I remember my first day at Camp like it was yesterday, stepping off the bus after spending a full day traveling from Jerusalem to Maine.
It was actually my first time in the United States and it was an unforgettable experience for me.
Life back home was not easy at all because I did not feel comfortable sharing my social or political opinions. And then also as a Palestinian, life is not easy, since we are living under military occupation. Camp provided me the opportunity to do so many amazing things that I couldn’t do back home. The flag-raising ceremony touched me very deeply because it was the first time in my life that I raised my country’s flag in public and sang our national anthem.
During those three weeks, I felt a change in me, and I especially remember seeing that change take effect on Intercultural Night. That evening, I got to see my friends’ cultures and what they represented, while I was representing my Palestinian culture. I used to have stage fright, but when I went on stage to present my country’s culture and to speak in front of over 190 people, I wasn’t scared at all.
I also wasn’t too shy to speak to my dialogue group throughout Group Challenge [the physical component of Seeds of Peace dialogue] where we worked the challenges together hand in hand. I felt this evolution after the first week, where I didn’t speak to any of the new people—I put myself in a bubble where I isolated myself from everybody.
Coming back home wasn’t easy at all. I spent some time trying to get back to the real reality of life under occupation, and after that, I felt more awake to my surroundings and what is happening around me in my environment and in my city.
I believe that every single person is a changemaker, but it is hidden inside and they don’t know how to release it. Maybe they have the same personality as me: shy and too awkward to speak around people. I think that they should be helped with something that is similar to the activities that were at Camp, basically activities that will release the inner changemaker in them.
This is one of the projects I dream of doing when I grow up, because I really want to help people just as I have been helped at Camp.