Karen Campion, from Silver Spring, MD, is a Sociology major with certificates in Near Eastern Studies and Arabic Language, who won the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence. Clare Herceg, from Sugar Loaf, NY, is a Woodrow Wilson School major with certificates in Arabic Language and Culture and in Near Eastern Studies. Each of them has fashioned a fine academic record, and each has a strong background in terms of service and international experience. Each speaks Arabic and has dealt with Middle East issues, both over there and at U.S. institutions.
Karen and Clare will carry out their joint project inthe Nablus governate in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories, which is home to over 80,000 refugees. Many of those refugees reside in four mainrefugee camps, all of which are plagued by serious problems, such as overcrowded schools, high unemployment, poor water and sewage networks, etc. Over 40 percent of the population is under theage of 14, and the children are particularly vulnerable to the challenges posed by poverty and ongoing political instability.
Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO), an American NGO that works in disadvantaged areas of the Middle East, is one of the few international groups to serve these impoverished refugee communities. In Nablus, TYO offers high-quality early childhood programs to enrich children’s social, intellectual and physical development as creative and engaged citizens. Its core program is aimed at children 4-8, but also attempts to engage their parents and train college-age volunteers to assist in the work.
The responsibilities of Karen and Clare will include:
Teaching classes and developing a class curriculum
Creating an outreach strategy to work with local and international partners to
strengthen TYO's presence in the community and bring in new funding and
support for its programs
Supporting TYO’s existing programs, including initiatives geared towards women's empowerment
Performing a comprehensive needs assessment of the local communities and suggesting programs to better serve them; and
If time permits, assisting TYO in implementing changes to existing programs and crafting new programs.
About this, Karen and Clare said:
“We will work with Tomorrow's Youth Organization to help them better serve the
impoverished and refugee populations of Nablus, in the West Bank. TYO's primary
focus is its after-school program for children from the four refugee camps around Nablus and some of the poorest neighborhoods within the city itself. These classes (which cover subjects like drama, computers, English, and music) are designed to help the kids work through the trauma they experience on a day-to-day basis from the ongoing violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and chronic poverty inherent to the ongoing refugee problem. TYO also runs parenting classes for the childrens' parents, a volunteer program for students from the local university, and an entrepreneurship and business development program for women.
& Clare Herceg,
Class of 2011
“We contacted many NGOs working with refugees in the Middle East, and found a number of organizations doing really indispensable work in the region. Nevertheless, it was clear that we could leave a significant and lasting impact by working with TYO in Nablus because TYO is a small organization with deep ties to the local community. We collaborated with TYO's director to design a project that responds to important needs at TYO while playing to our strengths and interests.
“While there, we will put together a comprehensive outreach strategy for TYO and conduct a needs assessment in the local community. In putting together the outreach strategy, we will work with local and international partners to strengthen TYO's presence in the community and bring in new funding and support for its programs. For the needs assessment, we will meet with members of the community to understand what TYO is doing well, how their programs can be improved, and what kinds of needs are currently going unmet. At the end of that process, we will propose and design new initiatives and program adjustments to make sure TYO is serving Nablus's children and their community in the most effective possible way. We will also teach classes directly and support some of TYO's ongoing programs.”
The Director of TYO’s Nablus center wrote that TYO’s challenging goal is to establish five centers modeled after the one in Nablus by 2013 – a goal that she considers more likely to be achieved with Karen and Clare’s contributions to the organization. Karen and Clare’s project would not be accomplished in the near future without them, and “they will leave a significant impact on TYO and the refugee community that will outlive their years with us.” TYO is fully committed to overseeing their work “and ensuring that they receive the support necessary to complete it.”
Karen and Clare are not only intelligent and well organized but also highly motivated and passionate in pursuing their project. As a student, Karen has been devoted to “the study of human rights and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and is writing her thesis on Israeli and Palestinian women’s political organizations. Clare says that “service has defined my life thus far and will continue to guide it,” and she hopes ultimately “to support and create national policies regarding the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular.”
While studying for the spring 2010 semester at the American University in Cairo, Clare also undertook service work as a volunteer English teacher. In the summer of 2009, she was an intern with Endeavor Jordan, an Amman-based nonprofit that focuses on entrepreneurship. This past summer, she held an internship performing local outreach in Goshen, N. Y. for the then-U.S. Rep. John Hall. Among her many activities at Princeton, she served as an officer in the Princeton Committee on Palestine, Orange Key campus guide organization, and the Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education (SHARE) office at Princeton. She also has served as a volunteer teacher with a prisoner assistance program in Bordentown, N.J.
After Karen’s internship there this past summer, an official of the Middle East Institute highly recommended her for playing “an invaluable role,” and for having “distinguished herself as an extremely bright and motivated intern,” who was clearly
committed to working in the Middle East and “is just the kind of American who can have an impact on the lives of young Palestinians.” Clare’s supervisor for her internship called her “a truly outstanding person,” who is “one of our most outstanding volunteers” and expressed the belief that Clare is “ideally suited for this Fellowship.” And the seminar leader of the course both Karen and Clare took on Modern Israel (from Princeton’s Program in Judaic Studies) said that both are “exceptional students – intelligent, hard-working and incredibly motivated” and that they have “a sense of maturity and responsibility that is rare among undergraduates.”
Karen says: “Throughout the course of the fellowship, I look forward to directly addressing some of the serious problems that I have studied over the last four years. Moreover, I hope that the experience will help guide my future efforts--political, development-related, or otherwise--to make a positive contribution to American-Middle East relations and human security and peace throughout the region.”
In terms of the Fellowship, Clare says:
"I am deeply grateful to the ReachOut Fellowship donors for this phenomenal opportunity to leave a real, lasting impact through serving a population clearly in need. My recent experience in the region illustrated to me the significant challenges that these children face every day, and I look forward to directly addressing those issues. I can't express my gratitude to the Fellowship Committee enough for this once-in-a lifetime opportunity.
“I was completely surprised and, of course, thrilled when I heard that we had been awarded this fellowship. It's pretty unbelievable that we've been able to design our dream project and that the ReachOut committee is giving us the resources to make it a reality. I'm deeply grateful for the committee's support for our project. My experiences in the West Bank have shown me just how important this work is, and I'm honored to be able to carry it out.
“The committee's decision to add an international fellowship provides an invaluable opportunity to Princeton students hoping to make a positive contribution to communities outside the United States. Many students have spent their time at Princeton studying those huge issues that affect people across international boundaries--including human rights, poverty, violent politics, public health, gender inequality, and the environment. Work in other countries is often crucial to addressing these important issues, and the ReachOut International Fellowship allows students to think critically and practically about how best to make a material difference.”