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Among the Stars

West Bank Yes Alumni With Telescope

From October 14–15, 30 YES and English Access Microscholarship (Access) Program alumni from the West Bank celebrated both World Space Week (October 4–10) and Mental Health Awareness Week (October 3–9). After reflecting on these eventful two days, YES alumnus Omar Awwad shared, “The people we got to meet made this trip a remarkable one.”

West Bank Alumni Babysitting Activity

The two-day event started on October 14 with an activity for Mental Health Awareness Week in Al-Ubeidya, a village located nearly four miles east of Bethlehem. The alumni arranged for two psychology professionals from Al-Quds Open University to lead an hour and a half long mental health session titled, “Our Kids after the Era of COVID-19” for 12 mothers from the Al-Ubeidya Community Club. While the two professionals led the session for the mother attendees, the YES and Access alumni led a series of fun activities for 100 local children of the community — including the children whose mothers participated in the mental health session. YES alumna Marah Kharma shares, “The kids were so excited to play and were super happy even with our simple games and activities. At the end of the activity the kids gathered around us as we were getting on the bus and asked us to come back again next week. It was so touching!” 

Looking At The Stars

After the mental health session, the alumni were ready to celebrate World Space Week and headed to the Tal Al-Qamar Campgrounds in Dar Salah village, one of the Palestinian Astronomical Society’s camping sites. The trip agenda started with a stargazing night hike. Four guides from the astronomical society led the hike up to a hill where telescopes were set for the alumni to view the moon, Saturn, and Jupiter. The alumni observed the stellar constellations and learned more about the universe. After hiking back to the camp site, the alumni ate dinner together and then gathered around a bonfire. The organizers from the society led several science experiments to teach the alumni physics concepts.

West Bank Alumni Morning Yoga

Then the alumni spent the rest of the night around the bonfire, playing games, making s’mores, catching up with old friends, forming new friendships, and, of course, stargazing under the clear sky. At sunrise, Hadi Butmah, one of the Access alumni, led a yoga session to begin the day. YES alumna Aya Al-Araj shares, “It was a great camping experience, we learned a lot about space and enjoyed watching the stars and planets, we were able to rely on ourselves to choose our directions.”

West Bank Alumni On Hill

Marah Kharma (YES 2016-2017, West Bank, placed by PAX in Layton, UT)

Aya Al-Araj (YES 2019-2020, West Bank, placed by AYA/AIFS in Payette, ID)

Omar Awwad (YES 2019-2020, West Bank, placed by AFS in Lancaster, PA)


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