My name is Catalina. I am a Loyola alumna. I majored in International Studies and minored in Arabic Language and Culture, and Islamic World Studies.
I lived in Palestine for a mere three months, but my life will forever be impacted by the warmth of spirit, inherent kindness, and wholesomeness I experienced there.
I traveled on a fellowship to work with Palestinian refugee adults on employment coaching and job-readiness training. On account of many restrictions and limitations imposed on Palestinians, the current employment rate throughout the West Bank is at 26.6%. Nonetheless, the community I worked with was steadfast to increase their employ-ability.
My experience working with the community focused on individualized, strength-based approaches to self-actualization and empowerment. This began as a wonderful opportunity to celebrate individual accomplishments and goals, but then later became a way of celebrating community achievements.
At the same time, this work was challenging and demanded creativity. The current political situation limits domestic and international resources for Palestinians and because of that, many were unsure how to work towards employment in industries that are not accessible in their area.
Despite any setback, the community remained kind and right-minded, knowing that they each will persevere. And, in fact they did. By the end of the three months, my cohort was comfortable with the language regarding their skillet and had each created tangible next steps to achieve their short and long term goals.
In total, my experience in Palestine filled me with awareness and the community I met filled me with joy. I gained a broader understanding of the community by learning what motivates them and how their lived reality shapes their individual goals for the future. I learned the importance of community building and collective identity for the sake of individual empowerment. I also gained perspective on how their daily choices are impacted by the deep rooted richness and significance of their land and its history.