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Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe

by Karama Organisation for Women and Children's Development
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Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Women at work in Karama
Women at work in Karama

Welcome to a new update from the Karama Women's project. We are happy to keep you updated on the progress of our efforts in Deheishe Camp, that we can undertake with the support from people all over the world. Thank you for showing interest in the stories of the people from Palestine and for practicing your solidarity through GlobalGiving! It means a lot to our team that people from all over the world support our initiatives especially during these times.

During times when the Palestinian people continue to feel the tightening grip of the occupation on its cities, villages and camps, it is even more important that Karama take positive and collaborative efforts to support our community. One of these initiatives was a community dinner organized for the older people in the camp. Several women involved in the rooftop gardens project helped us with preparing and distributing the dinner. By cooking a special dish called maftoul, the ladies are keeping traditional food alive, which takes a long time to cook but much more local than the rice that we commonly cook these days. The dish is complemented by a soup of tomatoes, carrots and onions and some chicken. Food boxes were spread out through the camp to reach as many old people as possible and show them a sign of support, while others dined in the center.  

With October month being the olive harvesting month, Karama pilotted a new initiative with a group of selected women involved in the rooftop gardens. Together they resourced fresh olives and processed them in Karama organization. By adding salt, lemon, spicy pepers and a little bit of sugar, the olives are pickled over a duration of several weeks. Now the olives are packaged in small containers, ready to sell to local and international costumers. If this small scale initiative is a success we look forward to expand this local home food production with our Karama women! 

Previously, all women also prepared their rooftop gardens for the winter season, planting beans and different types of tomatoes, aubergine and some added herbs. The weather has been very mild in October, but now finally starts to be colder with some rain now and then. Being protected in the green house, the environment so far is good for a fertile winter season inshallah. Soon we should be able to send you pictures of the winter produce. 

Karama Olives
Karama Olives
Food ready to distribute
Food ready to distribute
Hajjar preparing the dish in Karama
Hajjar preparing the dish in Karama

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Before the real heat started in Palestine, the rooftop gardens were at their peak of the year. Every day the women spent some of their time watering, harvesting and enjoying their gardens. The main water tap was regularly turned on this summer to fill up the storage tanks of the women (which happens practically at the mercy of the Occupation authorities). Thus most people did not experience any real shortage of water - though all were trying to be as careful as possible. Most women could harvest enough tomatoes, beans, aubergine, cucumbers and herbs to feed their family. Some even shared their produce, especially tomatoes and beans which were doing well this season. During this time, several people from outside our community came to visit Karama in Deheishe, to learn about our rooftops and see how small ideas make a positive contribution to the families' lives. Some of them were journalists who published an article or photo story in international media after their visit.

When international visitors come over, we always try to arrange for them to meet the women that are leading this project. This creates an interesting space for the women to share some of their struggles and their ways of dealing with those challenges. One of the journalists was Siliva, who visited a garden build with support from Karama on the roof of Um Shadi. When Silvia visited Um Shadi's house, even her husband jumped in to speak loftly about the garden and its benefits for the family. Um Shadi's whole family, including their three children enjoy being in the garden and seeing the plants grow. They also use the space to relax in the evenings when the tempature goes down to a comfortable level. "To follow nature’s pace and see the changes happening under your eyes is quite impressive. If this garden didn’t benefit us, I would have taken it down a long time ago and added some deck chairs instead,” Abu Shadi adds, laughing.

Especially the pictures from Eloise and Silvia are really worth seeing, so we will share with you the links below.

Thank you for being part of this initiative that supports the women in Deheishe Refugee Camp!

Mouad harvesting from the tomato plant
Mouad harvesting from the tomato plant

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Amber, Karama volunteer visiting one of the garden
Amber, Karama volunteer visiting one of the garden

As an international, when I first arrived in Deheishe it was getting out of a taxi to enter a world of concrete. With so many people being forced to live in such a small space, there is no room for things such as a park or even trees. You are hard pressed to look around and find anything green. At least, that is the assumption I had until visiting Karama. On the roof of this NGO is the first rooftop garden that was established in Deheishe. Seeing the life of these numerous plants growing with such power in such conditions leaves a person feeling a new sense of determination. The world of concrete may be the currenct circumstances but that does not mean the people must accept them. These gardens provide the opportunity for people within Deheishe Refugee Camp to challenge the conditions the occupation has left them in.

