(ATS) When Claudia came to the Holy Land, she left home all prejudices and expectations: she wanted to be open to any surprise. And ‘surprise’ is one of the key words of the experience that three students, Claudia Sara and Viviana, lived in Bethlehem from 18 July to 8 August. They participated in the Charity Work Program, a volunteer program offered by the Catholic University in Milan. The Charity Work Program aims at promoting international cooperation activities in Developing Countries; for the first time it took place in Holy Land.
The three young women had to carry out very simple tasks in Bethlehem. As Sara says, ‘We cannot think our support here will become essential. We have to believe that these people can succeed with their own strengths.” Assisting a kindergarten teacher and helping a sister cooking for the guests of a retiring home are certainly small contributions; but they are very close to the actual needs of the local people.
And here is another key word, encounter: a surprise for the students who expected three weeks of (only) hard work. On the contrary, volunteering, traveling and meeting were often interwoven. “We visited Sabastiya, a corner of Palestine where we wrapped handmade soap. Under the attentive guide of the women of the Nisf Jubeil Ceramic Center, we also painted some ceramic. We visited Hebron, where the difficulties of close coexistence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians are dramatically evident. We walked trough Jerusalem, a maze of streets and a melting pot of religions and cultures, whereas in the desert we ate with the Bedouins and went on a jeep trip to see the Dead Sea panorama.”
Viviana, being a Political Science student, arrived in Holy Land with a background of theoretical knowledge that materialized at last. “This journey has been a way to give a deep meaning to what I read and study at University and to ponder what I heard from the people I met in these three weeks full of new discovers.”
Among the most significant meetings offered by the Charity Work Program there was a lecture held in Badil, a resource center for Palestinian residency and refugee rights, which provided an overview of the recent history of Palestine; a meeting with sister Lucia from the Caritas Baby Hospital, and her testimony of life and faith; and a meeting with the sisters of La Crèche orphanage, who struck the heart of the young women. “What is special about Bethlehem, says Sara, is that, despite the short time we spent here, it is frequent to meet our new friends during a walk in the streets: this makes our journey an experience intimately marked by people and their stories.”
The students will bring with them the wish of continuing this experience at home, somehow. As such an experience does not end after leaving this country.
If you are a university student and you are interested in a similar experience, contact us at [email protected] and we can pass your information along to the program coordinators.