On 2 July, UNRWA launched its annual Protection Summer Camps in 26 different locations across the West Bank, targeting 2,647 children and youth to help strengthen their resilience, build their self-esteem and exercise their right to play.
Facilitated through the Agency’s Community Mental Health, Child and Family Protection, and the Emergency Community Mental Health Programmes, in coordination with the Departments of Health, Education, and Relief and Social Services, the Summer Camps provide Palestine refugee children from refugee camps and Bedouin communities and youth – including those with disabilities – and their parents with a safe and positive environment to heal, constructively express themselves, develop their emotional and behavioral skills, and engage as active leaders in their communities.
Specifically, the camps offer psychosocial activities for the participants, offering them opportunities to cope with the impact of the occupation in peaceful and non-violent ways and enjoy activities such as music, theatre, folklore and puppet shows.
This year’s Summer Camps, made possible with generous support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), from emergency funded projects, began with a central youth summer camp in Ramallah that brought together young men and women aged 18-25 from refugee camps across the West Bank to share their ideas and experiences in a welcoming environment. The year’s youth camp was held under the slogan of ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’ and featured activities aimed at enhancing the participants’ understanding of effective communication, leadership, problem-solving, self-awareness and acceptance. The participants engaged in discussions on leadership, challenges faced by young leaders and the Agency’s role in empowering the youth inside refugee camps. They also had the chance to meet with senior UNRWA officials to discuss their experiences. The training they received will enable them to serve as future volunteers and leaders; following the youth camp, the participants will serve as leaders in other Protection Summer Camp activities, such as the ‘Raise Your Voice’ series for Palestine refugee children in the West Bank.
“It was an interesting experience,” says 23-year-old Ahmad Barakat, who is happy to be participating in the camp for the first time. Ahmad is from the An Nabi Samuel community, located on a hilltop north-west of Jerusalem. He lives in an isolated area that is surrounded by the West Bank Barrier and settlements and separated from the rest of the West Bank. “My self-confidence and character were strengthened. I was able to interact with different groups. I have never met with people from other areas, since I live in such an isolated area. This camp has given the opportunity to make new friends and to overcome the conditions we face in Nabi Samuel.”
Ahmad’s peers echo his thoughts. “I have learned how to be a leader with initiative and I gained many skills in the fields of communications, human rights, self-awareness, and acceptance,” says 19-year-old Ahlam Jafari from Dheisheh camp, near Bethlehem. “It was a wonderful opportunity to meet colleagues and make new friends from different places in the West Bank.”
Similarly, 21-year-old Subhi Hattab from Far’a camp remarks, “This was the first summer camp that I participated in through UNRWA. It is a useful camp that enabled me to break the ice with friends from all over the West Bank. The training sessions have strengthened my self-confidence and leadership skills and our faith in our ability to achieve our goals.”