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Art for healing - An UNRWA arts and crafts initiative that changes lives
10-year old Maryam sits engaged in a lively conversation with her friends, all of whom are crowded around an arts & crafts table at the UNRWA Al Zaitoun Preparatory Girls’ School “C” in Gaza. The table is covered with crayons, scissors, glitter and brightly colored snippets of cardboard. As she makes up her mind on which colour to use next, her classmates giggle and tell jokes around her. In the end, Maryam proudly announces her choice and presents her piece to the group. For Maryam and her friends, today is a good day at school, but this wasn’t always the case.
Before joining this art & craft class, Maryam was quiet and withdrawn. She didn’t know where she fit in. The protracted trauma of living under occupation took its toll on her and many others like her.
“During the first semester of school, we received several complaints about students who showed behavioral challenges inside and outside the classroom. From the bullying, to class disruption and social isolation,” said Ms. Maysoon Abdel-Hadi, school principal at the UNRWA al-Zaitoun Preparatory Girls’ School ‘C’. “As a team, we decided to create an arts activity group for them.”
Some 120 students were selected to participate in a four-month arts and crafts work initiative aimed at creating a stimulating and creative environment, where a release of tension and anxiety is achieved through artistic expression.
“I was hyperactive and distracted in school. I didn’t like to stay in class for long periods of time and none of my classmates liked me,” said Nisma Shehada, a fifth-grade student.
Teaching staff have guided the students through the initiative for the past four months. “We’ve worked on developing students’ social and life skills by unleashing their creativity in a safe space. They’ve been provided with guidance on how to interact with their classmates and teachers. We also encouraged parent involvement in the programme, which has resulted in very positive results!” said school principal Maysoon Abdel-Hadi.
“I was very shy and found it hard to communicate with my friends and teachers,” said Maryam al-Sendawi, a fifth-grade student, “This initiative has reinforced my self-confidence and I’m grateful to my teachers and classmates who supported and encouraged me on this journey.”
“Ever since this programme started, I’ve been able to work on my patience. The crafts help me focus my extra energy and now I’m able to make new friends in class,” shared Nisma Shehada, another fifth-grade student.
Dedication of the Agency’s teaching staff has resulted in innovative, meaningful change in the lives of Palestine refugee students and through its network of 276 UNRWA schools across the Gaza Strip, the UNRWA education programme strives to provide equitable and inclusive education to 282,000 Palestine refugee children from grades 1-9.
The recurrent hostilities on the besieged Strip have exacerbated the effects of the ongoing blockade, which is set to enter its 14th year this summer. The blockade continues to have a devastating impact on people’s lives, with severely restricted freedom of movement, crippling the economy and rendering the majority of the population dependent on humanitarian aid to meet their basic needs.
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