Healthy Food for 400 Children in Bethlehem Village

 
$6,867
$3,133
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Schools across Palestine are closed now for winter break but when children go back to school in Masara next week, they will be greeted with the usually delicious, healthy food cooked by a group of dedicated women.

We are excited to announce that another woman will join the team to prepare healthy lunches and snacks for children in the new year! This will give a chance to a younger woman in the village to join the team and be mentored. And it will also mean there is an extra set of hands in case someone is ill or has other obligations. 

We will post an update after school starts up to introduce you to the newest member of the Zawahra Women's Society! 

We are also excited that after a few years of making payments through another local society, the women in Masara are now ready to manage the project themselves. We will provide help along the way but this will give them the necessary experience for future projects to benefit the women and children in their area. 

The schools began early in Masara Village this year. Across the West Bank, schools began on August 23 and 24 but Um Hasan and the other women running this project started even earlier. They scrubbed and cleaned the cafeteria in preparation for another year of early mornings and hard work. Their dedication to preparing food for the 400 children attending school in their village is unwavering. 

I visited Masara last week on August 26. That day all of the schools in the West Bank had a moment of silence in solidarity with Gaza where children and families were still struggling under Israel's brutal military attack. (Thankfully a long-term ceasfire was announced that evening and schools are now set to start in Gaza in the coming weeks.) After the moment of silence, students streamed into the kitchen. Most days, the women pack up large boxes of the fresh food - a selection of all the items they made on that day - and walk them over to the kindergarten, elementary school and two high schools in the village. But due to the early release, the children came to the kitchen instead. 

First came a group of young boys from the elementary school. They eagerly grabbed the fresh muffins and chatted with the women. Then came some high school boys asking after the sfeeha (meat pies). Um Hasan promised to make some later in the week which led to some very big smiles. Several groups of high school girls came through. They took the muffins but asked about the manakeesh (zaatar pies). One of the women explained they didn't have time to make them today because of the early release but told them to come back tomorrow. 

Unfortunately, my photos of these smiling faces were lost when my computer crashed during the download but I will head back to Masara soon to get more photos to share with you. 

The women continue to work hard to prepare food for the children and are very thankful for your continued support which enables them provide healthy food to the children. This year we will cover the cafeteria rent, monthly purchases of food and cleaning supplies for the kitchen, small stipends for 4 of them women (Um Hassan insists on continuing as a volunteer as she has other sources of income from her organic farming), and we will finally get them the hot water heater which we postponed last year in order to provide water tanks in response to the growing water shortages. 

Barbara Lubin and Um Hassan eating breakfast
Barbara Lubin and Um Hassan eating breakfast

MECA Director Barbara Lubin joined me for a site visit to the Masara Cafeteria project in April. 

We arrived at 8am but the women had already finished a batch of zaatar pies, cooked termos (lupini beans), and were getting ready to put fresh poprcorn in bags! 

Barbara and I chatted with the women about the project and shared our appreciation for their hard work. Each woman told Barbara a bit about herself and her family. One woman is a widow, another's husband is disabled. They spoke of their children, some who have been arrested and are even now sitting in Israeli jails. Barbara in turn told them about her four children and seven grandchildren. 

The women who run the cafeteria are dedicated volunteers. They began receiving small stipends for their efforts this year thanks to your support. It's just enough to help them purchase some of the necessities like flour, milk, and fresh fruits and vegetables so they can provide healthy food to their own families at home.

We talked about the importance of a good breakfast to children's development. We listened to updates about the village and its weekly demonstrations against the Apartheid wall and illegal Israeli settlements that are taking their land. And then we ate. In addition to the food made for the day, we also had the chance to sample a traditional Palestinian pastry called "malateet" made with milk, eggs, flour, and anise seeds. The women were preparing the dough for the children tomorrow but baked up one tray for us to try. Um Hasan smiled as she explained how the children think of it as a sweet but they are getting protein and nutrients too. 

It was Barbara's first visit to the cafeteria and she left full of inspiration (and delicious food!).

Thank you for support!

Bagging the popcorn
Bagging the popcorn
Protein boost: lupini and garbanzo beans
Protein boost: lupini and garbanzo beans
Traditional "malateet"
Traditional "malateet"

Dear friends,

I just came back from another inspiring visit to the Masara Cafeteria! I sat with Um Hassan over tea this morning and heard all about the last few months in their kitchen. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • The women are now able to make and serve warm felafel sandwiches for children! This new nutritious snack made from garbanzo beans is only possible thanks to your support.
  • They've increased the quantity of meat pies because the demand is so high. Um Hassan tells me many kids know ahead of time which days there will be meat pies and they come to school early (starting around 6:30am!) to get a meat pie fresh out of the oven. 
  • On the occassion of Universal Children's Day (November 20), the women cooked a special breakfast for children in the Masara village kindergarten and hosted the Bethlehem governor to highlight the difficult situation in the village. 
  • Their new equipment including a stove with four burners, a second oven, and a new mixer and juicer are all being put to good use!

The bad news is that lately there is a water shortage in the village. Sadly this is common in the West Bank where there is a healthy aquifer but Israel controls all water resources and only allows Palestinians to use approximately 10% of the available water. (You can learn more about Palestinian water rights through the water coalition that we work with: http://ewash.org/). For the women cooking in Masara, water is an absolute necessity so we are going to help them to buy and install a second water tank on the roof of the cafeteria. 

Thanks so much for your support!

Josie, writing from Palestine

Busy at work making healthy food!
Busy at work making healthy food!

Hello everyone,

I wanted to let you know what a real difference your donations are making! I was in Masara Village on the first day of school this year and had a chance to talk with Um Hasan, Um Hisham, and other volunteers who get up each morning to make healthy food for the kids. With your help, they were prepared for the new school year!

A private donor enabled them to get a new stove (so there is no need for rocks to help keep the burners balanced) and a new juicer. They are even going to be able to buy and install a hot water heater for the cafeteria so that in winter time they will have warm water for doing all the dishes.

We are also continuing to cover the monthly expenses of buying basic items like flour, milk, fruits, vegetables, oil, and gas to keep the cafeteria running!

Many thanks for your generous support!

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Project Leader

Danny Muller

IT Coordinator
Berkeley,, CA United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Healthy Food for 400 Children in Bethlehem Village