Published: June 26th 2011June 26th 2011
So this is my long blog entry/short essay that Yehuda (my program director) said he wanted. It's a required part of the class. I figured I would post it here because it talks about my work in detail.
I work at an organization called Windows: Channels for Communication. It is a non-profit organization that was started in Tel Aviv but now has chapters in America, France, and the UK. Technically the organization is also an NGO but the Tel Aviv chapter is only registered as an NGO in Israel and not America, the UK, or the West Bank.
The mission of windows is to confront the barriers to dialogue between the multiple groups living in Israel, specifically the Palestinians and the Israelis. Windows focuses on trying to empower youth to challenge the status quo of the conflict. The organization also educates students about human rights, racism, and discrimination. They accomplish this mostly through media-orientated activities. They have four different programs that the youth go through. The preparation program is for youth ages 11-12 and the purpose is to get the youth acclimated to each other and to media. The next program is the young journalists. This program is for youth aged 13 – 14. The youth in this program create, write, edit, and produce a bilingual magazine for other kids their age. The purpose of the magazine to bridge gaps and educate other teens about the true nature of the “other side.” About 25,000 to 30,000 of these magazines are distributed a year. The youth then continue onto the Through the Lens video program (ages 15-16) and the Young Leadership program. The video program has basically the same purpose of the magazine but isn’t yet able to reach as wide of an audience. The Young Leadership program has the youth focusing on how they can have leadership roles in the community and how they can be activists, standing up for peace and democracy.
I really enjoy working at this organization. They have so much to offer me and they really need my help, which is nice because I keep hearing how other people in the group don’t like their internships or don’t have that much to do. Windows is a very small organization and they definitely use me and my skills a lot. I’m excited about working so much because its what I came here to do.
My primary goal for going into this program was to learn about the conflict and Windows has definitely helped with that. I have learned a lot that I didn’t know before or wasn’t aware of. Of course, the things I learn aren’t always things I believe Windows would want me to know as some of my burgeoning knowledge comes from the other side of the political spectrum but I can talk about office politics later. I hope to learn a lot about how NGOs work. I’ve learned a decent amount, and I now know that I don’t ever want to work with USAID. I’ve also learned that USAID wastes billions of dollars every year. I am really excited to learn grant writing and have been working on that a little every week. I also really want to see how people interact with each other in this country. Everything is so political, its really amazing how anything gets done. No one can agree on anything.
I apologize, as I believe the next paragraph is going to be a bit of a rant against USAID. For the past two weeks we have been working on the numerous reports for USAID and I understand that they have given us a lot of money (I believe the amount is somewhere around 30,000 dollars) and that the US government is strict about how money is handled. But I think the amount of work they have us doing is counterproductive. Apparently they told the organization that they should someone just to work on USAID paperwork. Emily and I tried to work out what that would be in terms of money… and neither of us like the answer. Emily said that Windows would have to pay someone doing that work about $20,000 to $30,000 a year. Other organizations would pay less and some would pay more. First of all, what’s really wrong with that number is that it is the same amount they paid us. That means Windows would use all the money USAID gave us on someone who would just fill out USAID reports. Emily also did a quick calculation (that I admit has no real factual basis as I couldn’t find the number of organizations that USAID helps around the world) about how much money would be wasted if every organization hired someone to work on just USAID stuff. We took the average salary, which Emily says is $30,000, times 40,000 (which is a educated guess) for the number of organizations USAID helps and came up with 1.2 billion dollars. All I can really hope is that this much American money is not wastes, both for the sake of the American taxpayer and for the organizations receiving the money.
After being in Israel for about a month I know that I have experienced a lot of emotional growth and I hope that this growth continues. I am definitely breaking out of my pre-existing presumptions about the conflict. I haven’t completely changed my political views but I now realize what kind of situation the Palestinians are facing such as water shortages and no freedom of movement. At the same time, conversely, some of previously held political views have been reinforced. The Arabs living in Israel often don’t live in nice areas or good municipalities. Why? Because they don’t vote, which isn’t Israel’s fault.
Windows is a really fantastic organization. The people are great and the work they do is wonderful, especially for such a small budget and organization. I haven’t noticed any inter-office politics but that is probably because the office staff is really small and there aren’t really enough people to form any type of clique or hierarchy. The only friction I’ve noticed is with one of the new employees and she is actually leaving so there wont be any more friction because of that. In regards to national politics almost everyone is very leftist. I think the only person who wasn’t was the old intern, who left just this week. I’m on basically the same page as her, centrist leaning a little bit right. But both of us really believe that Windows does good work and that working for peace is a noble occupation and not something to be demonized. Of course some of the employees are more radical than others but I haven’t noticed any incredibly extreme viewpoints yet.
My work varies from day to day. So far the only consistent work I’ve had is USAID reports. I’ve also written a press release and I’ve worked on rewriting the website and a new brochure so that they appeal more to the centrists. Right now the way the website and brochure is worded is very off-putting for many centrists, and of course right wingers. I think the biggest issue is that neither the website or the brochure addresses the violence that the Israelis have suffered. It talks about the violence the Palestinians have suffered but doesn’t reciprocate at all.
I think that I fit in well at this organization. I’m not so right-wing that I believe peace is an impossible dream and that all Palestinians and Arabs are evil or horrible. I also think I bring a needed dimension to the workplace. Emily has complimented me on being very level-headed. She also says I help as I understand the other political viewpoints and am good at appealing to them.