23 May 2012
Deir ‘Ammar, West Bank
More than simply providing services to Palestine refugee youth, UNRWA is giving them the tools to create change together.
In the West Bank refugee camp of Deir ‘Ammar, the Agency piloted the “Citizenship Project” in co-operation with the Teacher Creativity Centre, giving young refugees the opportunity to change their own communities. Using interactive and co-operative activities, the project teaches young refugees about local governance, and how they can influence public policy.
Armed with these educational tools, the students at the Boys and Girls School are applying the skills they learned by leading their own community projects. From conception to completion, the eighth- and ninth-graders identify an aspect of the community in need of development, formulate a well-researched response to the problem, and then secure the funding that will allow these ideas to become a reality.
The 40 girls around the table are silent; they take turns speaking, and interject only occasionally to offer further comment or encouragement. The enthusiasm for the project is evident, as is the level of maturity.
They are going to establish a sports and cultural club, providing a much-needed social space and recreational opportunity for the women of Deir ‘Ammar. To lay the groundwork, the students met with representatives of the surrounding municipalities, the camp committee, and refugee seniors.
The boys in the project exhibit the same passion when discussing their project. Sitting in an uninspired courtyard, the boys discuss their plan to address violence and high drop-out rates at their school. By planting trees, removing rubbish, and repairing the long-abandoned swimming pool, they hope to make their school a more welcoming environment for their fellow students.
“This project helped to strengthen my character, and allowed me to participate in solving the problems of the school”, explained Sa’adi Muhammad, who helped to execute the project. His aspirations to create change haven’t stopped there, as he is already coming up with other ideas to address smoking, litter, and dropping out.
UNRWA’s Mohammad Yacoub has high hopes for the project, believing that the project will play a positive role in the development of the community and of the girls themselves.
His sentiment is shared by the students themselves, including 14-year-old Rahaf, who shared the lessons she learned from the project. “I know how to overcome shyness and make my voice heard in order to achieve our goals”, she explains. “Our goals should be collective in order to be achieved, because one hand cannot clap.”