Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19

by Rebuilding Alliance
Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19
Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19
Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19
Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19
Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19
Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19
Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19
Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19
Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19
Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19
Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19
Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19
Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19
Keep Al Aqaba Kindergarten Standing During Covid19

Rebuilding Alliance often refers to Al Aqaba Kindergarten as the beating heart of the village. Due to the kindergarten, the village's demolition orders were put on hold in 2008. To this day, the village and kindergarten remain and are such a model that Rebuilding Alliance brought Congressional staff there in February 2020 (just before COVID) to show them the remarkable investments that happened as a result of the kindergarten and its mayor.

Unfortunately, 53 schools in Area C are not so lucky and are currently at risk for demolition. Rebuilding Alliance's advocacy team is hard at work holding briefings for members of Congress in an effort to keep schools standing. Al Aqaba Kindergarten is an example of how schools built in the center of villages can make all the difference to help a community thrive. 

According to Human Rights Watch, “more than a third of the Palestinian communities in Area C, which constitutes 60% of the West Bank, do not currently have primary schools, and there are 10,000 children who go to school in tents or huts. About 1,700 children have been forced to walk 5 kilometers or so more to school because of road closures, lack of roads to cross [i.e. bridges and crosswalks], transportation, or other problems." 

A school's central location ensures that students don't have to travel far in difficult circumstances just to get an education. One of the schools at risk is Al Maleh in the Jordan Valley. Al Maleh students used to travel to Al Aqaba Kindergarten by bus through a checkpoint because there was no school in their village, which makes it all the more important to fight the demolition order for Al Maleh School. Al Aqaba Kindergarten's students used to come from five towns and villages.

In the meantime, Al Aqaba students are back at school with new PPE and social distancing requirements as pictured. Students are down to 50 from 160, partly because of parents concerned about safety and family finances as many have lost their jobs. Also, the Ministry of Education has opened competing kindergartens nearby that are free. The Ministry is adopting the Al Aqaba model to get a kindergarten in each village. 

The mayor and the kindergarten staff have been working hard to keep the school running. If you would like to sponsor an ongoing $50/month kindergarten scholarship, that would be much appreciated. Thank you so much for supporting Al Aqaba Kindergarten. Your support helps a generation of children start their journey into education and keeps this village standing.

Al Maleh School, at risk for demolition
Al Maleh School, at risk for demolition

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A few of this year's scholarship recipients!
A few of this year's scholarship recipients!

Hello Everyone!

My name is Omnia Ghassan. I am a writer and the partnership coordinator for We Are Not Numbers, a group of young Gazan writers who aspire to deliver the Palestinian cause to the West. I was asked by Rebuilding Alliance to write this report for you.  Since I am in Gaza, I was not able to visit but I called Haj Sami Sadeq, the Mayor of Al Aqaba village, and he connected me with the Principal to report on the progress of the Al Haq Kindergarten Scholarship Program. 

The Principal and Mayor provided certified reports, attached. I translated them and Donna Baranski-Walker, Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance, reviewed them with care.

Al Haq means certainty, reality, truth —  an inspiring name for a kindergarten. Last year, your donation made it possible for 20 children to receive scholarships and attend kindergarten. Their families really appreciated your support because they could not afford to pay the fee. Last year,150 children were registered by their parents, but some were at risk of dropping out because of their financial status.

A big challenge was that the Ministry of Education open a new public kindergarten nearby in Tayasir which is free. Sadly, the Palestinian Authority and the Minister of Education had showed no interest in supporting Al Aqaba’s kindergarten. Last year, everyone in Al Awaba was worried they may have to close but instead many parents and children returned to the Al Haq kindergarten because of their exemplary teaching methods and experienced staff.  It may seem like a small thing, but the kindergarteners are the heart of Al Aqaba Village — indeed the kindergarten is the reason the village can remain standing despite the demolition orders.