While you may not be able to stand on a street within the camp and see these green spaces it cannot be mistaken that they are there. With 15 gardens currently established, women have been able to find a new sense of purpose and a feeling of confidence within themselves. They can offer healthy alternatives to their family, providing options others than the sugar filled sweets that come at a much lower cost. When being forced to live in a situation that is full of so many uncertainties, the knowledge that these gardens give to women about where their food is coming from, how it is produced and what is in it allows them to confidently serve meals to their families where they can be sure about the process that went into creating the food they are eating.

Having an international person view and walk through their garden is something these women are becoming more accustomed to. As the gardens grow and flourish, so does the international attention that they are receiving. The hard work of these women has been shown on various news station and they are more than happy to discuss their work. While the attention to the gardens is growing, it is our hope that the support will too. It is only through donations that these women are able to continue their gardens and that Karama will be able to fund the development of even more.

The beginning of May brings the start of summer harvest to the lives of these women and their gardens. It also brings the time when the community remembers the Nakba; the time when the Palestinian people were expelled from their land. However, these gardens have allowed for women to reconnect with their history and the land that they lost. Women that participate in the gardening project have spoken of how through this project they feel more connected to their villages than ever. Working with these plants and growing food for their family has provided a renewed emotional connection that had been tested by the circumstances of the occupation. These gardens provide a tie to a past that can become hard to reach through daily struggles. One woman has claimed she now feels more ready to move back to her land than ever before. While time continues to pass creating a further separation among people and between Palestinian and their land, their history and their rights, time has not weakened the spirit and determination of the people. 

Hearing about gardens from Karama director Yasser
Hearing about gardens from Karama director Yasser
Eggplant harvest getting ready as well
Eggplant harvest getting ready as well
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Benefits of rooftop gardens also reach young women
Benefits of rooftop gardens also reach young women

Let us start with thanking you for the support you have given us in the last months!

In Karama’s previous update we shared with you a bit of the skills that so many women learn during their involvement in the Rooftop Garden project. We mentioned how it increases their self-esteem and also their social and communication skills; a great improvement that helps them to feel better in more aspects of their live! But the story does not end here...

This month we want to give you a bit more insight in the current situation in the camp and explain why we as Karama Team focus on youth as and self-sustainability. In Palestine, we see young new leaders are eager to stand up, change-makers make a difference and inspire their community from within. By giving them responsibilities in our activities in Karama, they are able to grow into their future roles.

When you talk to the youth in Deheishe Camp, you can feel their energy to make a change. Therefor it’s even harder to see that due to a lack of possibilities, this energy grows less every day. Not being channeled to a good cause they slowly lose their force.

Image when you were younger and had many dreams and plans for your future and how you were able to set this in motion to achieve these dreams. Now imagine those same dreams but no means or possibilities whatsoever... Just having to stand by and see your dreams slowly fade away. Eventually this generation is losing hope and is unable to make a fair living for themselves. The negative circumstances lead them to poverty, depression and so on.

Reports confirm that unemployment and poverty in the Palestinian Territories leads young people to frustration and despair. It harms their dignity and creates social and political problems.

The conditions in the Refugee Camps not only affect the mind but it also affects the body. Limited exercise, unhealthy diets (minimum intake of fresh vegetables and maximum intake of sugar), stress; all these factors contribute to health risks. "Obesity, smoking and inactivity are the main health risks for young people," a report says about the Palestinian youth. As stated in an article by Hazem Balousha "A number of studies have shown that 25% of adolescents and 30% of girls are obese or overweight. An UNRWA study said that 70% of females of reproductive age and more than half of women under 30 are overweight."

