The Department for Youth Policies and the Universal Civil Service have published the call for the selection of 71,550 volunteer operators to be employed in Universal Civil Service projects.
There are many young people who over the years have put themselves on the line to live a year to discover the reality of Pro Terra Sancta and the territory in which its offices are located in Palestine and Israel.
The help that every year the boys and girls of the Civil Service offer to Pro Terra Sancta is precious for the creativity, the desire to do and the novelty that each of them brings with them.
This year the Association offers young people between 18 and 29 years of age the opportunity to live a year in Jerusalem and Bethlehem thanks to the collaboration with FOCSIV and the University of Bari.
The call for Jerusalem is entitled “White Helmets for education and training in the Holy Land-2023”, while “White Helmets for the inclusion of fragile people in Palestine – 2023” is the name of the call for Bethlehem. At this link you will find all the useful information and how to apply.
Volunteers Yara and Maria
To better understand what the Civil Service offers, we asked two girls to tell us about their experience in the Holy Land as SCU volunteers. Yara and Maria received three-week training in Italy in June and arrived in Bethlehem and Jerusalem respectively on July 27, 2022; They will remain there until June 26, 2023.
Yara, tell us about your studies and why you chose to apply for the Universal Civil Service with Pro Terra Sancta in Bethlehem.
My name is Yara, I am 29 years old, my mother is Italian and my father is Palestinian. At home I spoke only Italian and decided to study Arabic at the University of Bergamo. After completing my bachelor’s degree, I enrolled in the Master’s Degree in Languages for International Cooperation at the University of Milan, where I graduated in April 2020.
I have been linked to Palestine since I was a child and the Civil Service that I started in July last year represented an excellent opportunity for me to rediscover on the ground the other half of my origins, as a Palestinian of the diaspora and daughter of a Palestinian refugee, putting myself at the service of this land. In particular, Pro Terra Sancta in Bethlehem allows me to immerse myself in the daily challenges that Palestinians face, from all points of view: not only the challenges of the Israeli military occupation, but also the difficulties of a people that has neither a state nor solid institutions in its representation.
From this perspective, Pro Terra Sancta in Bethlehem works with the Palestinian Christian community, often forgotten, yet immersed in the same suffering of the Palestinian Muslim community, resulting from a drastic and increasingly worsening geo-political situation.
Finally, writing projects for the Palestinian community was my dream and the SCU is a great stepping stone to pursue a professional career in international cooperation.
What have been the most important discoveries in recent months both from a personal and professional point of view?
Very often, we of dual origins, face moments in which we do not really know who we are. From a personal point of view, this experience has made me proud of who I am today.
I was also lucky enough to share my experience with my travel companions and colleagues, with whom a solid friendship was established that made everything much easier. Also the knowledge of our manager, Vincenzo Bellomo, the location where we work Dar al Majus, and the staff, paved the way and made me feel safe and part of an additional community.
From a professional point of view, the first months were settling, in which to understand one’s role and where to best express one’s potential. I started to follow projects and the various reporting phases, simultaneously with the activities of the fair trade workshop of Dar Al Majus, as well as the start-up BetWomen. I am thus acquiring skills in writing projects, related budgets, final reports, which I hope to maximize as much as possible, during these last six months. The arrival of Christmas saw us all engaged in the involvement of Christmas activities and the magical atmosphere of living Christmas here in Bethlehem was splendid.
We also meet Maria, from Milan, who works in our offices in Jerusalem.
Maria, when the call for Universal Civil Service with Pro Terra Sancta came out, you applied for the position in Jerusalem. Tell us why you chose this one.
The first semester of the third year of University in Milan, I left to study Arabic in Amman, Jordan. There I noticed that all my Jordanian friends had at least one Palestinian relative in the family. So I wondered why there were so many Palestinians. I became interested and then passionate about the Arab-Israeli issue during my specialized studies until I became aware of the University of MECP, promoted by Pro Terra Sancta. It is a program aimed at university students of knowledge of the Palestinian reality. I decided to apply the same summer and thanks to those three weeks in the area I got to know the social projects of the Association. I remember saying to myself: sooner or later I want to go back to this land to work.
Then in Italy and in the world the Covid-19 pandemic broke out and it was impossible to return to Palestine. I was already aware of the opportunity of the Civil Service and in 2021 I decided to visit the Youth Policies website. I had no hesitation in choosing Pro Terra Sancta, since the projects they promoted had immediately interested and fascinated me.
What are you doing here in Jerusalem? From a personal and professional point of view, what do you feel you have learned?
In these six months I have dealt with several things. I am based in Jerusalem, but a few days a week I go to Bethlehem to help the Mosaic Center project. Knowing the realities of Pro Terra Sancta in both cities allows me to keep the work of the two offices together and at the Mosaic Center I am in contact 24 hours a day with the Palestinian boys who work in the project: Adham and two deaf-mute girls, Yasmeen and Samah. Here I learned about the reality of mosaics and the importance of the cultural heritage of the territory; besides, with Adham I speak only Arabic!
In Jerusalem I work in the office of Pro Terra Sancta and organize visits. Many times I bring people to know the Holy Land and this is teaching me a lot: to get more and more in touch with the local culture and to know every street and place. All this led me to learn more about our projects and political, cultural and archaeological history. What I like most about this work is that what struck me I can also pass on to people who come to visit. And this is beautiful because I bring my personal experience and I hope that pilgrims will also be struck like me by everything that Pro Terra Sancta does and by the religious, political and territorial context.
From a personal point of view, I have tested myself every day, both in Bethlehem and in Jerusalem. Work is never the same, it changes daily and every day I learn more and more to relate to everything and everyone and also to understand what I am good at and what I am less good at. For example, I’m noticing how much I like human contact at work or how inclined I am to find solutions to last-minute challenges.
All this has not always been easy, there have also been moments of difficulty, especially at the beginning when I found myself standing in front of things alone or taking initiatives without guidelines. But this also helped me to move even more and ask for tips and advice from my managers.