OPT: A Colorful Way to Start the Day

Report
from American Near East Refugee Aid
Published on 14 Jan 2010 View Original
During the past year, ANERA has earmarked nearly two dozen preschools in much need of repair. The renovations have made school time far more pleasant and safe. The notes of appreciation from teachers and staff have also highlighted poignant stories of dedication and devotion to giving Gaza's children an oasis of calm in the midst of hardship.

A few miles away from the Jabalia refugee camp, in northern Gaza, Jabalia (A) Preschool is filled with 180 cheerful tots who come daily to learn and play in a bright and colorful environment. The school renovation was funded jointly by ANERA and OCHA and implemented by ANERA staff in Gaza.

"The children have noticed the changes in their preschool. After the renovations, each classroom is cheerful and colorful," said Om Shadi, a teacher working at the preschool since 1970. "As far as I remember, the last time the preschool was painted was 10 years ago. Our classrooms had washed-out dreary colors but now it's a delight to come to school." Om Shadi expressed a strong sense of belonging and commitment to the preschool, which she even had attended as a child. "This is the reason I've been here for 40 years."

Om Shadi recalled conditions at the preschool during rainy days, "The children felt the cold and the rain splashing on them. We had to put all the children in one corner of a classroom to keep them away from water dripping from leaks in the roof," she added.

One classroom was hit by a missile during last year's war, which also damaged other parts of the building. The preschool is located near many houses that were demolished, forcing residents to seek temporary shelter in mobile trailers near the refugee camp. "For those children who come from very poor backgrounds, a healthy preschool environment can provide a positive change in their daily lives," added Om Shadi.

Om Shadi is not the only one with an inspirational story at Jabalia preschool. Abu Hamza, who guards the school entry, has been working there for 11 years. He says he is committed to protecting the children. "I love working here and taking care of children. They always inspire me." Abu Hamza's wife sits beside him smiling. She also comes to school everyday to help him with cleanup and other chores.

Abu Hamza says the renovations have made a world of difference. "It is so much better. The walls are bright. It used to make me sad to watch the children play in the yard under the hot, burning sun. Now we don't have to worry about possible sunstroke because of the new shade roof over the play area."

Om Shadi agreed but added one more wish for the New Year: "I hope these children can live in peace and love all the rest of their lives." She smiled and added with conviction, "It starts right here with a wonderful and safe preschool."

American Near East Refugee Aid:
To learn more about ANERA, please visit http://www.anera.org/.