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Who We Are


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Who We Are


Our Mission

LEAD Palestine is an initiative that aims to inspire, motivate, and empower the next generation of Palestinian youth. Working in collaboration with local organizations, community centers, and university students, we offer young Palestinians one-on-one mentorship and a fun, hands-on, leadership-based summer program where they will develop a sense of their own capacities and acquire the necessary skills to solve the problems they face. We believe that everyone has the potential to be a leader, and we want to cultivate that potential. We want every child to know that they are capable, talented, and cared for by positive mentors they can look up to.

LEAD Palestine is not an initiative aimed at addressing conflict resolution in the region, but instead providing kids with a positive outlet for empowerment and mentorship.

So, What's Next?

We are organizing a summer day-camp for children aged between 13 and 15 years old. LEAD Palestine's counselors will primarily be local university students that will later serve as mentors to the children throughout the rest of the year.

This summer program will be made up of fun, hands-on, leadership based workshops and activities. Hosted by experts in a wide range of categories, the activities are designed to be engaging and will offer the children a chance for reflection to take away concepts and knowledge about themselves that they can later apply in their life. Our vision is to inspire and equip children with skills that will enable their own capacities to be change-makers in their communities. We want to offer these students the chance to express their frustrations and pains in healthy ways, so that they do not have to resort to the violence and drug abuse commonly experienced in their communities. 

It is our dream that in ten years, when these children are adults and serve as the teachers, politicians, or entrepreneurs of their communities, they will have the foundation of ethical and empowering leadership that will allow them to take control of their own lives as well as positively impact the lives of others.

 

Where We Are

The New Askar refugee camp

Nablus, Palestine

New Askar is located five kilometers outside of the city of Nablus in the West Bank. This area is categorized as Zone C land, an area that comprises about 60% of the West Bank and is under almost complete Israeli control. Not officially recognized as a camp by governmental authorities, the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) is not allowed into New Askar to provide any services.

This has created disastrous circumstances for the residents of New Askar. It hosts a 70% unemployment rate, and with no police presence within the camp, is prone to violence and drug abuse. Water is not always available and electricity is not reliable. Living under these conditions, many resistance fighters come from New Askar to join resistance efforts against Israel. The United Nations has expressed the need for sustainable programs that can offset the dangerous trends that exist within the camp. 

But New Askar is also full of a vibrant community of people, including children who are eager to learn, explore, and dream about where their lives will take them as they grow.  See our photo slide show here.

 
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Our Team


Our Team


 

RJ Khalaf-- Co-founder, executive director

Born into a Palestinian family, RJ's great grandfather emigrated to the United States through Ellis Island in 1912. His family has been back and forth between Palestine since. Raised in Las Vegas in a family of 6, RJ has a true passion for friendship and maintaining meaningful relationships. A coffee fanatic, he has dreams of one day owning a coffee shop where he can serve the greatest coffee to the coolest people. 

RJ is determined to make everlasting social impact by standing up for the social and political rights of those around the world. His work in Palestinian refugee camps and his efforts in the Muslim Student Association he founded as a freshman in high school have greatly influenced his career aspirations. He has been featured in multiple publications, including CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, and recently finished a fellowship with the Muslim Public Affairs Council through their Congressional Leadership Development Program in the United States. A Junior in Global Liberal Studies at NYU, RJ is concentrating on Politics, Rights, and Development. He is also pursuing a minor in Social Entrepreneurship. 

HANNAH BENSON-- Co-Founder, executive producer

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Hannah was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. Having experienced the power of positive mentors throughout her high school years, she is very passionate about the importance of having adults to cheer you on through genuine friendship– and who can sometimes believe in you more than you believe in yourself. 

Also a student at New York University, she concentrates in Politics, Rights, and Development as well as Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies. Her current research focuses on the integration process of highly-skilled refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan settling in Sweden and the United States. 

 
 

ASHRAF hAMMAD-- cHIEF iMPACT OFFICER

 

Ashraf was born in the West Bank and lived there until the age of five, when the violence of the Second Intifada drove his family to immigrate to the United States, settling in an East Bay Oakland suburb. 

