Middle East Update May 2023

Update: May 2023

Community Center Stories:


The center partnered with some women from the neighborhood to hold a neighborhood party/market.  These women had done a few markets in the past for their neighborhood where they would set up tables and sell food, used clothes, and other merchandise. Jill* asked the women if they would like to do another market as a way of celebrating the holiday.

“Yes! But you have to help bring customers to the market.”

We helped do some advertising, cleaned up the area for the market, and collected used books and clothes to sell cheaply at the market.

It turned out to be two full evenings. The first evening a man volunteered to give the children rides on his horse. The second evening a local musician came out to give us live music. The musician’s desire is to raise awareness for cleaning up litter, and he had made a few songs about that topic. I enjoyed face painting many children’s faces, asking their names, and not remembering any of them.

At the end of the market as we were saying goodbye to the women who had come out to sell items, they told us, “We need to do this again during our next holiday!”


            During Ramadan, we are doing clubs after sunset. The club that I am helping with is a sports club for girls. One of the new items at the center was a volleyball net and ball.

           From past conversations I had gotten the impression that volleyball was a sport that girls play here at school. I had also heard that volleyball was a sport that lots of people played during Ramadan.

           Nelleke instructed the girls to break into three teams. She explained the rules about the passing the ball three times or less within the team before it went to the other side.  Then she left. We started the game.

           The ball was served by a girl in the front row. It made it over the net but was not returned.

           “It’s okay, try again.”

          Very soon we realized that a simple explanation of rules was not enough. These girls were not familiar with volleyball. We tried having them practice hitting the ball, then we went back to the game. However, not being scared of a ball flying towards your face is a learned skilled. In the end, we played a version of volleyball which included catching the ball.

         Going back home, I felt like the night had been utter chaos.  But in looking back at it, I realized that the chaos actually came from expecting the night to go a certain way that didn’t happen. The girls kept coming back each week excited to play sports with us.

The Stick:

              The second week of the club, a mom walked her two boys to the center. Jill had known this family for a while. During the first day, the two boys had asked to leave early. Because of this, Jill asked the mom to stay during the next club. With her two boys, she walked into the center holding a plastic stick.

             Jill gave me a sidenote in passing.  “It was probably used to help bring her boys here.”

             Jill’s little girl was also there. She began to play with the stick. Taking the opportunity, Jill started a game using the stick as a pointer. “Where is the policeman?” she asked her daughter. Then she handed the stick to one of the boys. He hesitated, but with his mother’s encouragement, played the game with Jill.

                At the end of the hour and a half, the mother and the 20-year-old volunteer were talking on the couch as I played monkey in the middle with the children. During that time, I got to see a few smiles from the boys. Their mother also seemed happier and much more relaxed.

Language Story:

Smile From Heaven:

              A local friend, her niece, and I went to a book fair. We walked into the room. The place was milling with people. There were so many books!!! It was the most books that I had seen in one place written in the local language. (Probably because I have never been to a library here.)

               Before leaving for the fair, my friend and I had agreed, “Let’s not stay more than an hour; I had a long day today.” My friend was intent on looking for a book in English, and I had my eye out for books in the language that I am studying. Whenever we approached a table, we would part ways. She would head for the English and I for the non-English books.

              We approached one stand that had some kids chapter books. We stood there discussing for a while about a book.

             “What do you think of this one? I actually understood the first two sentences that I read!”

             My friend proceeded to read out loud a little more from the book testing to see how much I understood.

            “Ask for a lower price,” she instructed.

             After getting the price lowered about 2.5 dollars, and only understanding half of what the guy said because he was speaking a dialect from a different country, I began to pay for the book.

             “Where are you from?” he asked.


             He gave me the book and refused my money. We walked away in shock. My friend told me that he wanted to show me that all people from this area are kind and generous and good.

              “I need to go to America so that I can get a free gift for being a visitor,” my friend said, laughing.