Dear friends and readers of my report,
A new school year started in Palestine on August 31. As the second anniversary of the Intifada approaches, hundreds of thousands of school children and their families throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip are unable to afford back-to-the-school necessities. In recent months, Palestinian economy has rapidly been deteriorating under the prolonged siege, closure, and curfew. Since March, after the Operation Defensive Shields, the repeated Israeli invasions have caused over a half entire Palestinian households to lose their incomes altogether. Over two-thirds of Palestinians are now living below the poverty line (less than US$2/day).
In addition to my daily regular Ibdaa work, I've started to go around the camp to interview families. As many of you may know, the closure has put many people out of work in the last 2 years. The situation got a lot worse lately. Ibdaa has compiled a list of children living in extremely difficult circumstances, and I am putting together their profile that will help us finding sponsors. Many families have absolutely no incomes, and are barely surviving off UNRWA's humanitarian assistance (small cash, basic foodstuff) that is far from sufficient.
This interview process has been very very difficult for me emotionally. Every family here has been victimized in very violent situations - their house broken into by soldiers, furniture destroyed, children injured by shootings, relatives lost and maimed, or someone from the family imprisoned (over 7,500 Palestinian civilians are currently in Israeli jails). Because I need the information on problems in order to describe the situation with each family, I have to ask questions that people may find difficult to speak about outside their family members. It is so painful to see fathers having to speak on their joblessness, their illness, the suffering of his family because of his inability to provide what is needed. Many children have no money to buy even pencils and notebooks, not to mention new backpacks or clothing, for their new school year. Parents speak painfully of poverty at homes affecting academic performance of their children. They are desperately trying to keep their children at school - Palestinians strongly believe in education - while many children have actually considered quitting school to work in the streets to help their parents.
MECA (Middle East Children's Alliance, my employer) has established a program with Ibdaa Cultural Center to provide direct aid to these school children - Dheisheh Child Sponsorship Program. Some of them have medical problems. Some of their homes have been demolished or partially destroyed during the invasions. Many of their parents are dead, sick and/or unemployed for a long time and the families have virtually no incomes. In this program, a sponsor will support one child from Dheisheh every month for one-year period. MECA will put together information and communication channel so that the sponsor will get to know the child and be updated on his/her situation in Dheisheh.
MECA and Ibdaa plan to send $50 / month to each child. If you are unable to afford the full amount, you may sign up for $25 / month and MECA will match you up with another person. MECA is a nonprofit organization and the sponsorship will be tax-deductible.
Please email me back if you are interested or want more information on the program, which will make a direct impact on lives of the children. Thank you for considering to be a part of the Dheisheh community.
official announcement (7 Sep. 2002):
SPONSORING a CHILD in PALESTINE
A Project of Ibdaa Cultural Center - Dheisheh Refugee Camp & Middle East Children's Alliance
Education is a key to the future. Palestinians are not giving it up, even during this unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
- Maher is 11 years old. He goes to school carrying a plastic bag, because his family can’t afford a backpack.
- Batul is 8 years old and has two small siblings. After her father passed away from cancer last year, the family is barely surviving off her mother’s part-time job.
- Mohammed is 12 years old. He has a physical disability and has to be on medication. The last time he took the medicine was 2 years ago before the Intifada started, when his father still had a job.
Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA), in partnership with Ibdaa Cultural Center, is launching on a child sponsorship program that will give a direct assistance to children from Dheisheh refugee camp, in order to help them continuing their education.
While the crisis in Palestine is affecting everyone's life, the children whose family member is sick or whose parent has passed away are being hit the hardest. They are doing anything just to survive - from using credit to selling food stuff that came as humanitarian aid. The situation, in the words of UN special coordinator Tarje-Larsen, is "a human catastrophe" that is getting "out of control." Today, approximately two-thirds of Palestinians are living below the poverty line ($2 or less a day), a figure twice as high as before the Intifada.
Most of Dheisheh's families, just as anywhere in Palestine, haven't earned any incomes for the last two years. Although many of them couldn't even buy pencils at the beginning of the new school year, Palestinian parents are desperately trying to keep their children at school because education is the only asset they can build the future on.
Ibdaa Cultural Center, a grassroots initiative to empower the children and young people in Dheisheh camp through social and educational programs, are trying to find monthly sponsors for the children in the most difficult circumstances in Dheisheh camp and nearby communities. Ibdaa has compiled a list of tens of girls and boys between the ages of 4 and 18. By sending a small but steady amount directly to their bank account, Ibdaa is trying to help them continue their education and to lighten some of the burdens on the families.
Ibdaa hopes that the sponsorship will be mutually beneficial experience to both the children and their sponsors - that the relationship will go beyond financial assistance and become a bridge for a sponsor to the Dheisheh community, its children's reality and the situation in Palestine at large.
HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS
- Our aim is for each child is to receive a $50 monthly assistance in his/her bank account.
- If a sponsor is unable to afford the amount alone, we encourage considering forming a group with friends. MECA can also pair the sponsor up with another person.
- A sponsor will sign up with MECA to assist a same child for one year period.
- MECA will assign a sponsor to a child selected by Ibdaa.
- Payment is to be sent to MECA office in Berkeley, California. MECA will handle money transaction between the sponsor and the child's bank account in Palestine.
- Payments can be monthly, every 3 or 6 month, or once a year. Checks and credit card (Visa or Master) accepted.
- Donations will be tax-deductible (MECA is a non-profit organization).
- Upon signing up, MECA will send a confirmation and a profile of the sponsored child. Please note that Ibdaa and MECA will disclose the information of the child to his/her sponsor ONLY, in order to protect the child's privacy and safety.
- Sponsor will be updated on the situation in Dheisheh and his/her child periodically.
- Ibdaa and MECA will facilitate communication (letters, emails etc) between the sponsor and child as requested.
- After the first year, the sponsor will have an option for continuing or discontinuing the sponsorship.
HOW TO SIGN UP
Fill out the attached application form (MS Word format), and email to:
Shirabe Yamada, Program Coordinator