Ashraf has a passion for social justice and a drive to pursue knowledge outside of purely academic contexts. He graduated in 2017 from Santa Clara University with a major in Political Science and emphases in Arabic, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies and Social Entrepreneurship. His background—living in the West Bank and immigrating to the United States—combined with his experiences conducting research in Morocco and Nepal serve as the foundation in which he hopes to build a career researching, developing, and implementing sustainable solutions to assist the Middle East’s marginalized.

Our Supporters


Our Supporters


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Our Team


Our Team


 

Our Team

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RJ Khalaf-- Co-Founder/Executive Director

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Hannah Benson-- Co-Founder/Executive Producer

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Meet Our Counselors

majd owda

Majd completed her undergraduate degree in Law, and laterexpanded her specialization into International Human Rights Law. She obtained a Master’s Degree in Democratic Governance - Democracy and Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa from Ca' Foscari University of Venice.

She is most interested in the problem of Palestinian refugees, because she believes that the Palestinian issue is at the heart of the conflict plaguing the Middle East. She believes that any solutions that may be imposed on the Palestinians without achieving justice to refugees will be temporary solutions that will not bring a just and lasting peace to the region.

 

muaz madmouj

Muaz was born and raised in Nablus, a Palestinian city in the West Bank. He first got involved in the political situation in Palestine because he believes that he needs to improve the difficult situation in Palestine in order to protect the kids from living in a similar reality to that one he lived in; he wants to keep them away from the suffering he has endured.

Muaz decided to study law at An-Najah university in Nablus because of his conviction that he misses the law in his daily life while he sees the huge spread of the injustice around him. He aspires to receive a master’s degree in International Law and Political Science from the United States and then return to his country in order to build young leaders. He reckons that nothing is better than the youth finding the solutions for the issues that his community faces.

Muaz believes that the ideas of the old leaders are outdated now, and is involved in Lead Palestine because he wants to invest in building new leaders who can lead the Palestinians to a better life.

In Muaz’s words: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” He believes that the best way to make that experience right is by giving love and care to those who need it the most.

Mohammed-Hasan Tbaileh

Mohammed-Hasan Tbaileh is a 19-year-old student at An-Najah National University in Nablus. Hasan studies Civil Engineering and loves sports (especially basketball) and science (especially physics). Hassan has a passion for meeting new people and living out weird, exciting, and new experiences. He has been volunteering since he was 15 years old, working with those in need during the holy month of Ramadan and volunteering with Al-Nayzak research programs throughout the West Bank and Gaza. With Lead Palestine he most looks forward to being able to influence others' lives in a fun, less traditional way. Hasan has lived his whole life in Nablus and believes that this is an opportunity to share his experiences and demonstrate the power of hope.

Bayan janem

Bayan Janem is a law student, adventure lover, and volunteer because she believes that helping others is a blessing. At 20 years old, Bayan aims to be a successful woman with high ambitions, and hopes to gain a large amount of knowledge from life experience about science and law, specifically in International Law. Bayan believes that success isn't just about what you accomplish in your life, but about what you inspire others to do. Lead Palestine is the place where she sees herself doing her best- to inspire children to be big leaders in the future because THEY CAN! Refugees face plenty of difficulties during their lives, but Bayan believes that those difficulties build them with a strong base to be warrior people against the injustice and the oppression, and build the courage in them to learn, to teach, and to prove to the world that they have the ability to change the world to be a better place to live in.

fatma kanaan

Fatma is 22 years old and grew up in Nablus, Palestine.

She is a Lawyer & Master’s student at An-Najah National University. Fatma spent many years of her life volunteering with local and international community organizations, and quickly found that spending time with people who need help is one of the best times of her life. Lead Palestine is the path she wants to follow because it provides the chance to work with children living in refugee camps and support them, discover their talents, and help them to improve and foster their strengths.

Ahmed madmouj

tbw.