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February 9, 2009

Former NIAC intern dedicated summer to helping youth in West Bank

Two Georgetown University Students spent their summer pursuing an idealistic plan hatched up during a night of red bull drinking. Rod Solaimani, an Iranian-American of Jewish heritage and Hammad Hammad, a Palestinian Muslim organized summer camps in the areas of Deheisheh, Jalazun and Al-Azzeh.

In order to see real change in the region, the two hoped to “inspire refugee youth to become agents of change in Palestinian society.” They taught refugees skills and tools to be the change they want to see in their society.
What they realized at the end of the summer was that these refuges lived in the stark realities of their past, haunted by the destruction of their neighborhoods, their hopes and dreams were hidden under layers of debris. The two reported that the success of the region is greatly dependent on the creation of institutions and agents that can foster the academic future of young refugees.
On a phone interview this morning, Rod spoke of his definite plans to continue and maintain refugee camps in Palestine. Hammad who is already in the region, is working on refugee camps that are being held this summer. Both Rod and Hammad plan to develop the self-sustaining camps by training university students in Palestine and the United States.
” We are always looking for volunteers, the situation is really bad,” Rod told me.
Anyone who has ever worked with grassroots organizations knows that long-term development and self-sustainability are key. The efforts of Rod and Hammad are revolutionary and heroic. Change happens from the ground up, empowering the youth is the only starting place to repairing social, political, and economic damage.
Click here to read Rod and Hammad’s op-ed on their experience.

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