From the 9th to the 19th of June 2013, CADFA (Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association) worked on the project ‘Ma’an: Students Together’, where twelve students from Palestine and twelve students from British universities had the chance to meet and work together. The main aims of the program were to share life experiences of the students, to build a website and to promote twinning links between British and Palestinian student unions. However, it should be underlined that the project was not political or religious but it was rather something related to the promotion of human rights which are meant for everybody.
The first four days were spent in Pendle in Lancashire, where students from each country gave a presentation about the student life in their home town. What emerged were the similarities and differences between how British and Palestinian students live. The fellows Palestinian suffer everyday of military occupation, which negatively influences their studies and often force them to quit university. However, in Palestine, citizens seem to believe in the power of knowledge as a way to educate their population to better understand the conflict with Israel and find eventual solutions to contribute to the peace process.
During the this first period of the project, many activities were useful to get to know each other and included singing around the bonfire, eating fish&chips, playing table-football and pool as well as cleaning up after the meals.
Time was also spent to visit a local radio station and to have a conference at Manchester University. A local event in Pendle city centre was held to meet local twinning groups and to establish a dialogue between the attendants. It was very successful, and the Palestinian students did their very best to tell their stories, sing their songs and express their fears and desires about the future.
The second part of the project took place in London, where students worked together to collect material for the website, which would enable people from all around the world to engage with the project and to get aware of the current situation in Palestine.
Being in London was a great opportunity to get in contact with other British students, schools and universities across the capital. Different events were held throughout the week, among which a visit to Sky News, a lunch at Goldsmiths Student Union and visits to many secondary schools. Some short stop-frame animations were made based on the experiences of the students and each group developed independent projects under the supervision of the staff from South Camden City Learning Centre. A small demonstration took also place in a rainy afternoon and started from the British Library moving towards Euston Square. It represented a ‘Prisoner march’ against children prisoners and the abuse of power from the Israeli army. However, Palestinian students had also time to explore the city highlights guided by their peers from England. We sightseeing many places such as Hamstead Heat, Southbank, the House of Parliament and Camden Town.
Finally, in date 19th June at SOAS University of London Palestinian footballer and long-time prison hunger-striker for freedom, Mahmoud Sarsak, opened the final conference of the program. It was a great opportunity to discuss effective twinning strategies between students in the UK and students in Palestine and conclude the program with views for further projects.
The students twinning visit ended almost two weeks ago. Now I find myself looking back to a life changing experience and it seems difficult to find the right way to describe it. Is there any word to express my feelings, then? I wish humans could speak the language of love. No more words such as war, gun, bomb, hate, tragedy and so on. Just a simple smile and everything would be better. During the project I had the chance to meet amazing and wonderful people, some from Palestine and some from England. We were all speaking the same language: the ‘language of Love’. Being part of this program meant listening to your heart. From this experience I have gained a lot from the stories and how hard is it to study under military occupation. I have learnt the beauty of people being together, smiling and being generous with each other. I finally got to appreciate more how lucky I am, and that complaints should not be expressed for something minor. What’s more, student twinning between Britain and Palestine goes further than simply raising awareness and sharing experiences among the students. It is about human rights and people whose rights are being denied on daily basis. Citizens that are being arrested, abused and killed. The project has helped to establish support between student unions across Britain and Palestine to protect and promote human rights. Citizens by linking themselves in an on-going relationship, could, thus, have the power to challenge reality and fight agains injustice shoulder to shoulder. What’s more, students of the project are still in contact now and work on further programs as well as on the maintenance of the project’s website.
I finally would like to thank every student who took part in the project, all the CADFA staff and supporters. A big ‘thank you’ goes also to Nandita Dowson and Abdulwahab Sabbah who have been working extremely hard to make this possible and are always involved in the protection of human rights in Palestine.
Please find more information at: http://maantogether.blogspot.co.uk
Visit CADFA’s website: http://www.camdenabudis.net