Good mental health is important to cope with the challenges
By Maria Syed | Analyst and Strategist
Helping children express their feelings
The situation in the Masafer Yatta area continues to be challenging for the residents. No matter what time of the day and where they are, local people live in constant fear of settler attacks, so much so that children and adults have both developed anxieties. Social worker Fatma understands the psychological condition of her community and works on improving their mental health.
Fatma has developed a monitoring committee, with two members from each village, to extend psychological support to the local community in case of settler attacks or Israeli Army raids. She conducted training sessions on providing psychological first aid to the people in their local area in the event Fatma is unable to reach the place due to the checkpoints and closure of roads.
Fatma provided medical first aid training to the committee members who can now provide aid if a medical emergency occurrs. She also assists families in getting medical treatments at the hospitals. Recently, a villager of Al-Tuwanah was shot by a settler at point-blank range — he survived. Fatima visited him at hospital and is in touch with his family.
Discussion sessions are held with teens to release pent-up anger and frustration and improve their mental health. Children are taught how to seek help from their school, family, and the neighborhood. Children over 16 are counseled on the importance of serving their community and undertaking volunteer work.
Mothers are the best people to help their children. Fatma conducted workshops for the mothers on developing communication skills–how to become good listeners to understand children’s problems. Many times, children are nervous about expressing their true feelings. Mothers learned how to be open to all kinds of opinions.
Social worker Fatma also visits the elderly people regularly. She inquires about their problems and engages them in simple activities.
With your support, Fatma helped the communities of Wadi Al-Rakhim, Khallet Al-Dabaa, Qawawis, Wadi Al-Rakhim, Al Majaz, and Al Fakhit these past months. Thank you for supporting social worker Fatma in carrying out all these activities for the benefit of the people in the Masafer Yatta area, especially in this time of emergency.
Workshop for teenage children of Susya & At-Tuwana
One of the most serious effects of the Israeli Occupation on Palestinians is poor mental health and stress. In Masafer Yatta, where crisis is all too familiar, a large number of people, adults, and children, suffer from trauma and anxiety. Rebuilding Alliance Social Worker Fatma continues to provide valuable counseling to the local community.
The majority of Fatma’s work is with children because they are the most vulnerable:
One of the biggest challenges in recent months has been the threat of the demolition of Palestinian schools. Sadly, Jubb al Dhib Elementary School, near Bethlehem, was demolished on May 7th, 2023. Following the demolition, Fatma met with the mothers to learn about the challenges they and their children faced. When teachers went on a strike, as a protest against the injustice, children could not continue their studies at school. Fatma met with the children and helped them develop a study mechanism to prepare for their annual exams.
Children experiencing violence and trauma often internalize their feelings of anger and depression. Fatma carried out activities with children in Susya and Wadi Al Kareem to help them express their emotions through drawing.
Two children were doing poorly in their studies and needed help. Fatma conducted one-on-one sessions with them to find out their problems. In the first case, a boy in Mufaqra, Muhammad dropped out of school because of bullying. He took a long time in opening up after attending several sessions with Fatma and shared how other children made fun of him because of his inability to read and write. In the other case, a girl was going through severe anxiety and mood swings. Fatma encouraged her to share her feelings.
Children in Mufaqrah village were asked to take part in a candid discussion on the reasons for the decline in their academic grades at school and how they can do better.
Fatma carried out activities on educating children to become responsible and environmentally conscious citizens. The activity was called ‘Man, a Friend of the Environment.’ Four different groups of children in the villages of Susiya, Al-Wana, Al-Mofaqra, and Sha'ab Al-Butm were taught how to adopt environment-friendly habits.
Being a Teenager can be challenging. To help children know that it is natural and normal for them to go through these changes, Fatma worked with two teenage groups in Al-Tawana and Ghwain.
Fatma is helping many other people in her community. While some issues are related to the situation in Palestine, others are specific to the Bedouin community of Masafer Yatta.
Fatma regularly works with female victims of domestic violence. She held sessions with the women in the villages of Jananba and Al Mjaz areas.
Mothers of Al-Samari and Zanuta villages attended Fatma’s sessions on how to help their children.
Sessions with elderly people were held in the villages of Umm Al Khair, Al Markaz, Al Fakhit, and Khallet Al Dabaa. These sessions usually educate the elderly on how to look after themselves.
There are ten people with special needs living in the villages of Al-Tawana, Khallet Al-Dabaa, Umm Al-Khair, Shaab Al-Batem, Al-Mufaqra, and Al-Majaz. Fatma educates their families on how to take care of them.
Thank you for supporting Fatma through this program. Please share this information with your circle of friends and family so Fatam can keep helping her community.
Helping children of Susya and Wadi Al Kareem vent
Colors and brushes help children express feelings
Fatma speaking to Mahmoud
Fatma in a session with children of Mufaqrah
Fatma & Nejmah with mothers of Jubb al Dhib School
Today, I met social worker Fatma on Zoom, joined by our Country Representative Nejmah. She shared the challenges of life in the South Hebron Hills and how without any heating, people including herself often get sick in the winter. She told us that all 12 villages in Masafer Yatta including her village of Susiya have no electricity lines. Locals rely on solar panels but it is not sufficient for heating purposes so they must use a wood fire to stay warm. The same is the case with water lines which are also not allowed. These require permits from the Israeli authorities. Additionally, access to health facilities is also not easy because of the ongoing closures in the area. They only get a visit from a mobile health clinic once a week.
Fatma says that the situation in Masafer Yatta has only worsened in the past few months due to increased military activity and the looming threat of forced eviction, adding to the challenges of the people. Everyone is facing problems due to the closures. Movement is restricted. Children get stopped by the military on their way to school. Mothers constantly fear for their children’s safety. People are unable to enter Israel for work resulting in unemployment and poverty. Even humanitarian organizations are not able to reach people for assistance. Military exercises are stoking fear and anxiety among locals. Given the extent of the challenges, the mental health of the people is suffering a great deal.
Fatma understands that good mental health helps one better cope with problems. She continues to provide psychological support to the residents of 42 villages. She helps them connect and express themselves. Being surrounded by kind people provides them with the support base they require.
It is important for mothers to stay mentally healthy, says Fatma, as it gives stability to a family, especially children. Fatma holds support sessions for mothers in two areas: Khalet al Dabeh and Mufaqarra. Due to local and cultural sensitivities, everything these women discuss during these sessions is kept confidential. However, these women are happy to find an outlet. She shares how she has seen a marked improvement in one mother. M (name not disclosed for privacy reasons) was suffering from depression and needed help. Due to her illness, she would shout at her children. As a result, the children developed behavioral issues and became aggressive. M has been getting counseling from Fatma and has been meditating regularly on her advice. M is feeling a whole lot better now. The best thing is her children’s behavior has improved and started listening to her.
Muhammad is a 9 year old boy from the village of Shuab al Botum who has also been benefiting from Fatma’s support. The Principal of a local school asked for Fatma’s help with the child. Muhammad suffers from a learning disability. Due to COVID, he missed out on his foundation years of school and fell behind in his studies. He is in 4th grade as he was held back one year because of his learning challenges. Fatma asked for the cooperation of Muhammad’s family and his teachers. Under Fatma’s guidance, a volunteer started tutoring Muhammad beginning with the basics and the curriculum of grade 1. She used new teaching techniques with him. Slowly and gradually, Muhammad started showing improvement in learning.
Thank you for enabling Fatma to help hundreds of children, women, and the elderly with their mental health.
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