About Ashley

ashley_virgin_profileIn May of 2014, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel on a Belmont Study Abroad Maymester to Turkey, Greece, and Israel. While in Israel, we visited the historic Palestinian city of Bethlehem, located in the West Bank. After walking around the beautiful cobblestone streets, visiting with residents in the community and hearing their stories, and seeing the Separation Barrier, I became interested in learning more about the culture of the area and the issues they face as a society, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In short, I fell in love with the city, and since our group left, I have always dreamed of returning to Bethlehem. Thanks to the Lumos Foundation, I am finally able to follow my dreams of returning to Bethlehem and working closely with a community I feel so passionate about. From July to December of 2016, I will live in Bethlehem and work with WI’AM Conflict Resolution and Transformation Center.
I graduated from Belmont in May 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. Sociology ignited my interests in social justice and community development work. Both my courses and volunteer experiences while at Belmont helped me discover that education and creativity can serve as important conduits to social change and youth empowerment. It was a perfect match when I discovered WI’AM because I feel their mission parallels my interests and beliefs about youth empowerment. WI’AM strives to organize workshops and classes for the city’s youth that focus on community building and resiliency in the context of a contentious social and political climate. The goal of their activities and programs are to educate and provide youth with nonviolent outlets for self-expression.
WI’AM believes that when children are provided the opportunity to explore their specific educational and artistic interests, they develop their potential to be intelligent, valuable members of their community who recognize their role in continuing nonviolent efforts toward conflict resolution. My aim is to support WI’AM in their efforts to equip Bethlehem’s youth with a combination of educational and creative tools to express their identities and enact sustainable social change in the community. Through WI’AM, I will teach English, internet literacy, and arts classes to children. I will also involve myself in other WI’AM programs and workshops, assist with some administrative tasks, update social media and newsletters for the organization, and learn more about Palestinian culture, community development work, and conflict resolution. I am beyond excited to be a small part of the work WI’AM does in Bethlehem and immerse myself in the culture along the way!