Mar 312011
 

KG Rehabilitation in GazaWhen natural disasters destroy housing or conflict forces families to flee their homes, HCI provides temporary and permanent shelter. HCI also contributes to local infrastructure by building schools, irrigation canals, and community centers in impoverished communities.

During the 2009 war a large section of Gaza’s infrastructure was destroyed and the crippling blockade has prevented any meaningful attempts at rebuilding. It is estimated that two thirds of children living in Gaza and the West Bank do not have safe areas for entertainment, socializing and playing.

In response, HCI launched its Kindergarten rehabilitation program in 2009 and tens of preschools in Gaza and the West Bank have been rehabilitated since. The project extended into 2010 to cover several additional kindergartens directly affected by the war.

Though physical rehabilitation and temporary employment creation are a major component of the program, equal attention is given to improving the quality of education and teaching as well. In addition, local residents participated in the rehabilitation of the KGs and were provided with temporary jobs.

In 2010 the housing conditions of unprivileged families in Gaza, particularly families with special needs, were assessed, HCI then provided them with the necessary home appliances and accessories to make their homes safer, more comfortable and more accessible.

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Dec 112009
 

HCI KG West BankFrequent arrests, military raids, over 600 Israeli military checkpoints, severely restricted freedom of movement, and ever-expanding settlements occupying more and more land are all a part of life in the West Bank. Conflict, poverty, unemployment, and isolation have left its residents with an uncertain future. The physically and mentally challenged, who according to WHO estimates make up 7-10% of the Palestinian population, are far from immune to these issues. To make matters worse, continued conflict, landmines, and political instability mean that the number of challenged individuals will continue to rise. They are subjected to societal prejudice and lack of opportunities. Discrimination against the physically and mentally challenged is widespread, and extends into the educational system. This prejudice, combined with the very poor state of accessibility throughout the West Bank due to hilly geography and lack of reliable public transport, means that young, challenged children are often denied the chance to attend school.

Children, in particular, are sensitive to the traumatic events which characterize life in the West Bank, and it affects their development acutely. Disabled children may be faced with two challenges, both the physical handicap of, for example, a hearing impairment, and the emotional damage caused by the sudden loss of a family member due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Displacement and an uncertain future are felt by children as well as adults. They are deprived of the sense of stability and social cohesion that is critical for healthy psychosocial development.

HCI KG West BankThe Palestinian Authority does not have the resources to aid these children. Funding for specialized schools is not readily available, and the economic crisis throughout the West Bank means that resources remain scarce. Restricted movement and occupation have taken their toll on the West Bank economy, and in turn on the funds available to the Palestinian Authority. This means that it is up to Non-Governmental Organizations like Human Concern International to fill the gap, and give the children the education they need for a real chance at a fulfilling life.

Without education physically and mentally challenged children are often doomed to a life of dependency and poverty. To prevent this from happening they must be reached at as young an age as possible. Numerous studies have shown that early childhood development is crucial for success later in life. In light of these facts HCI, along with local partners like the Vocational Rehabilitation Workshops Society for Girls (VRWSG), have established a unique kindergarten in Bethlehem targeted specifically at physically and mentally challenged children with a special focus on the hearing impaired; there is much work to be done in the field of providing early education opportunities for special needs children in Palestine and The Human Concern Kindergarten (which was given its name by the local partners in recognition of HCI’s efforts in the region) is proud to be one of the pioneers that provides these children with a much needed sense of normalcy and stability that is sorely lacking in the lives of West Bank children. It gives them the confidence they need to face the enormous challenges which await them later in life.

HCI KG West BankThe school has a capacity of forty children. That is forty Palestinian children who are given a safe haven, specialized training, and a chance at a better future. Teachers trained in sign language give hearing impaired children the chance to fully communicate. Furthermore, the school not only aids the hearing impaired, it is also fully accessible to the physically challenged, and has staff ready and able to deal with whatever difficulty the children may face, whether is it physical or mental. The school is fully equipped, and all facilities (rooms, entrance/exits, door, kitchen, toilets, playground, etc) are approved by the Ministry of Higher Education as fully accessibilities for children with mental, hearing, or physical impairments. Its staff includes counselors specially trained to work with deaf and mute pre-school children, as well as social workers capable of providing psychosocial support.

HCI KG West BankHelping children is critical for the future of the West Bank. It not only aids the children themselves, it also aids their parents and families through the activities organized by the kindergarten. It teaches children to become self-reliant, which will in turn relieve future financial burdens placed on family budgets already stretched to the breaking point by restricted movement and a depressed economy. Outreach activities inform parents of the importance of educating their children, and sign language training is given to the families of deaf and mute children so that they are able to fully communicate together. The kindergarten has helped boost the local Bethlehem economy by creating nine new full-time jobs. It not only symbolizes a chance at a better life for the children, it also represents hope for the future of the community.