Principal Noha Al Dabak, has been the principal for 7 years. She said,  “Our kindergarten serves children from Tubas, Tayasir, and Soghra, not only from Al Aqaba. This year, 35 children are waiting for scholarships and the kindergarten has 132 students enrolled." Their names are Safaa, Marwa, Ghazal, Yousef, Jamil, Laya, Kareem, Ashraf, Aseed, Yousef, Riham, Abdullah, Tala, Rady, Baylasan, Dherar, Hosayna, Sara, Hareth, Seba, Toleen, Hussien, Noran, Mayar, Mohammed, Karam, Sham, Ahmed, Asnat, Aya, Ahmed, Toqa, Jad, Moamer, and Mohammed. So many!

The cost of the kindergarten is 120 NIS ($35) per month which is affordable for most families in the area — but this is way beyond the means of the poorest families, especially in the winter when farming families have already sold their harvest. To remain competitive, the kindergarten keeps fees way down but this means they pay the teachers very little.  Recently, they had to lay off one of the teachers when tuition payments did not arrive in time.

Principal Noha told me about one of the children:  Abdullah is a boy whose father passed away. His mother was working for low pay to raise and educate her child properly and to be able to send him to the Al Haq kindergarten. However, one month, his mother fell sick and was unable to work.  He was at risk of having to leave kindergarten because of her difficult financial condition and inability to pay the monthly tuition.

The children's love for the kindergarten keeps the teachers working even with very low salaries. Everyone is doing their best to keep this wonderful center going — and we hope the Al Haq Kindergarten will expand to become a training center for student teachers in the future.

For now, most importantly, your donation for the scholarship program assure a way for the poorest families to send their children to this wonderful place, giving them a boost for their education and for their lives. Please consider making your donation a recurring donation, so to cover the monthly fee for the child or children you are sponsoring. Your gift will keep them learning, help them seek knowledge, and grant them a brighter future.

2019 Scholarship Students, Principal Noha & Mayor
2019 Scholarship Students, Principal Noha & Mayor
Table by table, scholarship students for 2019
Table by table, scholarship students for 2019
Principal Noha and 2019 Scholarship Students
Principal Noha and 2019 Scholarship Students
Your support makes a big difference!
Your support makes a big difference!
Here are some of the girls who need scholarships
Here are some of the girls who need scholarships
Kindergarten nr mosque w double minaret peace sign
Kindergarten nr mosque w double minaret peace sign

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Thanks to your generous and continuos support, AlAqaba Kindergarten is still standing, and the number of children in the kindergarten has doubled!  The Kindergarten is now welcoming 165 children everyday, they come from Alaqaba village and nearby villages and Tubas.

"The kindergarten staff along with the local council are working on developing more programs for children, to develop their personalities and skills," said Mayor Haj Sami, "along with the rehabilitation of outdoor play area."

You might remember that our kindergarten was in crisis when the Palestinian government opened a new kindergarten just ten minue from the village.  The fear was that parents would opt for the new place.  The Al Aqaba Kindergarten redoubled their efforts to reach out to parents.

"Parents from 4 nearby villages bring their children to AlAqaba Kindergarten, they trust the way we treat kids and teach them," one of teachers commented.

Currently the Al Aqaba's Al Haq Kindergarten is in need of your financial support to maintain the outstanding services offered, since parents are paying only small fees that cover only part of the expenses.

With your help, and generous donations, we can keep this place running, serving the people of this area and keeping the village safe from demolition.

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Al Aqaba's kindergarten: a safe place to grow
Al Aqaba's kindergarten: a safe place to grow

Dear Friends, 

First, let me introduce myself.  My name is Feras Alnabulsi and I am the Country Representative for Rebuilding Alliance in the West Bank.  I attend the various UN Cluster meetings and the Association for International Development Agencies (AIDA) meetings, and best of all, I visit the project sites.  I am proud to send you this report.

Al Aqaba village-Tubas Governorate, West Bank, Palestine:

Al Haq Kindergarten offers very important care and relief for the children of Al Aqaba village and the surrounding area.  Located in a marginalized community at the north eastern part of the West Bank's Area C, 150 child from Al Aqaba and from two nearby towns and villages attend the Al Haq Kindergarten. Al Haq means truth in Arabic.  This wonderful place offers boys and girls the opportunity to discover, learn, and play -- all great ways to build communication skills and learn how to get along with peers and adults.

