One of the major roadblocks to peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the status and future of the 7 million Palestinian refugees in the region. Nearly half of Palestinian refugees individuals are youth, perhaps none more vulnerable than those living in the 19 UNRWA-designated refugees camps in the West Bank. In refugee camps, conditions are often overcrowded, with poor sanitation. Schools are sometimes closed over 300 days a year, and checkpoints limit the movement of individuals to travel freely and safely. There are high levels of unemployment and poverty, as well as, growing evidence of the effects of the conflict on mental health and behavioral problems.
Firstly, there has been a lack of youth programming that allows youth to take creative ownership of issues occurring in their community, especially in terms of peace
building, development, and non-violence. There are youth programs that integrate young Israelis and Palestinians, but they fail to address the underlying roots of violence and tension existent in refugee camps.
In addition, there is limited access to education for refugees in West Bank refugee camps. In the four that we primarily work in, in order of size, Askar(14,000), Dheisheh (pop. 13,000), Jalazone (9,200), and Al-Azzeh (pop. 1,700), there has been a demand from parents, village elders, and UNRWA teachers for college preparatory programs to assist refugee youth in test preparation, the admissions process, and enrollment.
Finally, there has between limited interaction between refugee camps and international communities. The international community has had little to no exposure to the problems affecting refugee camps, as well as, the rich customs, traditions, and people living there. A deeper knowledge of refugee camps would enable the international community to better understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a range of analytical frames. For many refugee youth, they have never ventured out of their camp and are not taught about global affairs in the classroom. Interaction with foreigners can be positive cultural exchange experiences.
Inspire Dreams' Summer Public Service Program, Camp "I Have a Dream," "Lead Palestine," and College Scholarship Fund seek to address these three areas.