Social workers employed by the kindergarten help to reduce the stigma that challenged children face amongst their fellow Palestinians. By working with local residents they encourage greater acceptance of physically and mentally challenged children throughout the community. This is done through actions such as the training of government workers in the use of sign language so that they are better able to communicate with hearing impaired children. The kindergarten itself ensures that challenged children meet others who face the same difficulties, and lets them know that they are not alone in their struggle. It is a bright spot in the otherwise bleak lives of children who are not often given the chance to succeed. Little by little we are working towards the day when these children will no longer be outsiders; a day when they will be able to contribute to the building of a more prosperous, accepting Palestinian society.

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Mar 242009
 

KGsIn post-war Gaza, one can easily observe the aftermath: displacement and homelessness are prevalent; poverty is visible; unemployment is raging; malnutrition among children is rampant; trauma and grief are widespread; and lost livelihoods are common. For many families, everything they had worked for or achieved all their life has been destroyed.

If such a reality is difficult for adults to bear, one can only wonder about the children unfortunate enough to experience and survive what is considered to be one of the most devastating wars the region has witnessed. The children of Gaza have witnessed scenes of death, bloodshed, demolitions, and experienced the loss of family members amidst an environment of fear and confusion. Children are left with a considerable sense of insecurity, especially when their parents become helpless in easing their fears and concerns. Adding to that, children’s basic needs are not met; many of them don’t have the clothes to wear to fight the cold winters, no appropriate shoes, no hygiene supplies and no toys. This negligence is not purposely created. It is as simple as this: families in Gaza cannot afford to eat since 80% of the population is dependent on humanitarian aid agencies.

KGsBringing hope to Pre-school Children in Gaza is an initiative recently launched by HCI that targets children in Gaza and respond to their various needs. The project targets children attending local community-run Kindergartens and provide them with tailored relief assistance: Winter clothes and shoes tailored to each child were provided for individually selected pre-school children through comprehensive needs assessments. Food items for children such as cake, milk, biscuits, cheese and yogurt were also distributed to children in need. School stationary such as books and pencils, and hygiene items such as tooth brush, tooth paste, washing soap and kids shampoo were also distributed to war-affected children. In addition, children were allowed to express their feelings, whether it was trauma, grief, fear or insecurity, through drawing, games and entertainment activities aimed at reducing the psychological impact of the war on these children.

These activities are complemented with a rehabilitation program targeting kindergartens damaged during the war by implementing a comprehensive physical rehabilitation which would allow pre-school children to continue their education and provide them with the space to play and learn away from the destruction of wars and poverty. The Kindergartens will also be provided with much needed educational materials and toys, as well as playgrounds.

Through a comprehensive needs assessment and extensive outreach activities each child was individually selected to benefit from the project. 160 children and their families benefited from this month’s activities targeting the children attending the Beit-Hanon community Kindergarten and Beit-Jablia refugee camp community Kindergarten.

The project is implemented in partnership with HCI’s local partner in Gaza, The Aid and Hope Centre for the Care of Cancer Patients and their Families and in coordination with the Palestinian NGO, the Vocational Rehabilitation Workshops Society for Girls (VRWSG) as well as the Gaza-based NGO, the Palestinian Early Childhood Education. Ten local volunteers helped make this project possible.

Tales from the Children

ModelalahWhile walking through the crowds at Biet Hanon Kindergarten, Modelalah’s sad eyes captured us. She is 5 years old and lives with her family of 5 members. Her brother was injured during the war and lost one of his legs. Her father is currently unemployed. Modelalah almost cried when we talked to her, noticing that she had already opened her coloring pencils set she received. We asked her about what does she want to draw. “I want to draw a boy and a rose”, she responded. She promised that she will share her chocolate with the rest of her brothers and sisters, and she will save some for her brother who is being treated away.

Said 1We spotted Said hiding from the camera. We approached him and asked him why and if he was afraid from the camera or the team. “I am okay but I am feeling embarrassed because of my worn-to-pieces shoes. We don’t have money to buy new one”, Said responded. We explained to Said that HCI sent him new shoes and jacket and other nice new things. “Are you sure!”, Said wondered. We helped him sit on the table and showed him the new supplies provided by HCI. “Why HCI send us gifts?” Said asked us. “HCI is sending you this supplies because you are very sweet boy and very clever at the school,” we responded. Said wished that god bless HCI. He didn’t wear new clothes for a year now. He told us he can’t buy chocolate or deserts or anything. He asked us to thank HCI and to let them know that he loves all of them.

