Trust success with Norwich Palestinian student
By Keith Morris
2010: A young student from a Palestinian
refugee camp near Bethlehem
has just successfully completed 18 months of study in Norwich
thanks to an innovative educational trust set up in memory of a local parish priest.
Bahaa Milhem (pictured right), from Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, has recently returned home after studying at City College Norwich with the help of funding from the college itself and as the first recipient of support from the local John Aves Educational Trust.
The Trust was set up in memory of Norwich minister, Revd Canon Dr John Aves, who was living and working in Dheisheh Camp at the time of his death in January 2004.
The Trust seeks to empower disadvantaged young people to fulfill their potential through educational achievement in order for them to better serve their community. Before his death, John wrote from the refugee camp: “This centre is run by some of the many Palestinians who are placing their hopes in educating their children in dance groups, in self-confidence and language skills and computer technology to carry on the long-term struggle with dignity and grace.”
To date the Trust, which involves John’s wife Anne (pictured below with the Bishop of Norwich, Graham James) and sons Edmund and Ben, has raised £23,000 to fulfill these aims
For the first six months in Norwich, Bahaa studied basic English and a computer qualification, then from September 2009 to July 2010 he studied Access to HE Humanities and Social Science. He has achieved all these qualifications with good marks and for his final assignment, writing about the Palestinian struggle and the importance of the media, he gained a distinction.
“He said: “It has been privilege being the first John Aves Trust Fund’s scholar. It is not easy to describe my experience in the UK which was challenging, educational and incredibly valuable in terms of cultural understanding. I spent an unforgettable period in the UK and I consider myself lucky that I had this opportunity.
“This project has broadened my understanding and changed the way I look at everything surrounding me. It also strengthened my confidence and made me more aware of what is going on in the world,” said Bahaa.
“This experience has given me the chance to look in a different way at my society and to understand its actual needs. This project provided me a unique opportunity to improve my English skills and to make friends that I would not have been able to know otherwise.
“It also gave me the chance to visit many places I was dreaming to visit. Besides that I felt safe and free to go anywhere in the UK at any time, which I have never felt it before in a country like Palestine.”
Anne Aves, who has worked at City College since 1984, said: "When John died so suddenly, Ben Edmund and I knew we would like to continue to make the hope that John had written about just the day before he died a reality. We also knew that education is an important way of giving hope and also the means by which fundamentalism will be rejected by the young people.
"A parishioner had likened John to a firework - a mixture of rocket, banger and sparkler - so we knew that whatever we did in John's memory had to be living memorial. The ideas began to take shape and the three of us returned to the camp to discuss these. We returned twice more and on the last visit met Bahaa and his family.
"I'm thrilled that Bahaa arrived in Norwich and through his hard work and amazing support from his tutors and fellow students has achieved well deserved success. And humbled because so many have been part of making this happen, to do something positive in John's memory. As a clergy family you are never just a nuclear family but rather part of a wide and rich community. So we are no longer just the three of us but the John Aves Educational Trust exciting times ahead. "
Bahaa’s study has proved a real success as from September he will go on to study at Bethlehem University, with the help of the Trust, which will also be helping fund two other Bethlehem University students.
Many of the donations so far have come from local parishes and the fund-raising is continuing. Anne and colleagues always welcome an opportunity to talk to organisations and groups about our Trust. More information from Anne Aves at firstname.lastname@example.org