By Jamal Sultan
As a Palestinian American and growing up in the Bay Area, I have always valued my Palestinian culture and identity. In high school I was involved in many Palestinian protests, clubs, and organizations. For my senior project, I taught my high school history class about the Palestinian and Israeli conflict. Additionally, I taught my fellow peers in high school about the Palestinian culture where I passed out Palestinian cuisine like falafel sandwiches and chicken kababs. I really didn’t know about MECA until my honor professor Ms. Haft told me about the organization and suggested that I contact them to get a clear understanding of what MECA is and what it does for the community. When I meet with Ms. Nawal, Mr. Zeiad, Ms. Penny, Mr. Patrick, and the rest of the wonderful and kind staff I knew at that moment I wanted to be part the team and the family friendly environment they created. Reading and seeing pictures of the projects and work MECA had done really inspired and persuaded me to spread, educate, and bring awareness about the issues going on in Palestine and throughout the Middle East affecting innocent women and children.
During my time with MECA I did a wide variety of social service volunteer work like, passing out flyers, assorting, and packaging bottle of olive oil and other merchandise for shipment, participating in events/activities, and doing day to day tasks around the office like organizing MECA’s artwork. My favorite work that I really enjoyed doing was passing out flyers because it gave me the opportunity to interact and meet new people. One day I was passing out flyers for an event MECA was hosting in the upcoming weeks. When I was passing out the flyers a couple of people walking up to me and asking me questions about the event and what MECA is. Additionally, we had a conversation about the conflicts going on in the Middle East, for example the Palestine and Israel conflict. A memorable experience that I had when passing out flyers was meeting an Arab man in a café and having a conversation with him about the Arab American lifestyle and the issues going on in Palestine and other Arab countries. Experiences likes these, made my time volunteering at MECA enjoyable additionally, these experiences and interactions encourage me to continue my volunteer work at MECA because I realized that what I’m doing is very noble and brings people together. I knew that my time volunteering at MECA will be very exciting and great because I’m bringing awareness and bringing people together to talk about the issues our affecting our community and finding ways to resolve these issues.
I’m just very thankful and humbled that MECA staff welcomed me in and treated me with the utmost respect. I had a great time and really enjoyed volunteering at MECA where I felt I made a huge impact and difference from the work I was doing for the organization. As a Palestinian American student in the Honor Programs I wanted to challenge myself and expand my skills and knowledge in areas where I feel might contribute to the work I was doing for MECA. Volunteering at MECA gave me the opportunity to connect with my roots, build friendships and connections, and feel passionate towards the work I was doing. I’m sad that my volunteer work at MECA ended because I became passionate and I felt I became a true activist in bringing justice and aid to the Palestinian people who are living under colonization, deprived of equal rights, and kicked out of their homes. As a Palestinian American I felt like I accomplished a lot when I was volunteering at MECA and felt a sense of gratitude from all the work I was doing. In the future, I will be coming back to MECA to volunteer.