Sadly, many of our literacy activities were interupted this summer.
Seven weeks of Israeli attacks from the ground, air and sea devastated the entire Gaza Strip. MECA and our parnters in Gaza had to switch priorities. Instead of offering summer camps, reading buddies, and providing new books for the renovated reading room at Rachel Corrie Children's Center, we were busy distributing food, water, and hygiene kits to displaced families who fled their homes. More than 500,000 people were living in schools or with friends and relatives during the attacks in hopes of finding a safer place for their children.
At least one child who was a member of our partner center in Rafah was killed by Israeli airstrikes, he was one of more than 500 children killed by Israeli attacks on Gaza this summer.
MECA and all our friends and partners in Gaza are thankful for the start of a long-term ceasefire this week. As soon as we finish assessing the damage to our partners and projects, we will get back to work providing important recreational and educational activities for children.
Meanwhile, our partner center in Jerusalem also had a tough center. Settler violence was on the rise and they canceled many of their outdoor activities to keep the children inside and safe from violence or kidnappings. The library was full to capacity throughout June, July and August as children came to read stories, play games, learn about creative writing, and compose messages to children in Gaza.
We hope our next update will reflect on happier times for Palestinian children.
We have lots of news to share about the great work our partner centers are doing with your support!
Afaq Jadeeda in Nuseirat Refugee Camp, Gaza purchased 600 new books and art supplies for their library. They now have everything from children's stories to scientific encyclopedias that older students use for their studies. With the influx of new books and our continued support for their librarian, around 20 children, age 5-18, are coming to visit the library every day to take part in activities and read! Their librarian is working now on creating a youth reading club.
Rana, 17, is one of the regular visitors to the library. She is very interested in reading books, especially novels. Rana says reading helps her to spend leisure time in something useful and fun. This is important to her as there are very few options for entertainment for children in Gaza.
Madaa Creative Center in Silwan, Jerusalem ensures their library is well-used by catering to the requests of children and their families. On a recent visit to the center, I sat in on a friendly gameshow-style competition for younger children designed to attract them to the library and introduce them to the other activities and the many books. More than 20 children crowded into the library and enthusiastically raised hands to answer these tough questions (many of the children had the answers long before I did!)
Librarian Tala Serhan runs a weekly creative writing class in the library and is hoping to help these children create their own magazine of stories and poetry. She also offers special group tutoring in English, Arabic, and Math. This was especially important in December and January when one of the girls' schools in Silwan was closed for more than two months as part of the UNRWA strike across the West Bank. Many parents have also shared their delight that children who were considering dropping out because of poor grades are now doing better and beginning to enjoy school with the center's help.
The center additionally offers tutoring to children who are under home arrest in Silwan and are unable to leave their homes even to attend school, a clear violation of their right to education. The children are often too depressed to accept home tutoring at first but the center staff continue to make regular visits to the children and bring them fun books to read from the library's collection until they can be persuaded to study.
The Rachel Corrie Center in Rafah, Gaza renovated their children's library space with the help of a generous donation from the Madison Rafah Sister City Project. They painted, purchased new chairs and tables, and installed new bookshelves as well as a computer.
We are still planning some exciting new activities with the Palestine Writing Workshop for later this year as well as conitnued support for these centers and will keep you posted! Thank you so much for supporting literacy programming for Palestinian children!
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