Dear Friend, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your support last year and the years before. I also want to bring you exciting news about our project, Teaching in a Village Under Demolition Orders. Two new visiting teachers have joined the team in the West Bank Palestinian village of Al Aqaba: Dan Pritt from Estonia and Elaine Zhu from China! I also want to take this moment to ask for your help to pay staff salaries at the Al Haq Kindergarten. Like all kindergartens in Palestine, this is a private kindergarten. It has expanded to serve 160 children this year, because the Palestinian Authority is providing salary for 3 new teachers — but the salaries for all the other teachers, director, bus driver, and janitor comes from tuition payments. The bus driver covers a good part of the Northern Jordan Valley to pick up students, an area that is targeted for demolitions and impacted by forced relocations. They need your help. Our project, Teaching in a Village Under Demolition Orders, started in 2010, has enable quite a group of amazing visiting teachers — Kali Rubaii, Matt DeMaio, Morgan Bach, and Ian Leech — to work in Al Aqaba. This program also supports local teachers' salaries and ensures that the kindergarten is able to keep the mainstay of its educators. Dan Pritt, our 6th visiting teacher, has been teaching English in the kindergarten for two months. Dan is from Estonia and currently on academic leave from Tartu University. He came to Al Aqaba because he believes "one cannot find knowledge by just occupying seats in the local library or classroom." Dan believes “that education is one of the central keys to any kind of bright future or a sustainable solution, and while teaching in the kindergarten, my belief has become even more compelling and self-evident." To our delight, we also welcome Elaine Zhu, the charismatic 7th teacher! "I spent two days with kids and took a lot of photos of them," Elaine told us, "and also had a great conversation with Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq. Then, I decided to come back. And I did. The smile on kids' faces and the kindness from the mayor and villagers brought me back here!" Elaine, who is from Guangzhou, China, was aware of the challenges facing her to teach in the village but she was determine to become a part of the community and make a difference for the children of the village "For me, both to be a first time teacher and to teach kids from a culture that is very different from mine own is not easy," Elaine explained, "Therefore, I am not just teaching, but also learning. I'm so much more than just a teacher. I learn how to interact with children, how to cooperate with the people from a different cultural background, and how to understand the situation of this village, which is under demolition orders. I'm part of Al Aqaba village, and this place if part of my life now." "Education is the great engine to personal development," Nelson Mandela, the well-known statesmen, once said, "It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that the child of a farm worker can become the president of a great nation." Kindergarten is the first step for children on their journey through the educational landscapes they will cross throughout their life. Through your support, and concerned people like you, the children of Al Aqaba are getting the best beginning on this voyage, by supporting amazing teachers including the staff of the kindergarten and visiting teachers Dan and Elaine.
Sincerely, Donna Baranski-Walker Found and Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance
Morgan Bach, our 2nd visiting teacher in Al Aqaba Village, is now in Michigan starting her U.S. speaking tour! We sent her there to attend the Students for Justice in Palestine conference. Today she is speaking at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, standing-in for Palestinian nonviolence leader Iyad Burnat who was prevented from entering Jordan despite holding a U.S. Visa.
The wonderful travel stipend you provided through your donation to this program brought Morgan to Al Aqaba Village where she spent eight months volunteering as teacher, writer, and aspiring filmmaker (remarkable films). A graduate of Whitman College, she was in New Orleans working as a teacher when she found Al Aqaba through Rebuilding Alliance’s campaign to save the kindergarten that hundreds of Americans helped build.
160 children now attend our kindergarten! It keeps Al Aqaba Village standing, attracting new investment despite demolition orders — we hope that is a positive model that audiences will want to explore and support. Morgan will share her stories, photos and films to introduce Al Aqaba and discuss Area C, the 62% of the West Bank controlled solely by Israel where over 12,000 demolition orders have been issued by the Israeli Army to Palestinian livelihood structures build on their own land. Morgan will describe new interfaith building projects there, and introduce a new way to reach Congress here, on behalf of 149 Palestinian towns at-risk in Area C.
