Hope Through Cultural Diplomacy

Zahir Khouri Fellow Moh and two local volunteers work together during Youth Soccer. As technology and travel increase interactions between individuals of different cultural backgrounds, it is vital to recognize the similarities between seemingly different groups of people. Through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) #My Voice My School student advocacy project, Palestinian refugee students in Syria recently had the opportunity to connect with students from Europe and identify the similarities between their lives in very different locations from around the world. A bond over a mutually enjoyed song can help to heighten the understanding, respect, and empathy between the youth participating in the program.

Intercultural exchange is at the heart of cultural diplomacy at TYO. As a result of the International Internship and Zahi Khouri Fellowship programs, local Palestinians have the opportunity to interact with interns and fellows from Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. For members of both cultural groups, the benefits of spending time together are great.

Intern Ashley and Core Teacher Ahmad play with a student.

Ahmad Alkhatib and Amal Khdair are Core Child Program Teachers at TYO and frequently have the opportunity to interact with international interns and fellows.

Ahmad expressed that having interns and fellows spend time in the classrooms with students helps the students to learn about Western culture with the students. During his time with the interns and fellows, he is able to assist with Arabic language and Palestinian culture, thus helping the newcomers to Palestine understand how to better interact within local culture.

Amal was happy that she was able to learn about how Western culture and share her Palestinian culture with the interns and fellows. “Palestinians love to live and learn. We have hope for life,” she said in a recent interview. In addition to enjoying singing, acting, and speaking with people, Amal found that a desire to work together to the benefit of the children is a common characteristic between the Palestinian teachers and the international interns and fellows. “At first, I was so surprised, but then it was an interesting thing.”

The similarities between the international group and the local population help build strong connections and a sense of camaraderie, even with the different cultural backgrounds.  The unity of individuals under the umbrella of friendship, respect, and understanding provides hope for all involved. After all, we are much more alike than we are different.

The TYO Youth Internship program is part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.


Lindsey, International Internship & Fellowship Coordinator