June 18, 2007 Report from Deir Ibzi'a

Dear friends and family,
Mary and I have spent the last two days in Deir Ibzi'a meeting with our Palestinian partners of the Friends of Deir Ibzi'a.

We met with ten of the womyn who make our embroidery. We talked some about details of the project but mostly just visited and got to know each other better. Over many cups of tea and coffee, of course. They told us that they are very happy with the project and are grateful for the income.

We also met with the people who judge the scholarship applications and administer them. They have now successfully established an official NGO that is recognized by the Palestinian Authority Welfare Department and the UN. It is called the Deir Ibze' (there are 100 ways to spell the name of the village) Cultural NGO. (NGO means non-governmental organization.) Without going into too much detail, I want you to realize that this was an extraordinary accomplishment since they refuse to identify with either Hamas or Fatah. There were six of the seven NGO members at our meeting. Deeb, Dr. Marwan, Husam, Naim, Nabil and Ameen. There is one womyn member but she wasn't able to come.

The meeting was absolutely wonderful and uplifting. They have a vision for helping poor children and womyn. They told us about computer classes that they had offered last winter semester, one for girls, one for boys and one for the womyn of the village. One of the members is very religious and insisted that they have separate classes for male and female. However, they have now all decided not to continue this practice as a policy. And they did have a field trip at the end of the classes that included everyone, male and female.

They told us that they do not want the NGO or anyone affiliated with it to be political at all. If someone wants to have opinions about politics, that is OK. But they can't be active in politics. I asked if participating in a non-violent demonstration, for example the weekly Friday demonstrations in Bil'in, would be okay. They said absolutely it would be okay, and in fact that kind of activity would be encouraged. However, any association with one of the organized political factions would not be tolerated.

They told us of their need to buy a property for the computer center which is in a very small rented space for the time being. They need to get a bigger space (about 1000 sq ft) and they need to own it because this will make it much easier for them to get funding for more programs. They want us to help them raise the money. About $15,000 - $20,000. We didn't really have any ideas. If any of you do, please offer them!We also met with the students that we are supporting with scholarships right now. Amir, Mazen, Shadi, Samia and Ahmad. As usual, Samia was outgoing, charming, talkative and engaging. The boys were a bit quieter and their English was not quite as developed. However, the time together was rich and poignant. We asked if they had hope of getting jobs in their fields after graduating and if they intended to stay in Palestine. All except Samia had pessimism about finding jobs after graduation. (Our first graduate, Saddam, is still driving a taxi.) Nonetheless, Shadi was the only one that said that he wanted to leave Palestine after graduation.

After the rest of the students left, Ahmad stayed to give Mary and I an incredible gift. It was a drawing of a Palestinian womyn with many images in her dress and a complex expression on her face. It turns out that he is a very gifted artist. (His major is Agriculture.) The drawing is so absolutely beautiful that I almost cried. He is truly a lovely young man.

We are off to Hares tomorrow morning to join the other womyn in the IWPS house.


No comments: