A girl sitting on a floor with art material in front of her. There is a lot of people around her.

The library is a second home

Joining the Tamer Institute’s activities became a lifeline for 17 year-old Celine. The library has given her a safe place to be in an unstable world. It’s a space where she can share experiences and feelings, and where she can be her true self.

“Here I’ve found that safe space where I can say exactly what I think and feel with no fear of being judged or people thinking I’m weird.”

It’s difficult being young in Palestine. The occupation means that life is subject to restrictions and constant fear.

“To develop, to become the person you want to be, it’s important to find safe spaces where you can meet new people, express your opinions and find something you are passionate about.”

For Celine Zuwawi, the Tamer Institute has become her safe space. She thinks she has got better not just at expressing herself and standing up for what she thinks but also at listening to others and accepting that sometimes people have different opinions.

“I’ve understood that I mustn’t let myself be indoctrinated, that my opinions are important and that your opinions are also important. I’ve learned a lot about social interaction,” she says.

Celine lives in Nablus in the West Bank with her mother, grandmother and little brother. When there is violence and unrest on the streets, she is scared and feels helpless, but it also makes her angry. Why should she have to live like this?

A girl holding a painted frame made of carton.

“The programme gives me space to express all my feelings, including my anger. I get to write what I feel and I get to talk about it. I can discuss these difficult experiences with our leaders and with other young people.”

Girls and boys are treated the same

Another thing she appreciates is that the Tamer Institute's activities are open to both girls and boys.

“There is a big difference between girls and boys in our society. Girls are seen as weaker and we always have to prove that we can do things, that we can cope on our own without help. In the Tamer Institute we girls are taken seriously. We are treated the same way as the boys. We can talk about the situation for women and we get to meet and socialise, girls and boys together. You don’t get that in many other places.”

The meetings are often held in the municipal library and this has become like a second home for Celine. Here she meets people who she can feel completely comfortable with.

“We can be sad together, or angry, we have gone through a lot of emotions together. We have grown very close and although we often have different opinions, we accept each other.”

Celine found out about the Tamer Institute through school. When she told her parents that she wanted to attend the activities, she was surprised by her father’s reaction.

“He was really pleased and said he was also in Tamer Institute when he was young!”

Campaigns for reading

Last year, Celine and her father were part of the “Baba read to me” campaign.
The campaign aimed to get more dads to read to their children more. Celine has volunteered on several campaigns run by the Tamer Institute. This includes the annual national reading week which seeks to get Palestinians to read more, and the annual “I donated a book”-campaign.

“The youth groups go out and knock on doors and ask if people have any books they could donate. Besides collecting lots of books, it’s helped me get over my shyness. I’ve found it easier to talk to people I don’t know.”

Celine has also taken part in challenges and competitions run by the Tamer Institute and has won an award for debating.

“I’ve been involved in lots of debates and become better at it. I’ve learned to listen and accept that the person I’m talking to might have a different opinion while feeling confident about my own opinions and thoughts and being able to put them into words. I think I’ve got better at listening and analysing first and only then making a decision.”

Celine’s dream is to be able to be the person she wants to be; an open, thinking person who never stops learning.

“I want to study law and teach at university. Sometimes I dream of being an ambassador and making my voice heard on the global stage.”