Hello PPI community! My name is Heba El-Hendi, and I will be an International Fellow for the Middle East program. I am absolutely thrilled to join the team and commit myself to the mission of PeacePlayers. You will be hearing a lot from me in the coming months, but to start off, here is some background information about myself.
I was born to Palestinian parents in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where I spent the first eight years of my life. The year 1999 marked extreme change because my family and I immigrated to the United States. Home for me is a topic that is difficult to explain in a quick blurb because I have spent much of my life in different locations. Clinton, Utah, is the place I have lived the longest, and it’s where my immediate family currently lives. However, much of my extended family lives in the Middle East, including in the Acre area of Israel and in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, which is actually where my parents grew up.
I can easily say the best four years of my life were spent at Emory University in Atlanta where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. While at Emory, I connected with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, which furthered my motivation to travel. I had the opportunity to strike a balance between travel and education by studying abroad in both Morocco and Israel. After I graduated, I continued living abroad, spending a year in Morocco teaching English to university students through a Fulbright fellowship.
During my time studying abroad in Israel, I learned about PeacePlayers International through a past volunteer and fellow, Jack Randolph. At that time, I would have never guessed that two years later I would have an opportunity to work for PeacePlayers. After my study abroad in Israel, I became even more interested and devoted to peace initiatives. For the past two summers, I have worked with Seeds of Peace as a camp counselor for youth coming from the Middle East and South Asia. Seeds of Peace introduced me to the importance of empowering youth with the skill set and experience to listen to the ‘enemies’’ narrative while engaging in activities to build humanistic connections.
I am looking forward to continuing this line of work with PeacePlayers International – Middle East. I am excited to learn more about the organization while witnessing the power it has in bringing youth together. I’ve always thrived in settings involving interactions with youth, especially through mentorship, and I am enthused to have this opportunity with PeacePlayers. The Middle East has always been a place of interest and a place I have felt connected to. During my time in the Middle East, I hope to connect to the region in a new, meaningful way through my work as a PPI International Fellow.