 

Let’s meet Ibrahim, he is a 22 year old refugee from the Deheishe Camp. Although he studied at a University, he is not able to find a job that matches his education. Not wanting to give up under the circumstances he now works at a fruit stand at the side of one of the main streets to Bethlehem. Here he earns about 30 Shekels a day for working as much as 8- 10 hours a day…

Please keep in mind that 5 Shekel is about 1 Euro and the taxi drive to his work place already costs him 3 Shekel! Now he is barely able to contribute to his family, not even thinking about saving for his future. You can imagine this can break somebodies spirit. But you will see that the youth here have a strong spirit and are willing to work hard to make a difference for themselves.

Not willing to abandon them to their fates, Karama offers the youth of Deheishe a first step to a better life. And we hope you will do this with us. We believe that together we can make a difference.

 

Benefits of projects focused on youth by Karama

One of our goals is to empower young people to have the ability and life skills to change their own future. By giving them a safe (learning-) environment where they can put their skill in to use, they can gain work and life experience that will prepare them for a future where they can be self-reliant. By doing so, this will increase their quality of life. That is why, in the next round of rooftop gardens starting this spring we want to engage the young people from Deheishe. The UN Youth Fund has already showed interest in funding gardens for young refugee women in the camp and Karama is eager to engage them in this initiative!

Will you help us to include more participants, so we can also engage young men like Ahmed in this project? With 600 dollars we can start an extra garden. If 12 of our supporters donate 50 dollars we can already help Ahmed to produce on his roof!

Producing food will give the youth in Deheishe Camp both physical independence and psychological freedom from the occupation. They will learn to be able to take care of themselves and maybe even to take care of their families in the future. And pass their skills onto their own children.

Something we see too often over the past few years is the outflow of educated, talented youth from Palestine abroad, unable to find a fair job in their own country. This emigration of intelligent, well-educated individuals to somewhere else for better pay or conditions causes Palestine to lose skilled and ambitious people. Something we are so bad in need for! We will go against this trend and ‘brain drain’ and maybe even inspire those who left the land to come back and use it. To plant and harvest together for a happier and healthier life.

 

Keep the Palestinian youth in your thoughts!:)

We love to hear from you!

Young volunteers developing their skills as guides
Young volunteers developing their skills as guides

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Patience is needed when planting your seeds..
Patience is needed when planting your seeds..

Welcome to Karama's winter update! 

 

The second round of nine gardens, that was started in March this year, have had a great first harvest. With many new women involved they have needed each other in the past months to overcome their struggles and learn new skills. 

You know that one of the most important skills they learn in this project might be their social skills? In the women group they need to communicate, negotiate, question, collaborate and discuss - and the lessons this teaches them they use again in their households and in their communities. And you know that one of the most important changes through the project is probably the change in attitude of the women? By taking initiative in their own hands they become pro-active, less dependent and more positive towards their own capabilities and life!

Are we still taking about growing healthy vegetables on the roof here? Yeah for sure! Their diet has improved as well, their kids eat much more often fresh vegetables so we are not missing out on these major positive effects. But we can not underestimate the huge impact such a pro-active women can have on her community! 

Now winter comes in the women have been cleaning and planting their gardens in the last month. A wide varierty of beans, tomatoes, pepers and cucumbers will be planted in the green houses, which is still providing a good environment for the plants to grow. With the stronger structure and better protected garden, they are designed to survive any rain that can be expected. 

You are very welcome to contact us with any questions or suggestions. We would love to hear from you!

Many thanks from all the participants for your support. 

Warm regards from the team in Deheishe. 

Within some days, seedlings come up!
Within some days, seedlings come up!
This garden is clean and ready to be filled again!
This garden is clean and ready to be filled again!
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Organization Information

Karama Organisation for Women and Children's Development

Location: Bethlehem, West Bank - Palestine
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Project Leader:
Yasser Alhaj
Bethlehem, West Bank Palestine
$29,377 raised of $40,000 goal
 
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