My name is Malak. I am a 17-year-old Palestinian, and I have lived in Jerusalem all of my life. I have been in PeacePlayers almost 7 years. This summer I got the chance to attend camp at the PeacePlayers site in Cyprus and it was an experience I will never forget.
Camp was very intense. We had a lot of different activities and our days were long and jam-packed. During the day we had sessions on the basketball court or in the classroom. In the classroom the staff facilitated sessions where they discussed the different ways people can see one another, with an emphasis on trying to “see people as people,” which is at the core of the PPI curriculum. There was also a big emphasis on identifying leaders and learning how to be a better leader. At night we had similar sessions in addition to free time.
Each night we broke up into our own delegations, which were Northern Ireland, Cyprus,
Norway and the Middle East. Each delegation would take time to write in their journals and reflect on the activities from that day. I was part of the Middle East delegation and on the third night during free time after the delegation meetings, my [Israeli] friend Liraz and I decided to go join some participants from the other delegations that were playing on the soccer field. Liraz and I were nervous to go over and ask to join but they welcomed us and that night turned into my favorite memory from camp. It was difficult to step out of our comfort zone and talk to the other participants but it made the remainder of camp more enjoyable and it became easier to start talking to the participants from the other delegations. On the nights that followed, I met so many funny and interesting people during the free time; I didn’t want to go into my room when it was time for bed because I was having so much fun.
At the beginning of camp we were split into different teams that mixed the delegations together. The staff would observe the teams throughout the day and look for examples of team spirit, communication, playing well together. I was fortunate to have a very well-rounded team that exemplified team spirit, strong basketball skills, great communication, curiosity to learn about each other, and a strong connection. I think our coach played a huge part in helping us to break the ice and come together at the start. We were all involved and knew our strengths so we encouraged each other and naturally came together as a team. I may be a little biased but I think we had the best team and it was awesome to be a part of it!
My biggest take-away from my camp experience was what I learned during sessions in the classroom lead by staff member Nasiphi, which focused leadership, stepping outside of your comfort zone, and overcoming barriers (cultural differences, language barriers, etc). It helped me to find myself and made it easier to identify where I stand and how to be an effective leader within my community.
I’m so lucky to have had this experience at the camp and would be more than willing to do it again anytime!