MECA and our partners are busy building and upgrading children's libraries, continuing the training of trainers on creative writing in Gaza, and preparing for the new school year!
In Silwan, East Jersualem, we continue to support Tala to run weekly creative writing and young journalist sessions for older kids plus organize story time and homework for the younger kids.
In Gaza, there is a new children's library at Al Quds Cultural Center in Beit Hanoun! MECA provided funds for the furniture, books, and hiring a librarian to organize activities for the kids. They have a poetry group who even hosted a local poet at the center in April to provide inspiration and advice!
we purchased sets of new books published in the West Bank for four libraries in Beit Hanoun, Jabalia, Nuseirat, and Rafah. We are also continuing the training of trainers with the Palestine Writing Workshop to help our partners in Gaza learn to use creative writing as a tool for healing. They'll be putting their training into practice in the fall and we look forward to the stories!
We are excited to expand our work in Gaza with a new project providing tutoring and special lessons for children with learning disabilities in Rafah. This project with the Union of Palestinian Women's Committee will start in September.
Thanks for making all of this possible!
Our training for trainers with partners in Gaza is off to a great start!
MECA has contracted with Maya Abu AlHayat, a professional writer, storyteller and director of the Palestine Writing Workshop in the West Bank to lead a training on creative writing for our partners in Gaza. Maya was not able to get a permit to enter Gaza for the training, but that didn't stop us!
Last week, Maya led the first training session via skype for a group of librarians, social workers, and university students from four community centers across the Gaza Strip. They are learning how to use creative writing as a tool for children to channel their loss and trauma.
Participants had great things to say about the first training and are eagerly waiting the next session!
We are so proud of this group and their commitment to helping children in their communities. With electricity only available 2-8 hours per day in Gaza, even a simple skype call is hard to schedule.
More updates coming soon!
We are very excited to announce a new children's library will be opening in the town of Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip! MECA is providing funding for the shelves, tables, chairs, and books (both Arabic and English). We will send photos when it opens!
The library is part of a community organization serving children and youth in Beit Hanoun run by the Union of Health Work Committees. They will be using the library during their psychosocial activities for children after this summer's military attacks devastated the area and terrified the residents (see below for link to photos from a human rights organization). They will be offering storytelling, open hours for reading, lending books, and soon creative writing courses too! MECA is helping them to access some award-winning Arabic children's books not available in Gaza.
We are also planning for a creative writing training for our parnters in Gaza that will be led by the Palestine Writing Workshop. We've had the chance to work with PWW in the past on storytelling activities, summer camps, and a creative writing workshop for refugee youth in the West Bank that produced beautiful story boards. This training for 20-25 of the staff at our partner centers in Gaza will guide them in how to help children turn their fear into something creative whether a story or an image or a drama skit. More details and updates coming on this soon!
MECA is also continuing to support our partner center in Silwan, East Jerusalem to run the only children's library in the area. With so much violence in the streets as new illegal Israeli settlers have taken over homes in the neighborhood, this library is an important oasis for children. It also serves as a tutoring center for children who have fallen behind in school.
And in the Shejayia area, MECA is providing afterschool teachers to help 45 boys and girls with their English reading and writing through an afterschool program.
Thank you for your support which is making all of this possible!
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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