In addition to Um Hasan's wonderful work with the cafeteria project, she is also a farmer growing organic, local varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Um Hasan is featured in the new "Conscious Choices: A Guide to Ethical Consumerism in Palestine" from the Heinrich Boll Foundation written by two young Palestinian environmentalists who visited artisans, farmers, and small businesses all over Palestine to produce this guide.
"Im* Hasan introduces herself as a farmer and a fighter for justice and freedom in Palestine. She produces baladi products and relies on the local traditional knowledge she inherited from her parents. Being Palestinian for her is about preserving baladi products and continuing the traditions of Palestinian farming of the land."
We are so please Um Hasan is being recognized for her numerous contributions to building a strong and healthy society. We hope you will join us in congratulating her!
*Im and Um are different spellings for the same Arabic work, "mother." It's traditional for parents in Palestine and other Arab countries to be refered to as the mother or father of their firstborn child. So Um Hasan is the mother of Hasan.
Thanks to your generous donations and the hard work of a group of Palestinian mothers, more than 400 children had healthy snacks and meals each and every day of the school year. The free breakfasts for kindergarten children are especially important to ensure children grow up healthy.
The unemployment rate in Al Ma’sara has reached about 40% according to a survey by the Applied Research Institute. This project now not only provides healthy food for children but also gives a small income to women in the village to help them support their families.
We will be using the summer months to plan for the next school year and will be updating you soon on plans.
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.
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!
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