July 2009, Gaza
School has ended in Gaza, and the school children now face two and a half months of summer holiday. However, for children in Gaza the summer holidays are not necessarily something to be looked forward to – unable to leave the confines of Gaza and with few facilities for activities available, the summer holidays are for many children a time of boredom and frustration. Aware of this, UNRWA ran its first summer games programme in 2007, offering summer activity programmes to children throughout the strip. This year 250,000 children will take part in the summer games, in 152 locations throughout the strip.
The summer camp beach activities are especially popular. On the sunny beaches of Khan Younis, south of Gaza Strip, young girls are swimming and playing with the sand, and choosing the different activities that they want to enroll in. Duaa Quidar, 12 years old, has chosen to do origami. When asked why she was taking part in the summer games she said, "I wanted to have some fun here which I can not find easily in other places. We have suffered a lot during the war on Gaza, and I was thinking only of death. Now there are other things I can think of".
Meanwhile, Anwar Radwan, an 11 year old from the Abasan area, was receiving swimming lessons, "I am very happy here, I can do what I want, I can play, I can swim, I can shout as loudly as I want. I allow myself to think of every thing except of war". Anwar was even happier as she can swim freely, as there are no boys in the summer camp. She complained that she could not learn to swim and do what she wants if boys were around, but in this summer camp she can act as she wishes. As per cultural standards in Gaza, swimming activities in UNRWA’s Summer Games are single-sex.
Amal Shurrab, the local activity manager, says that the positive effect of the activities is clear from the moment the girls enter the programme. "We have a different range of activities, but most of them want to join the swimming and only the swimming activities. Before they go into the sea to swim they sometimes mention the war, especially the older ones, but after they exert an effort swimming, they come out only tired and exhausted and won’t talk about anything except the sea."