Here are Morgan's destinations:
Please give me a call at 650 440-9667 if you would like to gather your friends and organize a house party or speaking event to hear this dynamic speaker!
I am writing to update you on the project, Teaching in a Village under Demolition Orders, which you have supported with your generous contributions.
During the GlobalGiving Matching grant competition, this project received donations of $1041 which generated a match of $561! Very exciting. The donors asked us to use these funds specifically to buy books for the Ibn Rush’d Library!
More good news: The Palestinian Authority has notified Al Aqaba Village that they will pay the salaries of two new teachers! This means the kindergarten will have room for 20 more children. The challenge here is that in general the Palestinian Authority does not have the funding needed to pay salaries. What should we do if this promise cannot be fulfilled by the time school begins in September? Do you think Rebuilding Alliance should organize a Kindergarten scholarship fund for needy children?
Perhaps you remember our first visiting teacher to Al Aqaba, Ms. Kali Rubaii. Kali returned this summer with filmmaker Maurice Jacobsen to interview families in our Rebuilding to Remain program. Kali, a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology now UC Berkeley, is working with her professors to set-up a study visit to Al Aqaba for her Congressman Sam Farr.
You’ll be happy to know that Save the Children has been sponsoring a summer camp for the children of Al Aqaba! In addition, Al Aqaba’s guesthouse continues to welcome a steady stream of visitors! Koreans, Brits, Americans and Israelis are all visiting.
While in the West Bank, Kali interviewed two new visiting teacher candidates, an American and an Estonian. One, Patrick Fogerty, recently arrived in Al Aqaba. He was a teacher at Project Hope this summer and will stay in Al Aqaba for about a month. More about Patrick in our next email.
We continue to look for new teachers for the Fall Semester. If you know someone who you believe would be excellent, please ask them to get in touch with us to fill out an application!
As always, please send me any questions or suggestions. I look forward to your thoughts.
I have some exciting news to share. I would like introduce you to Ian Leech, our third teacher in our Teaching in Village Under Demolition Orders program. Ian grew up in Middlefield, a working class community in Connecticut. After receiving a BA in cultural Anthropology from the University of Oregon, Ian participated in two study abroad programs, one Queretaro, Mexico and another Rosario, Argentina.
Ian heard about Rebuilding Alliance’s English teaching program through a friend, who was living in Ramallah, that had met Al Aqaba Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq. When Ian came to Palestine looking for volunteer work, his friend brought him to the village to meet the mayor.
Here is Ian’s description of the children and families of Al Aqaba:
"After spending time living and teach in Al Aqaba, I have come to understand how much the villagers are truly wonderful people. I'm amazed by how welcoming and friendly they are. They really have done their absolute best to make me feel at home, and they have provided me with anything that I could possibly need and more. Since I don't speak Arabic it has been difficult to talk to many of the villagers. However I have made friendships with a few people who I will go for walks with or have tea with. Most of the people in the village know who I am now so it's very difficult to walk through the town without getting called over to every house that sees me walking for tea or coffee.
The children are great as well. They try to engage me as much as possible and love talking and joking around with me in between classes. Often when they have recess we will play basketball or soccer, which they love. There are a few children that stand out for me because they learn quickly and are not very shy, especially in the kindergarten. I can see who will be more likely to learn and use English in the future, and I know it excites them to learn from a native speaker.
My favorite class is the kindergarten. Although the kids can be difficult to control at times, they learn quickly and are very inspiring. They are interested in your culture and so they want to talk. If they find that you will only speak English with them they will try as hard as possible to communicate. This gives them valuable conversation practice that they may otherwise not get. Also being exposed to people from other cultures is very useful for the children, especially in a small village. It allows them to see the world in a different light and helps to open up their mind a bit to different cultures and ideas.
The biggest benefit for me has been in becoming a part of everyday life in Al Aqaba. The people here are incredibly endearing and it makes me happy to know them and to spend time with them. Being around people this wonderful makes you a better person just for knowing them. They can truly teach you how to be a good person, how to live for friends, family and community."
