Peace and Conflict Studies
West Chester University
Dr. Dean Johnson, Coordinator
Anderson Hall, Room 332A
West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383
Glenn Chon (2012) majored in Psychology with a minor in Peace & Conflict Studies and Political Science. He is currently interning in Israel at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, an intentional cooperative village founded jointly by Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs.
Smells of curry and coriander as I walk through the market near Damascus Gate, quite similar to the huge market in Istanbul, Turkey I visited on a random trip to meet up with my brother and his friend, just more menorahs for sale. Taking a breather in front of a fan that mists water, a common appliance around the Middle East. I'm definitely lost; took some back routes, followed some intoxicating baked smells which led me to a cafe and now I'm sitting here drinking an iced coffee.
I took today to go get my modem-wireless router combo exchanged at bezeq (one of the major communication companies here) It took a good 20 minutes to figure out what was needed, language barriers really got in the way. I had about 4 employees helping me at one point and with their collective English skills and my nonexistent Hebrew skills, we prevailed at getting the router exchanged, never mind the phone call I had to make for extra information that probably cleared a lot of things up. They were very helpful though, which I really appreciated. On a brighter note, my Arabic is progressing, albeit slowly. I can barely get myself to sit down and study it during the week between work, the gym, and spending time with the villagers. Hopefully I can find a class to enroll in when I get home.
The most beneficial messages I’m absorbing are the personal stories each person has to offer from both sides. Unfortunately the personal stories have also created a social barrier between both sides of the conflict. The social barrier is one of the issues the SFP does its binational meetings of individuals who are willing to participate. The meeting starts with a struggle of who the victim is, then moves on to realizing both sides are the victim and awareness and understanding are the keys to solving the conflict. Jews often feel shame however many still hold firm that they do not want to give up the land. There have been Jewish participants who come into the meeting thinking they're sensitive to the Arab population but quickly find themselves in the role that they usually argue against, repeating the same lines that were used against them as a defense mechanism when the blame game comes up. By the end of the meetings, participants tend to realize this and start thinking together with their counterparts to brainstorm ideas on how to tackle these daunting problems in their professional fields as well as their day to day lives. The meetings uncover issues beyond religious issues and resources and it's a step in the right direction. It's interesting to see a how moderate views could be considered somewhat radical here depending on who you talk to, relativity is quite intriguing.
As a nonprofit organization, NSWAS gets most of its funding from organizational grants and friends associations around the world. Each organization has its own agenda and the sub organizations at NSWAS must cater to their wants and needs which is a conflict that I'm beginning to see more and more of while I'm working here. Everyone has their view of what they think is right and it seems as if it's a constant struggle for power over how programs are run. I understand it's a complex issue and I'm certain I'd be caught up in the process as well if I was officially a part of the organization. I'll just have to remind myself of this experience when I face similar circumstances, hopefully catching myself before things get too out of control.
Now on to funding… it is an interesting matter. I'm seeing myself supporting the business model for non-profits much more appealing. Maybe it's because I grew up experiencing small business from the day I was born but to me it just makes sense. Being here, I'm getting an insight into how nonprofits must stay afloat and adapt to the quickly changing demands of donors at the risk of going under. Many of the donors aren't close to the problem and fail to see the intricate details that need to be tended to, not intentionally of course. The distance factor, language barriers and cultural differences have huge parts in communication road blocks that form between donor and recipient; a field that would greatly benefit from dual language and conflict majors, but that comes down to costs. The problem could benefit from adopting a business model and establishing a steady flow of overhead funds. Sure, I agree that the majority of the funds should go to the intended cause, but how can an organization successfully tackle problems if they can’t adequately fund the vital employees that play a big role in the success of the organization? Dreamers are great to have, they bring motivation, purpose, and ideas but reality plays a factor in all of this. People have bills to pay and the world is in short supply of talented individuals who are willing to dedicate long periods of their lives working for free. I don't see the problem with investing funds in advertising (properly researched of course) and receiving more funds as a result. Sure, investing in advertising has its risks but it's much more stable than the alternative where an organization acts as the middle man to distribute funds to constantly changing projects and barely has enough free reserves to keep going. I'd love to hear other opinions on this so if you'd like to exchange thoughts over email, please contact me at GCq1w2e3@gmail.com with the subject P&C Non Profits.
With less than a month left here in Israel, I’m beginning to think about how I’ll miss all the great people I’ve met here. I’m also a bit worried about taking the next step. I’ve been sending cover letters and resumes out here and there but haven’t found anything that would really grab my attention. I’d really like to get into research but that’s for the future I suppose. We’ll see what happens.