The people who make the difference: Putting faces to change in the West Bank

By Laura Banks, Brand Engagement Officer, CARE Canada

Have you ever met someone for the first time and felt like you’ve known them for years? Have you experienced an immediate kinship, a common way of speaking about things and a natural openness?

I felt that way when I met CARE’s West Bank and Gaza (WBG) staff this past fall at their office in Ramallah.

Working for an international organization, I have the privilege of corresponding with CARE colleagues all over the world. But it’s much more rewarding to meet them face to face.

My colleague Kasia and I were there to hear and document the stories and images of women (and men too!) who are ending inequality despite the many challenges they face each day.

We walked into the CARE office and immediately felt at home. The images on the walls, the CARE logo, the bustling energy of the staff, and of course, the scent of freshly-brewed coffee were familiar to say the least.

After meeting everyone, we went over our itinerary for the next four days, which was jam-packed.

On one visit, we met a group of incredible women who are eco-farming in the Jordan Valley. We were accompanied by May, who is CARE WBG’s Impact & Learning Coordinator, Program Management and Implementation. She visits the communities CARE is partnering with regularly to ensure things are going well and address any issues.  Like all of our colleagues in the area, May is the embodiment of warmth, intelligence, humility and kindness. She had smiles for and received smiles from everyone we met on our visit. Our regional community leader, Jaffar also accompanied us, and he got the same reaction. Everyone knew his name and showered him with smiles, handshakes and compliments (as well as some good-natured teasing).

May (left) with Iman (right), one of the founding members of a cooperative of female organic farmers in a remote community in Nassareyeh in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. Laura Banks/CARE May (left) with Iman (right), one of the founding members of a cooperative of female organic farmers in a remote community in Nassareyeh in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. Laura Banks/CARE

It was immediately and so apparently evident to us just how much all of the CARE WBG staff are loved by the communities they work with. The collective of women we met with told us that CARE stood out among other non-profit organizations because the staff didn’t do the work for them and encouraged them to give their thoughts, feedback and opinions.

“We didn’t give them a business plan,” said May. “We worked with them so they could develop their own. It’s the women themselves that have really done everything. We’re just here for support and to help them get the resources they need.”

May and the whole team of local CARE staff are quick to stress that they play a secondary role. The women are the true heroes, they say, the true change makers. But May and others support their efforts by encouraging them to do things their way and providing them with the tools and confidence they need to succeed.

As for the staff who didn’t accompany us on our field visits, they too worked tirelessly to ensure we had the best visits possible, to keep us safe and provide their incredible expertise and knowledge to frame our content gathering and put it into context. Even before we met them, the staff worked with us to plan such rich, inspirational trips so we could capture the best stories possible. The knowledge and understanding they imparted on us as we visited different communities was invaluable and really helped us to better understand the complexities and lasting impact of CARE’s work. Our staff’s understanding and insight into the communities they serve-and of which they themselves are a part of-is so impressive. From our security lead who took such good care of us to the acting country director, all the program experts, our drivers, logistics support and more, we were truly humbled, moved and reinvigorated by our visit to the West Bank.

The partnership that exists between CARE and the amazing women we visited in the West Bank will continue to diminish inequality by involving men and boys. Working together with the women in their community, these men have become incredible champions for equality. And it’s a huge thanks to CARE’s people on the ground that this is possible. I’ve seen few better examples in my life of what we can achieve when we truly come together to end inequality.

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