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Shireen Abu Akleh Camp

Visually impaired youth and YES alumni volunteers hold hands in a circle

The YES program inspires youth to make positive change in their communities. YES alumni from the West Bank recently joined forces with an independent youth group to organize the Shireen Abu Akleh Camp. This one-week camp was designed to commemorate a Palestinian-American journalist who was fatally shot while covering a story in Jenin, West Bank.

The Shireen Abu Akleh camp hosted visually impaired people from 18 to 29 years old at the Al-Shorooq School for Blind Children in Beit Jala from July 1-7. Twenty visually impaired people from all over the West Bank participated in activities to increase their independence, including cooking, self-defense, riding a unicycle, hiking, and an assortment of lectures.

Visually impaired student rides unicycle with assistance from YES alumnus

12 YES and 18 English Access Microscholarship Program (Access) alumni volunteered throughout the camp cycle. The YES and Access alumni volunteers led activities and games and assisted participants to move about the camp. They also led their own unique camp session on July 3rd, when Amal Abu Srour, a YES alumna with vision impairment, shared her experiences as a student with a disability. Amal described how she was able to face different challenges traveling abroad and being independent. Amal explained how her visual impairment was not a barrier, but rather a motivation that kept her moving forward. She encouraged the participants to move out of their comfort zones and try new things.

Helping at the Shireen Abu Akleh camp impacted the YES alumni who participated. Yazan Al-Shayeb comments, “It was an eye-opening experience to learn how life is like from the perspective of a visually impaired person. Extremely interesting and informative while also being a ton of fun.”

Saba Sharaf adds, “A lot of the experiences I lived influenced me, but this camp had a major and different impact on me. I had a chance to participate in this camp and I met a group of visually impaired people who are full of life, passion, and different dreams. Only then I knew that life doesn’t throw obstacles in your way. Life throws situations and experiences which you choose how to deal with. The only obstacles in your life are the ones in your mind!”

Amal Abu Srour (2018-2019, West Bank, placed by PAX in Toutle, WA)

Yazan Al-Shayeb (2019-2020, West Bank, placed by AFS in Santa Monica, CA)

Saba Sharaf (2019-202, West Bank, placed by AFS in Wilmington, DE)


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