the project is to enhance the resilience of young people in refugee camps following the pandemic, and the resulting negative impact on their mental and physical health. Through our project we were able to reach 800 people directly, and around 4,000 indirectly. By creating core groups from different locations and camps across Palestine, we were able to expand our reach. It’s also important to mention that this project, is started, lead, run, and managed by youth, for youth!
What is the most challenging aspect of your work at the YMCA?
To be honest, one of the most challenging aspects of my work is staying always motivated and positive. Especially in Palestine, with so much going on, from injustice, occupation, the pandemic, and much more. Sometimes all of this can affect you on many levels and can make it difficult to keep going.
Because I draw inspiration from the change we create! By far, what keeps me going is the impact and change we can achieve by empowering young people. Within our youth centre, we are changing lives and helping others find a better future, and this has always given me hope for a better tomorrow.
Who is the main audience of your program? Who is it made for?
Our programs are specifically designed for young people in disadvantaged areas. Our main focus is the refugee camps in the West Bank.
How do you think the sessions (of your programs) are impacting young people?
First by creating a safe space for young people, where they can talk and express themselves freely. It helped them connect with others and see that they are not alone, they were able to find common ground with their peers and share experiences and knowledge to overcome the negative impact this pandemic has had on their mental and physical health. They were able to foresee change through others and were motivated to start change for themselves and their communities.
What is your message to everyone out there?
Never lose hope! Though life might put us through some difficult and incomprehensible times, where losing hope is the easiest thing we can do, we have to keep our vision alive, we have to help ourselves and others to “be the change we want to see”. As a very wise man once said: “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times when one only remembers to turn on the light.”