Our Time at the Bedouin Summer Camp

Cleaning up at the Bedouin Summer Camp

Our Time at the Bedouin Summer Camp

Written by Sarah Castellano, 2015 Middle East: Behind the Headlines

The last two days of volunteering at the Bedouin Summer Camp has been exhausting to say the least. Iptisam directed us to create a yard for the kids to play in. The camp was literally built on what used to be a dump site and the yard was covered in brush, sharp brambles, and trash of all kinds everywhere you looked. Within the first few minutes of clearing trash, pieces of wood, electronics, and old food packagings, we found enormous bugs and spiders and got stabbed in the hands and feet by thorns.

We’ve purchased gloves and tools to help with the clearing, burned out excessive weeds, replaced the perimeter with freshly planted trees, and cleared out all the trash and dry grass. The before and after are mind blowing. We didn’t even know there was so much space, and though our group is sore in places we didn’t know we could be sore (blistered hands included), the result has been a tangible and visible success for everyone involved. Iptisam’s smiles are endless, and we can’t wait to see the kids enjoying their new, safe, and beautiful yard.

The other truly amazing thing that we initiated were the English lessons! I’m especially happy about this because the flash cards were completed within the first day, and by the second day Erin and I were surrounded by a circle of bright-eyed little girls repeating English words. The coolest part is that the lessons have become mutual – I’ve learned the Arabic words for “cloud” and “chicken.” Asir demands I repeat the numbers in Arabic to her every 10 minutes and yells at me when I don’t pronounce things correctly. Farah and Zenab make sure that a volunteering day doesn’t go by without me taking home some sort of arts and craft project they’ve worked on all morning.

Girls at the summer camp

To be perfectly honest, the kids can be tiring and frustrating sometimes (language barriers in particular don’t help), but I’ve found it to be one of the most enriching experiences so far. I can’t believe our days with them are coming to an end. Sometimes I look at the girls, covered in sand and glue and glitter, and I want to tell them we’re going to make their entire futures as bright and glittery as their crafts, but I look at the reality and my heart breaks. Keeping busy at the camp prevents me and probably all of us from getting too emotionally involved, but I’d be lying if I say I don’t think of them with incredible amounts of affection.

I think we collectively hope that the work we’re doing makes some sort of long term impact on their lives, but only time can tell how everything turns out. And unfortunately, time is a limited resource for us here in Israel.