I visited Al Aqaba village on Sunday 14th of March. When you come to this tiny village, it’s very quiet until reaching the center when you start to hear the children voices all around you. Their lively voices and laughter bring life and energy to this place, even as the sounds of heavy weapons and machine gun training at nearby Israeli military camps would overwhelm the human voice of existence. The children are happy and active. They sing songs to me and let me into their world.
"I like coming to the Kindergarten to play with my friends and have fun" "I like learning the alphabets and singing songs here" "I like to draw plans" It was clear how the kindergarten offers an important space for these children to live and grow.
Kindergarten principal Noha said, "The kindergarten is the energy dynamo of Al Aqaba village and the essential element of life here. It's like the minaret in the middle of the sea. Even when parents come to pick their children they like to stay around for a while and hang out in the playground. It's the only outlet for everyone here and the source of good feelings for everyone around."
I want to say we’ve got to do better at raising funds for scholarships.
The kindergarten, like all early childhood education in Palestine is private and it depends upon tuition to pay staff and expenses. Sadly Noha, the principal told me that ten children dropped out since January this year. And almost all students have not paid their fees for January and February. This might result in more students quitting as it embarrasses parents when they cannot pay tuition. It certainly puts financial pressure on the administration. Many students haven't paid for many months from last year and tens can't even join the kindergarten.
“We want to give all children the opportunity to come to school, and we want to hold on to our students and give them the best learning experiences, however it’s hard with the limited resources and difficulties we face,” said Principal Noha.
It is not just the kindergarten building that keeps the whole village standing — it's the wonder and hope of all these children. I hope you will continue to support Kindergarten Scholarships for Palestine – especially the Kindergarten in Al Aqaba. P.S On Wednesday, March 18th you can stretch your donation to Kindergarten Scholarships further! It's a Global Giving match day and all donations up to $1,000 will be matched by 30% starting at 9 a.m. EST. Set your alarms!
Dear Friend, Of all the work Rebuilding Alliance has done, our most important project has been the Kindergarten of Al Aqaba. It keeps the whole village standing, attracts the further investment of 20 countries, and is a model for all our work -- but most importantly, our kindergarten provides 160 children with a wonderful education. Our kindergarten opens its door to the children of Al Aqaba, the nearby villages who don't have kindergartens, and to children who live in the Jordan Valley countryside. Your donation opens the doors to families who cannot afford the modest tuition."Your help gives all children the valuable opportunity to walk on the path of education," said Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq. "The kindergarten would struggle to stay open were it not for you." Al Aqaba's Village Council and Al Aqaba's Rural Women's Association thank you for your donations. With your help, through the scholarship grants program, the kindergarten fees for 20 children were covered through the end of November. They believe in your generosity and ask you to continue your support in the months to come.
We are so proud that this project qualifies for the Microsoft Youth Spark Matching Grant offered on Giving Tuesday! On this Tuesday, Microsoft will give away $350,000 in matching grants for each donation up to $500 per project. Please set your alarm as Microsoft YouthSpark will match for Rebuilding Alliance’s project, Dollar for Dollar, starting at 6am PST/ 9am EST and again at noon Pacific / 3pm EST.
The kindergarten now faces a real challenge in the way that it pays teachers. Miniumum wage has gone up in Palestine but the basic fees for the kindergarten remain fixed at 100NIS (New Israeli Shekels) per month. Teacher salaries need to more than double to meet the national standard. Our team is developing a grant proposal to ask foundation to help address this — I promise to forward a copy in the month to come.
The future of these children and this village starts with the journey of knowledge — it is their highest priority. Your donation opens a road of peace and hope. Please donate again on Giving Tuesday. Thank you.
I am writing to let you know that through your support, 29 needy children were able to attend kindergarten at Al Aqaba's Al Haq Kindergarten this past school year. We transferred a grant of $5568 in March and that was enough to pay for 7.34 months of school for these 29 students. February, March, April, May, and June have quickly gone by, and the kindergarteners — including the scholarship students — have celebrated their graduations!
By the end of summer, Al Aqaba's kindergarten will receive applications for the new class of students. I write now to ask your help to raise the funds needed to provide scholarships to 30 kindergarten students for all 9 months of their school year. To do this, we'll need to raise at least $7396 (Tuition is 100NIS/month * 30 students * 9 months less 2.34 months of funds left over from this past year, as we started the scholarship fund mid-year). If we raise an additional $2000 we will offer stipends to 2 talented student teachers too.
From Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq, "Our Village of Al Aqaba remains safe. When things are scary, with the sound of military training underway near their homes, our kindergarten building and our teachers offer a good and positive place for the children. Please know your support for our kindergarten scholarships is more important than ever."
Good news. This Wednesday June 25th is a bonus day with a dollar for dollar match for donations up to $1000. On Wednesday, Microsoft Youth Spark is giving away $200,000 in matching funds via GlobalGiving — and I think the match will go in the first 5 minutes.
Please mark your calendar for Wednesday, June 25th and set your alarm for 9:01am Pacific, 10:01am Mountain, 11:01am Central, or Noon:01pm Eastern. Please click Scholarships 4 Children, Stipends 4 Young Teachers to give.
As always, please call me if you have questions or suggestions. My phone number is 650 325-4663.
P.S. I am delighted to share photos from a recent workshop offered by artists Lily Yeh and Robert Shetterly in Al Aqaba Village. Rebuilding Alliance's own Ayat Omran helped out that day too, and the next day a wonderful mural took shape outside the Kindergarten!
Greetings from Ramallah! The scholarship project is really taking off, all because of you.
Earlier this year, Kindergarten Director Raheya Alsbaih and Mayor Haj Sami sent the list of children who would especially benefit from the scholarship program and their photos. From your donations we transferred a grant of $5,565.68 for the 26 children in families facing unemployment, financial difficulties, health program or who just show a particular aptitude to learn. I've attached a translated summary of the selection list.
As soon as Thai Hien Ho and I arrived in the West Bank we met with the Kindergarten Director to discuss the implementation of the scholarship program. Kindergarten Director Raheya explained, "The scholarship will not involve a transfer of funds to the families but instead the families will be privately notified that their fees are being waived. We will start reporting specifics back to you soon."
The photos sent to us as we announced this program show anxious, needy children in the cold of winter. Now, in springtime, they all blend in and with the care of their teachers and parents, they just shine. I've posted a few pictures from the recent Land Day celebrations on March 31st to give you a sense of how remarkable they are ... behind me were hundreds of moms snapping photos of their little ones.
This kindergarten is such a special place, filled with 130 students and now 20 more. A new grant from the British Consulate and the Welfare Association upgraded the kitchen to offer hot lunches. The Estonian Government continues to send a teacher every three months who lives at the guest house and teaches the little ones. Kindergarten Teacher Trainer Expert Abla Mahroun, who designed the kindergarten along with Engineer Laila Sbaih when Rebuilding Alliance first built it, came back to offer the teachers additional insight.
I wish I could stop my report there, reflecting back the beaming children in the bright sunny days of spring. The hard part is that for three days this past week, Al Aqaba Village was like the eye of a hurricane, in this case a booming mass of Israeli Army soldiers training with guns and mortar from all sides of the village. Everyone is safe, there was no shooting in the village itself, but machine gun fire, sonic booms, and tank fire can be really scary for children. The bus drivers and teachers modeled reassurance and calm.
If you would like to support our Kindergarten Scholarship project again, one great day to do this will be on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 starting at 12:00:01 PM (noon) EDT when Microsoft's Youth Spark will provide a 50% match to donations (up to $1,000 per donor). The bonus competition will end April 17th, 2014, at 11:59:59 AM EDT. NOTE: The project that has the most unique donors on Microsoft YouthSpark's Bonus Day will receive an additional $10,000 from Microsoft. Please mark your calendar for noon, Wednesday April 16th through noon Thursday April 17th — and ask your friends to mark their calendar too.
I head back to Al Aqaba Village in just a few days time and will be happy to convey any questions you may have to the staff or to the children and get back to you. Please email me at contact@RebuildingAlliance.org or call me at 0119702313811.
All good news from Al Aqaba Village. The British Consulate and the Palestinian Welfare Foundation have provided a grant to update the furniture, books, and toys in the Al Haq Kindergarten — very exciting. We had the opportunity to join them when they visited in August for a walk-through. It was wonderful to bring forward Rebuilding Alliance's commitment — we built the Kindergarten and helped it expand in so many ways.
I hope you are as excited as I am by our new scholarship focus for this project! I have asked Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq and Kindergarten Principal Rawheya Alsbaih to tell us about the children who need scholarships and their families. They would like to give 60 children scholarships for Kindergarten — let's do it!
Please GIVE on Tuesday, Dec. 3rd when Microsoft's Youth Spark program will be matching all donations dollar for dollar. Please give as early as you can because their funds will run out quickly. Here's when the matching grant starts:
9:01am Pacific / Noon:01 Eastern / 5:01pm London / 7:01pm Jerusalem time
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