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Program: Shoroq wa-Amal
Shoroq wa-Amal ("Sunrise and Hope") Children's Center in Khan Younis refugee camp, Gaza, provides a safe and nurturing space in a community that experiences 80% unemployment and widespread violence.
Through summer camps and the Child to Child program hosted at Shoroq wa-Amal, the women's group, Culture and Free Thought Association (CAFTA), offers leadership training and healthy self-expression for children ages 6 - 16 through creative writing, arts, music, theater, handcrafts, cooking, and field trips. Global Family funds benefit more than 1,200 children through this partnership.
Learning to Cope
The children of the Gaza Strip face unusual stress. Even before this past year's conflict, Gaza's children demonstrated high levels of recurrent nightmares and anxiety-induced bedwetting linked to prolonged exposure to violence and trauma. The events of this past year have left many children fearful and anxious over some of life's most natural occurrences. For example, five-year old Wael, who lives in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, now shows signs of anxiety when it begins to rain. For Wael, rain is associated with the violence and destruction of missile strikes and trigger memories of last year's Israeli invasion that occurred during the winter rainy season.
Yet, the children of Gaza also experience the same challenges as children everywhere: adjusting to new situations like the birth of a sibling, academic challenges, coping with special learning needs, transitioning through developmental stages, coping with the pressures of growing up, and learning social skills. Growing up in communities that are coping with increasing poverty and on-going political uncertainty, isolation and violence leaves children vulnerable to even the most common childhood stressors.
Through its Shoroq wa-Amal program, MCC Global Family partner, CFTA, offers psychosocial support, and recreational and educational opportunities to over 1200 children in the marginalized areas of the southern Gaza Strip. Summer camp and before and after-school programs, which include organized sporting events, free play, educational support, and leadership development trainings provide a much needed release from the stress and tension that accompany the current military siege. In response to the increased display among Gaza's children of symptoms resulting from trauma, this year CFTA offered a safe environment with counselors trained to help children handle psychological and emotional problems and stressors. Alternative avenues for children to communicate and express their fears and concerns, reflect upon ideas for coping and problem solving were provided.
Improving children's psychosocial wellbeing and ability to cope with trauma has been a priority for CFTA this past year in particular, but another important aspect of the Shoroq w'Amal program is leadership development. The center provides youth with training that promotes positive and practical ways that youth can contribute to their society. One example of the program's success can be seen in Ayat.
Ayat is a 15 year old teenager who attends the Ibn Khaldoun Secondary School in Khan Younis. When she first enrolled at the center, Ayat always worked alone and was not confident enough to participate in the activities with her other peers. She was characterized by many as "shy and inhibited."
Through the summer camps activities, Ayat was encouraged by the center's staff members to take part in the leadership activities. Ayat gained skills and confidence through the training sessions and eventually become a leader of a group of teenage girls whom she encouraged to join the center. Ayat planned and implemented three different projects last year: a tennis table competition with students from Al Azhar University, the swimming activities at the summer camp and field trips to the hospital to visit children and teens who had been injured during the recent war.
Today, Ayat is one of the core youth leaders of the center. She is very sociable, regularly interacting with visitors and other teenagers. Her family is very happy with the change they see in her. Ayat’s grades at school have improved and she has demonstrated an increase in confidence in other areas of life. Ayat just took on leadership of another group of teenage girls who recently joined the center.