Together, the teachers, bus drivers, and the Director and even the cleaning crew of the kindergarten  do more than simply bring kids to the classrooms. In every aspect of this job, they ensure the children's  safety and provide a nurturing environment that helps them release their fears.  You remember, this is Area C and Al Aqaba village is very near one of two Israeli military training centers.  The rat-ta-tat sound of machine guns is audible, and sometimes the army launches missiles too. That's really scary for kids. What's more, the Israeli Army has redoubled efforts to demolish homes nearly, though outside the periphery of the village.   Whenever anyone's home is demolished, everyone is impacted. 

‘’We give love, care, safe spaces and playing areas for children, helping them enjoy their time here as they develop their skills,’’ said Mrs. Noha - the Kindergarten's Director.  “The children spend around six hours everyday in kindergarten, looking to live their childhood as other children in the world.  We take this responsibility very seriously.  With the help of the donations we receive, we are all determined to assure them a wonderful kindergarten experience — the best start for their life ahead."  

Mrs. Noha continued, "The kindergarten is equipped with early reading tools, there's a great library upstairs, and we also have a playroom filled with tools and constumes to help them explore life skills and even career paths.  Our aim is to prepare these children to look forward for education, to have hope for a better future, to grow into adults with ambition, ready to care for others and have a voice in their community."

The Al Aqaba families I met with are very grateful to have this kindergarten.  One mom, Mrs. Haya, said “ I wake up everyday, prepare my kids to go the kindergarten, feeling happy, comfortable, and grateful for having such a place in or village.  We didn’t have kindergarten when we were kids, and we can see the smile on our children’s faces.”  She has twins in the kindergarten!

“Many thanks to anyone who gave even a small help in keeping this place running, it is a symbol of happiness and children rights “ added Mrs. Haya.

Mayor Haj Sami, talked about the hard times that the kindergarten is facing, and how they are able to get through it.   “Sometimes we don’t pay salaries for months because of lack of funds, but teachers keep working because of their belief in the value that this kindergarten holds.” 

“The support from donors was a major, major support for us until now.   Many thanks to everyone who donates for our children.  It is a support for the simplest rights of humanity, the right to education.”  said Mayor Haj Sami.

Al Aqaba's decision to build this kindergarten and Rebuilding Alliance's help to make that happen have made all the difference in the world for these children and this village. 

Thank you again for your incredible support for this wonderful project.  Please mark your calendar for Giving Tuesday Nov. 29th when GlobalGiving will be matching all donations all day starting at midnight until 11:50pm Eastern time!  

Sincerely,

Feras

I loved visiting these children!
I loved visiting these children!
Really fun to share their happiness
Really fun to share their happiness
Here's two classes combined - there are 7 total
Here's two classes combined - there are 7 total
Front door of the Al Haj (Truth) Kindergarten
Front door of the Al Haj (Truth) Kindergarten
A teacher said, "The smile of a child is a gift."
A teacher said, "The smile of a child is a gift."
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The heartening spirit of the kindergarten
The heartening spirit of the kindergarten

Dear Friend,

Al Aqaba's Kindergarten has always held a special place in our heart. Just last month, I stayed there for several days to respond to one existential crisis, and then remarkably, another.  One was resolved with remarkable ease — the other is due to a bureaucratic mistake at the highest level -- and we ask your help to overcome it in the simplest of ways: kindergarten scholarships.

First existential crisis - RESOLVED: 
Just after I visited Al Aqaba in February, an Israeli settler family moved into the oldest building within the fencing of the Tayasir Israeli military checkpoint nearby. The settler and his wife and children, along with their 10 cows, guns, and drone (used to surveil shepherds and scare the sheep), moved in on Wednesday, February 21, and for whatever reason, the Israeli Army did nothing to stop them.

