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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 for children and youth in a community that experiences 80% unemployment and widespread violence. It is also important to note that more than half of the population of the Gaza Strip is under the age of 15.
Through summer camps and the Child to Child program, Shoroq wa-Amal offers a variety of opportunities for children ages, six to sixteen, to develop leadership skills and healthy self-expression.
This year 120 children were involved in this educational support program that provides before and after school activities in cooperation with local schools that the children attend. Remedial classes in mathematics, science and languages are offered. Special educational field trips were organized according to the interests of the children. One such visit was to the Gaza Valley to study the issue of protection of the environment, and wildlife. Fifty children attended the field trip along with members of their families and a teacher. All trips concluded with a discussion of the experience and what was learned. An additional follow up to this particular field trip included a creative writing workshop. The children are encouraged to write their own stories about their experiences and publish them for others to read.
In preparation for the annual summer camps, sixty children and teenagers were elected to provide leadership for organizing and implementing the camps. This group underwent a ten day training for skill development and planning. They were then divided into four groups to develop plans for each summer camp.
This summer over 600 children participated in the program. The art and handicraft sessions focused on the theme of recycling and protection of the environment. Many attended daily drama workshops, a valuable means to express themselves. The children then had the opportunity to perform for their fellow campers. Sport activities are an important component of the camps. Fishing, horseback riding, running, swimming, basketball and volleyball were all popular options. Training and coaching by qualified instructors were part of the daily sessions. While Khan Younis is located near the Mediterranean Sea, the children do not necessarily have opportunities to enjoy the beach. Many of the summer camp activities gave participants a great chance to enjoy the Mediterranean shore and other special sites in the area.
The summer camps of 2010 have been a great success due, to a large extent, to the emphasis on the children and youth themselves developing, implementing and enthusiastically participating in the camps. The program has also been successful in developing a good relationship within the community with the help of the children’s families who support and advocate for these activities.
Meet Sahar Abed Al Aal
Sahar, 12, has been an active member of the Sunrise and Hope Center for the past several years. She aspired to be one of the leaders for the camp the children named “The Child’s Smile”. Because student leaders are elected, Sahar worked hard to campaign for the responsibility by developing a program and agenda for this camp. In the end, she was not elected but was not deterred. She participated in any way needed, assisting the children and helping to plan many of the activities. Her efforts strengthened her influence at the center and in the community. While she was not elected a leader this summer, Sahar was willing to support those who were and proved to be a potential leader for the future.