Wisam 2The weather was very cold outside, yet the child Wisam Sadat was only wearing a light sweater and a sandal footwear. Wisam spent the entire cold winter wearing summer clothe. When team member Lubna Najar offered to help him wear the new shoes and winter jacket provided by HCI and the other items, he got so excited and couldn’t believe it. Wisam draw house, girl and pretty flowers. With his new shoes Wisam was walking and jumping all over the place. Before we left he told us: I LOVE YOU ALL.

BahaaBahaa is 5 years old from a family that consist of 14 members. His father used to work as a shoe tailor before he lost his job as result to the war. Bahaa was very shy when we approached him. We asked him why he is shy. “I am afraid”, Bahaa responded. Bahaa was occupied with the new shoes he received, “I can play football now. My old shoes are not for playing football, and if I lose them my dad can’t get me a new one. My dad can’t get me chocolate too,” he concluded.

Lila5-year old Lila lost most of her family during the conflict. “I promise to share the chocolate and the biscuits with my brothers and sisters, and I will tell them how HCI made us happy in the kindergarten,” Lila commented after receiving the items provided by HCI. “I will draw flowers and butterflies. I will clean my teeth every night. I will have nice warm shower with my shampoo. Thank you so much for making me and making my friends in the kindergarten happy and we will never forget HCI and we hope they will never forget us”. Leila is sweet girt with doll-like face. She has suffered so many losses, yet she still wants to play and draw. She also made a new friend (Bahaa) on the distribution day.

MohanedMohanad lives with his 8-member family with no source of income. Mohanad wants to be a pilot, yet the planes he wants to fly are not “like the Israeli ones” he said. Mohanad has no other pair of pants to wear. He jumped up and down the room when he received a new pair of pants from HCI. “Mohanad is behaving like a child again,” his mother, Oum Ahed, commented.

ShahedShahed lives with her family of 9 members in Jabalia refugee camp. Her father suffers from a chronic injury that made him mentally challenged, and her brother lost his leg during the war. As Shahed bent down and started drawing happily, her mother Om Ahmed approached us to thank HCI for the generous donation. “I wish I could have offered my daughter want she needs, but there is nothing I can do. We can’t afford anything. My husband can’t work and now my older son is injured. I really don’t know how to thank you enough,” Om Ahmed commented. Shahed’s teacher told us that almost all of Shahed’s neighbors were killed during the conflict. She often tells stories about the war and a story about wolves who comes to hurt her family while they are asleep.

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Mar 162009
 

VRW KGHCI launched this week the Kindergarten Rehabilitation Program in Gaza and is now working towards reconstructing the physical damages incurred on the Al-Majed School and Kindergarten located in the Rimal neighbourhood in Gaza City.

The Al-Majed school and Kindergarten was established in 1972 under the name Hashim’s Gaza, and renamed the “Two Sisters” Kindergarten in 1992. The Kindergarten was established as a refuge for orphans and children whose families were too poor to provide them with an education and other basic needs.

In an effort to grant these children their childhood, the Kindergarten worked very hard to provide not only education and recreational activities for these children but also provided them with basic necessities that they were otherwise deprived of. Uniforms and stationary were provided, including daily lunch meals.

VRW KGAs a result of its ongoing success the Kindergarten expanded, and the Al-Majed school was established in 2007. A new two-floor building, each floor equipped with five classrooms and bathrooms hosted the new school. In addition, a large playground area and a garden were built for the children’s entertainment and recreational activities.

Prior to the war on Gaza in 2008, 70 children were enrolled in the Kindergarten that included KG0-KG2 and another 15 children were attending the new school.

VRW KGThis success however, was short-lived since both the newly-founded school and the decades-old Kindergarten incurred serious damages as a result of the bombings that targeted the adjacent Borno Mosque. The twenty-two days of conflict which left over 1,300 Palestinians dead, over 5,300 injured, caused extensive damage to the kindergarten. The kindergarten suffering from severe physical damages and financial loss, has not only been unable to resume its normal course of work, but has also lost many of its enrolled children as a result.

As such, HCI with the cooperation of the Palestine-established Vocational Rehabilitation Workshops Society for Girls (VRWSG) NGO — the founder of the kindergarten — decided to assist in reviving the school by contributing towards its physical rehabilitation. In consultation with the VRWSG, a Gaza-based Engineering and Consultations company was designated with the task of assessing the damages incurred. As the recipients of this fund, the Palestine-based VRWSG will be responsible for the rehabilitation of the Al-Majed School and Kindergarten.

VRW KGThe Al-Majed School and Kindergarten is one of many others that will be revived by HCI as part of the Kindergarten Rehabilitation Program. Through this program, HCI wishes to physically rehabilitate these Kindergartens to allow children to continue their education providing them with the space to play and learn away from the destruction of wars and poverty.

HCI also hopes to assist in providing temporary employment/aid-for-work opportunities for families without a breadwinner to participate in the rehabilitation of those kindergartens in hope that this program can involve and benefit as many people in need as possible.

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