It’s hard to not be molded by our experiences; we carry them around with us. Things that happen in our youth can haunt our consciousness for years. Anees Mansour, a twenty-seven year old Palestinian from Gaza, is here in America to learn about treating childhood trauma while participating in the Leadership Studies Fellowship. The Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank has a horrible effect on the lives of Palestinians, especially the youth. In 2010 a Médecins sans Frontières study claimed half of all Palestinians under the age of 12 need mental health intervention.
What are you doing here in Olympia?
I am here for training with RCF and other NGOS where I will learn about management skills and how they deal with the youth and learn about American culture and see the city Rachel was born in.
How did you meet Rachel Corrie?
It’s a strange story of how I met Rachel. She was my best foreign friend. She was walking in a street where I used to stay and she asked for help. She used my phone and called her friend and she translated that her phone was stolen. I gave her a ride to where she needed to be. After that I wanted to learn from her, I started to learn my English through her. Day by day we became close friends. She was my best friend.
When she was killed it was a black for me and for Palestinians. We don’t call Rachel American, we call her Palestinian. It’s not easy to lose a friend. This is why I used to work for the Rachel Corrie Center there to educate people who she was and why she was killed.
When I got to know Rachel she was on the front line of the occupation, protesting, protecting peoples’ houses, it’s hard to think of someone helping people, to leave paradise, to protect Palestinians who nobody cares about. At one time there was a big invasion, many bulldozers and tanks – I called Rachel to come with her friends to stop these tanks and bulldozers, she said ‘yes, we are coming’, she was on another mission protecting other houses- by the time she got there, a few houses were already demolished. As we were walking away her tears were falling down. I asked my friend Mohammad why she was crying and she said it was because they weren’t able to stop the houses from being demolished.
What are you going to be learning here in Olympia?
I would like to see how groups manage their people. I wanna see how they write the proposals. I want to see how the workers deal with the children and what activities they use.
What is it like being in Olympia?
9 days since I got here it feels like a dream to be In America. Of course it’s a dream to make it to America because there is no occupation and you are free here. The connection between people, everyone is busy with himself, sociality the style of life here is unbelievable. The transportation here is amazing. It’s amazing things, this country is like paradise. The people are smiling. If you meet someone or someone on the street, they are smiling, you know they are comfortable. When I arrived here I wanted to do all these things in one day, to make your dreams happen in one day.
What was your journey like?
All of the parts that I used to cross was impactful for me, Rafah crossing lasted 120 days, it was so taxing. For 125 days I was lucky to get out. I thought things would be better for me in Cairo but with the situation it wasn’t. I felt under pressure, threatened, because Palestinians aren’t welcome in Egypt, this is what I felt.
Why do you like working with kids?
To make children happy, to see them smile, for them to be playing around you. When they are sad it makes me nervous. When they cry it makes me cry.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Computers, videos, I like to be a cameraman, photos, take pictures. I do love to take pictures and record videos around.
Is there anything you wish Americans knew about Palestine and Palestinians?
They have to know that Palestinians are not terrorists, they’re people. They are looking to live with peace with others. Without paying attention it’s like Americans are ok with what the Israelis are doing in Palestine.