On Sunday, the 25th, 150 Palestinians and two Israelis walked to the checkpoint as Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at them.  Mayor Haj Sami rolled forward in his wheelchair, asking to speak with the commanding officer:

“I am in a wheelchair for over 45 years but they shot the gas very near to me. I was coughing, eyes and nose hurting, but I kept going. There were many soldiers and about 10 jeeps. I told a soldier in Arabic, I want speak to the officer in charge – he told me no – but the officer saw me and said, “Let him come forward, this is the Mayor.” I went close to the officer, just one meter away, through their line and facing the crowd.

“I told him not to shoot and I spoke in Hebrew. I told them that we were not dangerous. We came to see the settler and ask what time he will be leaving.

“Do you have Tabo for the land?” said a guy from the Israeli Civil Administration. I answered the, ‘The Settler, he has Tabo? They put the settler in the soldier’s camp – it is forbidden.”

“The officer said we could not talk to the settler so I told them we would pray. First he said no and gave me 15 min to tell people to go or they will take them all to prison and shoot more gas. I told him, please don’t shoot. We just want to pray and we will go if you will go.   He asked me how long, and I said 5 minutes for the prayer.

They stopped shooting, we prayed — even so four people were treated in Al Aqaba clinic.

When I told the soldiers that the settlers must leave, the commanding officer said that the settlers would leave soon, “Tomorrow, day after tomorrow or one month. The settler will go, just tell the people to go home. I told him one month is too long — we will be back next week.”

It is important to note that despite having been relegated to a wheelchair since 1971, the victim of an Israeli soldier’s bullet fired during a training exercise, Mayor Haj Sami deeply believes that no one — neither Palestinian, nor Israeli -- should experience what happened to him. He welcomes all who come in peace to Al Aqaba Village

On Thursday, March 1st, the settler family moved out!

 

Now, the other existential crisis — and with your help, a way forward:

For whatever reason, the Palestinian Ministry of Local Governments built a brand new, kindergarten walking-distance away from Al Aqaba's kindergarten, the one we helped them build. Al Aqaba’s own kindergarten is the heart of the village, attracting children from all the neighboring towns.  Unemployment is high and agriculture is seasonal... the nearby public kindergarten began to attract Al Aqaba's enrollment -- to the detriment of both schools.

The Ministry of Education offered to take over Al Aqaba's kindergarten - but they would hire their own replacement staff, and fire Al Aqaba's experienced teachers who gave heart and soul to build this remarkable place.  That just won't due.

Instead we ask your help to make Al Aqaba's kindergarten free and keep it independent!  Let's serve a nutritious breakfast too, to employ the mothers' baking brigade!

Help make this happen by giving $50 each month to provide a scholarship to send a child to Al Aqaba's kindergarten, including breakfast!  Here's a great way to help:  Next week, from Monday to Friday, GlobalGIving is launching their Little by Little Campaign. 

  • GlobalGiving will match all donations up to $50, by 50%
  • Make it a Recurring Donation because GG will provide a 100% match for new recurring donations started during the Little by Little Campaign week!

Meanwhile, we're reaching out to the teachers colleges at American University in Jenin and Al Najah University in Nablus to accredit a student teacher training program in Al Aqaba.   We look forward to inviting visiting teachers from near and far to come for a 3 month practicum.  Their stay in Al Aqaba's guesthouse, as a 'protective presence', will also help keep the village safe too.

Thank you again for all that you are doing.

Sincerely,

The children's favorit dance game
The children's favorit dance game
The beauty of friendship and joy for learning
The beauty of friendship and joy for learning
Due to the kindergarten Maysara knows some English
Due to the kindergarten Maysara knows some English
Mayor Haj Sami, Israeli Army - Settlers now GONE!
Mayor Haj Sami, Israeli Army - Settlers now GONE!
Setters moved-in with their cows - now all gone!
Setters moved-in with their cows - now all gone!

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Rebuilding Alliance

Location: Redwood City, CA - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @RebuildAll
Project Leader:
Donna Baranski-walker
Executive Director
Redwood City, California United States
$54,308 raised of $60,132 goal
 
787 donations
$5,824 to go
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