Ian also was present when the Israeli Army recently demolished the Peace Road, connecting Al Aqaba Village with the Jordan Valley. He was an eye-witness to what had occurred during the demolition. He was deeply troubled by the event and offered us his personal perspective of the event as guest teacher in the village:
"I was actually in a class and was called out by one of the men in the town. He told me to go to my house and grab my camera. I had no idea there was a bulldozer coming up the road. So I ran, grabbed the camera, and was led down to to a viewpoint where I could see two jeeps and a bulldozer coming slowly up the road. My first thought was that they were coming for houses. Some of the guys and I started speculating about which house would get demolished and I was trying to plan out in my head what to do about it. Just the sight of the bulldozer brings many horrible thoughts to mind.
I had spent the previous weeks eating lunch and drinking tea with these people. Not to mention days teaching English and playing football with the kids. So when I saw that they had not come for houses it was a small relief. Seeing a road get demolished for no reason is also a very frustrating experience, especially when you are getting ordered around by soldiers with automatic weapons for just watching this happen. The villagers seemed to take it well, although they were clearly upset and distraught. After all they demolished roads, not houses. There were many questions directed at me about the west and what do people in my country think about such demolitions. I had to tell them honestly people don't think about them, and even if they knew they might brush it off. It was a sad and frustrating day. Definitely one that I wont forget anytime soon."
Here at Rebuilding Alliance, we're spending quite a bit of time thinking about how to mobilize all our donors and networks to respond as early as possible before bulldozers come, and also when they come. We'll ask you to call your Senators and Representatives and are looking forward to releasing some exciting new advocacy tools to make this easy for you. The road demolition was particularly frustrating because there was no demolition order posted in advance -- no early warning possible. Thankfully, homes were not demolished; No new demolition orders were posted.
Ian Leech will be teaching English in Al Aqaba through the end of May. He will also be helping install a set of early warning cameras in the village and on the outskirts to help us react quickly, worldwide, if bulldozers are approaching. Let's hope the world recognizes Al Aqaba's right to exist and this village's right to issue building permits soon.
In closing, I’m proud to let everyone know that, along with Kali and Morgan,we have been fortunate to have another wonderful volunteer teacher as part of our "Teaching in a Village Under Demolition Orders" program. All of this is possible because you, our donors, are able to see the value of this program and how it benefits Al Aqaba village. I thank you again for your support.
Hope all is well! I have a lot to tell you. First and foremost, Morgan Bach, our second teacher in the village as part of this program, has been able to get her visa extended, so she will be staying in Al Aqaba Village for another three months. She recently wrote to us, saying that she is now working on the new village website and coordinating visits to the guest house. "Since I got here I've been assisting Haj Sami with correspondence, grant proposals, and English editing. I also blog, make videos, and send e-mails promoting the village."
Now the bad news: new demolition orders were issued against another 17 structures in Al Aqaba. Click here to watch Morgan Bach's remarkable video. Morgan, who lives on site in Al Aqaba. briefly interviewed the Israeli Civil Administrators who issued the new demolition orders then visited a family whose home was tagged. I've attached a copy of the most recent UN OCHA fact sheet describing the scale of this policy.
On a brighter side, while we urge people throughout the U.S. to call Congress, we are pleased to report that the U.N. Secretary General's office is responding! Staff of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Al Aqaba yesterday. Tomorrow as part of a tour of the Palestinian Occupied Territories, a large group will arrive in Al Aqaba — there's a good chance this visit will this include the U.N. Secretary General himself! Please follow the Secretary General’s website.
We will send you more updates soon. Thank you for supporting this project and the Village of Al Aqaba. Your support has made it possible to bring wonderful teachers like Morgan to Al Aqaba! We're now recruiting more teachers, so I promise to send you the job description and job application in my next message.
As always, please write to me or call if you have questions or suggestions.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.