The Bard Palestinian Youth Initiative (BPYI) is founded upon the belief that constructive civil engagement, cultural exchange, and education create an environment conducive to self-expression. We are excited to say that BPYI is the only entirely student-run Palestinian engagement program in the United States. We believe deeply in the idea that open dialogue is crucial in areas of conflict. Twice a year, a group of students from Bard College programs in New York, Berlin and Russia and East Jerusalem travel to Mas’ha, Zawyah and Bidya, small villages in the West Bank. In partnership with the local community- we run a children’s summer camps, organize community engagement projects, teach English and writing classes and participate in cultural activities. Throughout the year, we co-create a Language and Thinking based curriculum with Al-Quds Bard (AQB) students for our winter and summer programs and facilitate on-campus events to engage a diversity of students in conversation around this area of the world
BPYI coordinates our winter and summer programs throughout the year. Our summer program lasts for 3 weeks while our winter programs lasts for 2 weeks. BPYI participants traveling to Mas'ha range between 12 to 20. We eat, sleep and live with families in the villages we work in. Our class size ranges between 25 to 50. Because of cultural norms in the villages we engage in, our classes are gender separated. Every week, a committed group of students gather together to plan the curriculum for the programs, organize fundraising events and host educational events on campus. Additionally, our project is connected to the wider Bard network. we organize alongside Bard students at Al-Quds Bard, Bard Berlin and at Smolny College in Russia. Eveyr year we have approximately 5 to 8 Al-Quds Bard students who join us as teachers and translators. As we have been operating for several years Now, BPYI is a known fixture in the three towns we work in--Mas'ha, Zawya and Bidya. Our classes either take place in the Mas'ha library that we built in collaboration with the town in 2010 or in the community center in Zawya. Our summer camp takes place in the park that we built in collaboration with Mas'ha community in 2011. Everyday we are there is filled with classes, activities and field trips. With the support of the villages we work in, we are able to participate in a wide range of cultural events and really participate in every day life. In terms of our programming, we always offer English lessons and an experimental reading and writing class called "Language and Thinking." Additionally, we offer arts classes ranging from drawing to guitar to dance. All of the money for this project is raised by students through fundraisers and grants.
•In 2009 we hosted the first Palestinian intellectual group to visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.
•In 2010 we built the first children’s library in Palestine, books furnished by the US Consulate.
•In 2011 we built a playground so children of Mas’ha have an alternative to the street for recreation.
•In 2012 we renovated a three story concrete shell, installing bathrooms, kitchens and meeting spaces; it is now used by the village Youth Group.
•In 2013 we completed the Youth Center and insured the sustainability of past projects such as the playground and library. This portion of the project was funded by the Davis Projects funded for Peace, individual fundraising efforts, and events held on campus and in our local communities.
•In 2014, due to the intensity of the conflict in the Middle East, Bard College participants were unable to travel to Mas’ha. However, one of the BPYI leaders motivated a group of citizens in Mas’ha to build a park for women and girls, and plant more than 200 trees at the entrance of the village. These projects created a space for women, helped the community realize the importance of taking care of their environment, and improved the status of the village regionally.
•2015: A brand new clinic in Mas’ha was completed with fundraising support from Bard College participants. AdditionalLY, participants expanded the programs in Mas’ha to a nearby town called Zawya and began fundraising for a bus to provide Mas’ha with transportation.
•2016: Our program expanded to a third town called Bidya. We held our annual summer camp with over and classes with over hundred students and painted a mural on several walls of the park that w built in 2011.
BPYI is currently working on several exciting new projects. We are in the process of constructing a soccer field and creating a space for women in Mas'ha. Currently, there is no space for girls and women to gather together in Mas'ha. We hope to create a central space for women and girls to hold events, to study, to teach one another skills. We have already secured a location for the space and now we just need to fill it with supplies! Our dream is for this space to become a place for older women to teach younger women skills like embroidery and for school aged girls to study together.
Every cent of this project is raised by students. This project is extremely unique and also extremely costly. Because we aim to make this project as accessible as possible for all students, we only ask that Bard students traveling to the West Bank pay for their plane tickets. All of the money raised goes directly to the project. This year, we are working on creating a space for women in Mas'ha to gather together and learn skills from one another. There is currently now space for women in Mas'ha so this project is very near and dear to our hearts.
Budget Total: $2,900
Art Supplies for Summer Camp and Classes: $500
Computers for Women's Space: $2,000
Desks for Womens Space: $50
Printer for Women's Space: $130
Sewing and Embroidery Supplies for Women's Space: $200
Transportation for student participants in the West Bank: $500
Soccer Balls: $20
Contact the project leaders for further information:
Renad Bdair, BdairRenad@gmail.com
Jordana Rubenstein-Edberg, JordanaRE1@gmail.com