Children in Gaza often grow up in very bleak conditions, frequently surrounded by poverty and violence, and face particular challenges when it comes to obtaining an education and enjoying basic human rights. Yet, they have dreams and want a future, like every other child in the world. Many students in UNRWA schools have not lost hope and study hard -day in and day out -to thrive in this challenging environment.
Jameela Abu Jom’a, a 15-year-old Palestine refugee from the UNRWA al-Qarara preparatory co-ed school in Khan Younis exemplifies this determination, as she has been named the winner of the 2019 Inspirational Messages of Peace Contest by the US National Park Service and International World Peace Rose Gardens. The competition celebrates messages of peace written by youth throughout the world. More than 3,400 students participated in the competition this year, including students from China, India, the Gaza Strip and the United States.
“When the school announced the contest of ‘Inspirational Messages of Peace’, I was encouraged by my teachers and school principal to participate and to convey my message of peace to the world. However, I did not expect to be amongst the winners. Today, I am very proud that my words of peace were heard, and I hope this will raise awareness about the hopes and dreams of Palestine refugee children,” explains Jameela before she starts reciting parts of her message:
“As long as we can love, why do we choose to hate?
As long as we can make friends and tolerate,
Then why do we antagonize and debate?
Why don’t we leave aside malice, animosity and hate?
And search for love inside our hearts before it's too late.”
Unfortunately, Jameela will not be able to attend the awards ceremony in Georgia due to movement restrictions imposed by Israel on the residents of Gaza, where travel outside of the enclave is severely restricted. Instead, her certificate and prize will be shipped to Gaza.
A photo of the plaques in The World Peace Rose Garden at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, Georgia
Plaques engraved with students’ messages of peace, including Jameela’s, will be on display in the garden of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta (Georgia, USA) for one year. The winning messages have the potential of being read by the more than one million visitors who visit the national park annually.
Filled with energy and positive attitude, Jameela comments on her success: “I wish I could travel and meet some of the students from other parts of the world. But the fact that this is not possible will not deter me from expressing my happiness and excitement. I will continue to write messages of peace!”
Jameela is striving to obtain the basic human rights that all children in the world deserve: “Our demands are simple and many can be expressed in a single word: We want to live in a peaceful environment,” says Jameela.