Our project, Teaching in a Village Under Demolition Orders, continues to grow. I and Sophia Omar were both there for the first day of school on August 24th in Al Aqaba Village — so very exciting! I am happy to announce that a new teacher, from Estonia, is now working in Al Aqaba through a grant provided by the Estonian government. Some 160 children registered for the Al Haq Kindergarten -- one of Al Aqabaa's largest classes ever.
I promise to write more soon about the new programs that Librarian Haneen has been developing new programs at the Ibn Rush'd Library. We may be able to qualify these for the Microsoft Youth Spark matching grant -- more on this by the end of this week.
What I do want to share, in addition to these great photos, is something I noticed when Sophia and I joined Combatants for Peace to visit a school they helped finish for a small Palestinian village called Kirbet Twire. The new school is beautiful, funded by the European Community — but the school is not in the village it serves. It is a half mile away, uphill, no school bus. The village itslef is in Area C and faces demolition orders (as does Al Aqaba) Instead of risking the demolition of the school, the Palestinian Authority and the donor governments placed the school in Area B, leaving Kirbet Twire without its children, without direct investment in its infrastructure, and, I would argue, even more at risk of demolition.
When we came back to Al Aqaba that evening, I asked Mayor Haj Sami how he built the elementary school there, in the village itself. One thing he did was to attach it directly to his home, one of two pre-1968 structures that are free of demolition orders. Also, he got private funding to build the school and only asked for PA help to staff it after it was built. With the kindergarten, I know that story — Rebuilding Alliance had a small grant to buils a school that would not be demolished and so we responded to Al Aqaba's request and then Japan, Norway and Belgium added the 2nd floor ... and so it has grown and we've all kept it standing.
You support has made a big difference in this process. Your calls to your members of Congress have been invaluable at pivotal times, like when we helped Al Aqaba bring their case before the Israeli High Court in 2008 or when we asked for U.S. State Department assistance last June and the Israeli Army stopped live-fire training in the village that night and did not return.
Our strategy to support the building of Al Aqaba's kindergarten despite demolition orders has helped Al Aqaba become the vibrant village it is today. Sophia and I had the pleasure of meeting a representative of the British Consul and also of the Palestine Welfare Fund while in Al Aqaba — very exciting to hear of their new grants to improve the kindergarten! What we all set in motion is a network of assistance, both financial and diplomatic, to keep this village standing. It is a good model — your support for this program is the key, so deeply appreciated!
Thank you again for your support for this important program. Rebuilding Alliance recently transferred a grant made up of the donations from these past two months, helping to pay the staff of the Al Haj Kindergarten: 4 teachers, 2 bus drivers, principal, part-time accountant and the librarian. To give even more people the opportunity to help, we've now put together a concise $3K proposal and are sending it to foundations and places of worship. Please let me know if you would like a copy.
I want to tell you that our long-time visiting teacher, John from Estonia, will be leaving Al Aqaba soon because his Israeli visa extention is ending. John hopes to return to complete his college at a Palestinian university. While in Al Aqaba he taught English as well as assisting Mayor Haj Sami with his correspondence including grantwriting. Through his efforts, the Government of Estonia will be sending a teacher to join the Al Haq Kindergarten staff through all of next year!
In closing, I ask you to mark your calendar for Wednesday June 12th. Starting at 9am Eastern time, GlobalGiving.org is matching donations with a 40% bonus! Please give -- small or large -- for Teaching in a Village Under Demolition Orders. That kindergarten keeps all Al Aqaba standing despite demolition order -- and these teachers are the heart of that wonderful school. Your donation, your support, your good giving — that makes the Al Haq Kindergarten thrive!
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the participants involved.
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.
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