Expanding educational opportunity for Palestinian youth.
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Dear Friend,

During the past few months, I have made several trips on behalf of the Hope Fund: to visit colleges in Virginia and Pennsylvania that, by providing generous scholarships, have made the most important contribution to the success of this important initiative. I have also visited current and prospective donors in the United States, London, France, and the UAE. In my discussions, I'm constantly motivated by the inspiring stories of our students and the value donors place on our efforts to make the Hope Fund a robust, sustainable avenue for underserved Palestinians to earn undergraduate degrees in the United States. 

In this newsletter, I want to share with you a video we recently made to support our fundraising efforts. I'm also pleased to introduce the incoming class of 2016 Hope Fund scholars. During their recent orientation at AMIDEAST headquarters in Washington, DC, I had the opportunity to discover firsthand what an outstanding group they are.

We appreciate your support.

Theodore H. Kattouf
President & CEO
Watch our new video to learn more about the Hope Fund and why your support is critical!
The Hope Fund: Building Lives One Student at a Time

Meet Our New Hope Fund Scholars!

We were pleased to get to know eight members of the Class of 2019 during their orientation at AMIDEAST headquarters. Missing from the group shown here with Ambassador Kattouf is Sami Zimmo, who unfortunately wasn't able to leave Gaza in time to start fall semester. Learn more about each one below.  

Dalia Aita

Dalia is a passionate young woman who aspires to a career in science. Her path to a scholarship at New College in Sarasota, Florida, began in ninth grade, when she was accepted to the highly competitive English Access Microscholarship (Access) Program in Rafah, the Gaza Strip. An excellent student, Dalia was selected to spend a year in Oregon on the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program and afterwards qualified for two other competitive scholarship programs: the Abraham Lincoln Grant program and the Hope Fund.  Dalia appreciates the freedom that the Hope Fund scholarship has given her. “Back home, I didn’t have the chance to express who I truly was. I was in a bubble," she recalls. "Now I have a lot of opportunities, now I am open to the world.”

Mohammed Al Asttal

Mohammed comes from Khan Yunis City in the Gaza Strip and is a freshman at the University of Oregon, thinking of double-majoring in international studies and business or civil society, fields that he believes will best prepare him to make an impact in his community. Mohammed grew up amid the anxiety and unrest typical of a childhood in Gaza. But a chance during eighth grade at his UNRWA school to join the Access Program, along with a year spent as a YES student in Oregon, changed his view of the world and his possibilities. As he begins his university studies, Mohammed appreciates the new "turning point" that the Hope Fund has offered for his life. In his words, "The Hope Fund is life changing. It's definitely given me hope for a better future."

Basel Arafat

Basel is excited to begin his studies at the University of Richmond, where he plans to major in computer science — his dream since he was seven years old — and minor in physics or mathematics. Basel, who grew up in Nablus, will also continue his love for track and field and cross country, a passion nourished during the year of high school that he spent in the United States with the YES Program. Happy to be in a challenging college environment, Basel says, "The Hope Fund means a lot to me because it’s an exceptional opportunity. It has really opened a lot of doors to me." Looking ahead to the future, he adds that he hopes to have an opportunity to return to Palestine some day "to bring back what I’ve learned here [because] giving back is important to me."  

Yazan Ba'ara

Yazan describes himself as inquisitive by nature, a dedicated student, and a self-starter who is committed to social entrepreneurship — traits that will serve him well at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he plans to double major in mechanical engineering and business. Although originally from Nablus, Yazan spent his early years in Saudi Arabia before settling with his family in Amman to complete high school and, he notes, get closer to his Palestinian roots. As he did so, he was motivated to volunteer as a mentor to Palestinian orphans and support other activities that further educational opportunity for underprivileged children — reflecting a degree of commitment that he expects will shape his long-term goals. “For me, giving isn’t for show. It’s for a real cause. It’s for furthering the Palestinian diaspora. It’s about the making the Arab world a more knowledgeable place to be.”

Mohammed El-Kurd

Mohammed came to the Hope Fund with a compelling story that has already garnered international media attention via a documentary focused on the impact on his life of the confiscation of his family's home by settlers in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. He is a prolific and talented poet and writer, plus a painter and sketch artist. He aspires to become a writer who contributes to his country’s cultural, artistic, and political life, as well as a voice for his people to the outside world. By studying in the United States, he hopes to acquire the education he needs to become an influential bilingual writer. “I’m beyond grateful for this opportunity,” Mohammed says. “The Hope Fund is not only investing in us as individual people, but in a whole homeland.”

Agnes Handal

Agnes grew up in Bethlehem, where she graduated from Terra Sancta Sisters of Saint Joseph Girls School. She spent her junior year of high school as a YES student in Indiana, where she received a “scholar-athlete” award recognizing her high GPA and participation in varsity track, a sport not offered in her home country. Agnes has an eye on a career in international diplomacy in order to represent her country, and is therefore thinking of double majoring in international relations and creative writing or public affairs. She has already participated in a panel discussion about the Palestinian issue at Roanoke College, where she is happy to be beginning her freshman year: "I love the community. People care about you and they show love, and I love it.”  

Iyad Hmidat

Born and raised in Gaza, Iyad is driven by a dream of a better future for his country and people. At Bridgewater College, he is double majoring in political science and economics with a minor in global studies as he seeks the education and practical experience that will help him achieve his goal of becoming a diplomat for Palestine and helping to provide solutions to the problems facing his society. Iyad attributes his decision to study in the United States, first as a YES student in high school and then as an undergraduate, to his conviction that, by sharing the experiences and knowledge he gains abroad, he can help find “solutions to some of our problems that we struggle [with] back home.”  Iyad, who has amply demonstrated that conviction through many hours of community service during his YES year and in Gaza, adds,  “The Hope Fund gave me the chance to follow my dreams.

Yusuf Qaddura

Growing up in Sidon, Yusuf experienced firsthand the challenges that face Palestinians in Lebanon. After making the difficult transition from an UNRWA school in a refugee camp to a Lebanese high school, he was desperate for a college education that would allow him to pursue his passion for computers and mathematics. Through the Competitive College Club at AMIDEAST/Beirut and the Hope Fund, he earned a scholarship from Swarthmore College, where he is double majoring in computer science and applied mathematics. Yusuf hopes to obtain a doctorate that opens the door to a teaching or research career. He would also like to spread interest in mathematics among Arab youth and thereby advance their analytical skills. “People living in such detrimental conditions, specifically in the refugee camps, find brilliant ways in order to facilitate their lives," he observes. "The youth especially deserve the opportunity that I got through the Hope Fund.”

Sami Zimmo

Sami participated in the YES and Abraham Lincoln programs before coming to the Hope Fund. An outstanding, passionate student who has always striven to be on top, he received a scholarship from Washington and Jefferson College through the Hope Fund. Sami aims to pursue a degree in engineering and believes that the Hope Fund program will enhance his potential and life skills. His departure from Gaza was too late for him to begin his studies this fall, but we look forward to his arrival in time for spring semester!
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