GAZA KIDS NEED YOUR HELP!
Barb Olson, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, March 9, 2018
For the third time, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) is partnering with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) and the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice to fund the Samira Remedial Education Project in Rafah. Organized by the Rafah branch of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), this project employs special education teachers and a social worker to provide psycho-social support to 180 economically disadvantaged and learning-disabled children age six to twelve and their families.
The Gaza Strip, turned by Israel’s siege into the world’s largest open-air prison, is already one of the poorest and most crowded places on earth. The educational system is overcrowded, unstable and inconsistent. Sanitation, water and electrical services barely function. Public services are weak and underfunded, especially those serving mainly women and children. The recent US cuts to The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) threaten to turn crisis into catastrophe. Three-quarters of Gaza’s 1.8 million people are refugees dependent on the schools, hospitals and food distributions of UNRWA just to survive. In addition, Gaza is subjected to frequent Israeli military land and sea attacks and has not recovered from the last decade’s three full-scale bombardments and invasions. Every one of the close to 1 million children in Gaza knows someone who was killed, injured or made homeless.
Children have been affected more than others because every aspect of their lives, especially the education system, has been repeatedly disrupted if not destroyed. Psychologically, the negative impact on children is enormous: nightmares, racing thoughts, nail-biting, panic attacks, uncontrolled urination, violent behavior and hyperactivity are common symptoms. It is estimated that at least 30 percent of all children in Gaza are so severely affected that they require some form of structured psycho-social intervention.
For the past couple of years, the Samira Remedial Education Project has been successfully intervening to develop the children’s skills and increase their ability to learn (especially reading, writing and mathematics); to support them psychologically and socially and rebuild their confidence; to implement scientific solutions to learning disabilities and reduce violent and disruptive behavior; to train families to better support their children; and to create job opportunities for qualified professionals in this field. Field trips, a children’s library and activities such as theater, music, art and reading help the staff to understand the children and create a space for the children to express their feelings.
The total cost of this project for the current phase is $14,049. The Rachel Corrie Foundation has pledged $2,000, MRSCP will contribute $2,500 and aims to raise at least $5,500 more by June, 2018 so that the project can be fully funded by MECA. We need your help to meet this goal! Please make checks payable to MRSCP with the note “Samira”, and mail to:
P.O. Box 5214
Madison, WI 53705
If you prefer to donate on line, you can do so through the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA).
The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and all donations are tax deductible. Checks to MRSCP will receive a letter at the end of the year acknowledging your contribution. Contributions made online will receive a receipt from MECA.
Two of the Gaza Strip’s most pressing challenges are a blockade-induced shortage of both electricity and building materials. And, in this conservative, patriarchal society, it’s a young, female engineer who is tackling both.
Twenty-four-year-old Majd al-Mashharawi, a 2016 graduate in civil engineering, first figured out how to turn ash and rubble—of which Gaza has a lot—into a material she calls “Green Cake” that can replace cement. Now, she is turning her attention to renewable energy technologies, starting with a solar kit named SunBox. Now in the piloting phase, SunBox is, she says, the first off-the-grid solar kit in Gaza.
“Gaza has an extreme shortage of electricity—receiving just three to six hours a day. But the entire Middle East suffers from a lack of sufficient electricity,” Mashharawi says. “This severely affects both quality of life and opportunity for economic growth. But the region has a resource that can be harnessed—an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, making solar energy an ideal source of electricity production.”
Mashharawi researched solar options in use in Africa and India, where electricity outages also are common. However, she ended up turning to China for the most applicable solution. Her SunBox product is a small solar energy collection kit she imports, modifies to accommodate local electrical outlets and voltage and sells for US$355—a price her market research shows is affordable to most households. (She hopes to partner with microfinance businesses for those families who need to pay in installments.) The kit generates 1,000 watts of electricity—enough to power four lamps, two laptops, two phones, an internet router and a TV/fan/small refrigerator for a full day, before needing a “refresh” (using either the sun or the electrical grid, when available).
If the Gaza launch goes well, Mashharawi is already dreaming of expanding into other markets—West Bank refugee camps, Syrians in Jordan and off-grid Bedouin communities throughout the Middle East (perhaps the largest of the populations, at an estimated 3.2 million).
Mashharawi attributes her entrepreneurial spirit to her 11th grade math teacher.
"He forced us to find a way to solve math assignments on our own—rather than simply memorizing the formulas. It was the first and most difficult challenge of my life," she recalls.
This led Mashharawi to spend her entire, three-month summer holiday figuring out the "why" behind the answers so she could compile a booklet to distribute to other students. Mashharawi considers this her first startup.
“I didn't know how to change it into a business, however,” she laughs. “I was young and unaware of how businesses work.”
Free performances, food, and crafts from all over the world. MRSCP was selling our Palestinian products, including extra-virgin Holy Land Olive Oil, olive oil soap, Palestinian-made Hirbawi kuffiyahs, earrings from the Hebron Women’s Co-op, ceramics, embroidery and other crafts from Gaza and the West Bank.
