Volunteer Corner: Izumi Van Cleave

I first read about Palestine in 1992 when the First Gulf War was going on. I was outraged at the ongoing injustice and wanted to do something. But in the small town outside of Tokyo where I was living there were no resources or activism.

Over ten years passed and Palestine was still haunting me as I was raising two little children in the Bay Area. Then I found MECA online. This organization had been consistently working for Palestinian human rights and I wanted to do something to help out. One day I was at a Berkeley church where Dahr Jamail and Dennis Bernstein were speaking on the Iraq War. In the intermission I came up to a young woman attending the busy MECA table and told her that I was willing to volunteer. Although she smiled sweetly and took my phone number, I didn’t think she would call me. My phone number might not even make it to the office. But I was wrong. Two days later I was surprised and thrilled by a call from her. This young woman was Josie (Josie Shields-Stromsness, MECA Program Director) and that was my first day as a volunteer for MECA.

The small MECA office on Parker street was always quiet. Every time when I sat there getting the newsletters ready to mail out, I was wondering where the energy to produce amazing events like “People’s History of the United States” was hiding.

Another ten years passed since then. Those ten years were incredibly difficult years for Palestine and Middle East in general. Palestine needed MECA so MECA has worked tirelessly and grown bigger and stronger. However, one thing that never changed is that MECA’s work has always started from and focused on the people’s (especially children’s) suffering on the ground. That is why I trust MECA so much and never want to miss volunteer opportunities.