(Left) Images from the storytelling workshop in the Palestine. (Center) The Rev. Darryn Hewson photographed at The Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Sessions in 2011.

Sharek Stories: Sharing and storytelling in the Palestine
By the Rev. Darryn Hewson

Note: The Peace With Justice offering taken each year is divided between the PNW Conference and General Board of Church & Society. The Rev. Darryn Hewson presents this story about a grant awarded from Conference funds in 2012.

About a year-and-a-half ago Sharek Stories was born out of a couple of dreams. Lubna Alzaroo, whom I met in Geneva at a World Council of Churches gathering, shared her dream with me to give kids in her native Palestine books in English as a way of expanding their world. Learning English is essential for children in Palestine. It is a requirement to graduate, to get into university, to get a good job or simply to participate in the broader world. Books in English, however are not easy to find in Palestine and children’s books are nearly impossible to get.

That idea related to a dream of my own. My mom, a first grade teacher and a reading specialist who instilled in me a love of stories, died two years ago and I wanted to do something to honor her memory. When Lubna shared her goal with me, I knew I had found an opportunity to do just that. Students in Palestine don’t have books, and teachers have not been given the tools to help students engage with English. They need to start early and build a foundation. The goal is to get more books to the schools and students, but we also want to train teachers in the art of storytelling to make learning English something kids want to do. It is important to me that we help teachers too. Teachers in Palestine are an inspiration as many right now are still preparing students for college exams despite a strike and being several months behind on getting paid. This is a further justice issue as we try to support the teachers.

We got a grant from the British Council and collected around 750 books last year here in the US and in the UK. A number of churches helped in our collecting. Some were Methodist and a Lutheran, a Presbyterian and a Buddhist Zen center have helped as well. University Temple UMC (Seattle, Wash.) gets the award for gathering the largest number of books so far.

Getting things to Palestine is not easy. About half of the books we shipped at book rate and the rest I took with me as luggage in June 2012 when I lead a teacher’s storytelling training. A Peace with Justice Grant helped cover most of the shipping.

We worked with the Palestinian Ministry of Education to bring in 16 first and second grade teachers and one secondary school English teacher along with one of the head teachers in charge of teacher training to be a part of a workshop. We had them create stories, practice group and individual storytelling and talked about not just how to tell a story, but why it is important. The teachers were very enthusiastic and the Ministry of Education asked us to put together a longer training for next year. We have also been invited back to visit the schools and tell some stories there as well. Thanks to the grants we received we were able to provide the training and lunches as well as all the books at no cost to the schools or the teachers. The first round of book gathering and training was a great success and we are looking forward to round two hopefully this spring. For more about us, find us on Facebook under Sharek Stories or visit our webpage sharekstories.org.

Old book bindings at the Merton College library, photo by Tom Murphy VII. For more info on this image, click here.
The Rev. Darryn Hewson serves as the pastor of Spirit of Grace UMC (Everett, Wash.).

Children of the Nakba

Children of the Nakba (D4807)
For Palestinians, the events between 1947 and 1949 are remembered as a time when Israeli military forces destroyed over 500 Palestinian villages and expelled between 700,000 and 900,000 Palestinians from their lands — about 85 percent of the Palestinian population at that time. These refugees have lived exiled from their land since then. Today Palestinians represent one-third of the global refugee and internally displaced population. Learn about the Palestinians, who call these events the Nakba, an Arabic word meaning catastrophe. This DVD includes “Dividing Wall” and “Walking the Path Jesus Walked,” a slide show and more. To reserve this video now, e-mail The Regional Media Center.

Children of the Nakba

A Land Twice Promised (D1081)
Storytelling is an important part of the human experience. Oral tradition precedes the written word and is a core component of biblical history. The conflict between Arabs and Jews is complex and deeply painful. Noa Baum, a gifted storyteller and peace activist, has created “A Land Twice Promised” as a heartfelt, artistic, monologue that represents the stories of Palestinians and Jews who share the complex and contradictory history and emotions that surround claiming Jerusalem as their homeland. Based on Noa’s personal experiences and those of her family and the personal experiences of a Palestinian woman with whom Noa becomes friends and the experiences of her friend’s family members, Noa creates what is not only an outstanding work of art, but also an excellent educational tool for diversity training and peace activism. This DVD will touch your heart, engage your mind and feed your soul in ways that cross boundaries of age, ethnicity, race, religion and nationality. It will inspire you to listen to others and build relationships that lead to peace and tolerance rather than conflict and war. To reserve this video now, e-mail The Regional Media Center.

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