Local Goes Global
Overture Hall Main Lobby
201 State Street, Madison
10:30 am – 4:30 pm
Mark Your Calendars for Sunday Afternoon
Annual Rachel Corrie Commemoration
Featuring Dessert and a Program
Time and place TBD
2018 marks 15 years since Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer, as she tried to prevent the demolition of a family home in Rafah. 2018 also marks the 15th anniversary of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.
Join us for this special tribute to Rachel. Refreshments including baklawa and other desserts will be served. As always, admission is free but we will gratefully accept donations to support the Samira Project for disadvantaged children in Rafah. Palestinian olive oil, olive oil soap, ceramics, Hirbawi kufiyahs, embroidery and other crafts will be available for purchase.
The Samira Project Needs Your Help Again in 2018
For the third time, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) is partnering with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) and the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice to fund The Samira Project in Rafah.
YES! I WANT TO SUPPORT THE SAMIRA PROJECT FOR TRAUMATIZED CHILDREN!
City:______________________________________ State___________ Zip ____________
E-mail: ____________________________________________ Contribution: $__________
Organized by the Rafah branch of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), this project (continued on back side) employs special education teachers and a social worker to provide economically disadvantaged and learning-disabled children age six to twelve, and their families, with psycho-social support.
The Gaza Strip, often described as the world’s largest open-air prison, is already one of the poorest and most crowded places on earth. Since 2006 the Israeli/Egyptian siege has drastically restricted human travel as well as all external commerce. As a result at least 80% of the people live under the poverty line. Unemployment for adults and youth is rampant. The educational system is overcrowded, unstable and inconsistent. Sanitation, water and electrical services barely function. Public services are weak and underfunded, especially those serving mainly women and children.
The recent US defunding of UNRWA, the the UN’s vital refugee support program, threatens to turn crisis into catastrophe. Three-quarters of Gaza’s 1.8 million people are refugees dependent on the schools, hospitals and food distributions of UNRWA just to survive.
By destroying schools in Palestinian villages in Area C and elsewhere, Israel is forcing Palestinians to make a cruel choice — between their land and their children’s futures.
Students sit in a classroom at school in the Jahalin Bedouin community of Khan Al-Ahmar, West Bank, February 22, 2017. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)
When the children of Beit Ta’mar, a village south-east of Bethlehem, left their improvised schoolhouse for winter vacation about two weeks ago, they did not know if the building would still be standing when they came back.
To call the building a school is to exaggerate. It is comprised of five concrete rooms on the top of a hill, constructed by the village’s residents, who also built the road to the school.
“Last August, we asked the army for permission to build a school for the children in the village,” Hassan Brigiah says on our way to the site. “We didn’t receive an answer, and after we talked with a lawyer, we decided to set up six caravans to serve as classrooms. The army came and dismantled the caravans. While they were doing this I said to them, ‘but you didn’t give us an answer at all!’ It didn’t help. We decided to build a few classrooms out of concrete, and in the meantime, a lawyer managed to get an order to prevent them from being demolished until the government gives us an answer.”
The army has since provided an answer—negative, as expected. The reasons, as always, are technical and bureaucratic. Ever since, the threat of demolition has hung over the improvised first through third-grade classrooms. The Palestinian Authority provided tables and chairs, which is noted on a plaque. “We’ll build the homeland with the power of knowledge,” is spray painted on one of the walls.
The school is located in Area C, but close to Area B, in the West Bank, under Palestinian civil control, and entirely on privately owned land, Birgiah says, adding that the construction was financed by the villagers themselves.
“We are very close to Tekoa and Noqdim, where [Defense Minister] Liberman lives,” Birgiah adds. “They have a lot of influence on the government. Nearly every day, the settlers stand on the hill overlooking the school and survey our children with binoculars. The army is also here all the time, walking around, taking pictures, and leaving. They want to show us that they’re here, so that we’ll continue to live in fear.”
In general, the sense is that schools and educational institutions have become a hot target for the army across the West Bank.
About a month ago, the army issued a demolition order against the fourth-grade classroom in a school in the community of A-Nawer, near the settlement of Maale Adumim. On October 7, 2017, the army confiscated the doors of the two schoolhouses there. According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, last summer Israeli troops declared the school a closed military zone and confiscated the solar panels that powered the school.
A day before the first day of the school year in the West Bank this past year, soldiers demolished a school in the village of Job a-Dib , leaving 80 students with nowhere to learn. The school was comprised of six caravans, which the army dismantled and confiscated. As Eli Bitan reported, during the demolition the army used stun grenades against residents.
Al Hirbawi, supplier to the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project
The kaffiyeh is a traditional Arab headdress and a symbol of the Palestinian struggle. Today, it continues to represent an important part of Palestinian heritage. Unfortunately, the Al Hirbawi factory is the last remaining institution in the Palestinian territories producing the original kaffiyeh. Brothers Jouda, Abdelazim and Ezzat have been working in the factory since they were kids, inheriting the family business and continuing the proud legacy.