Let the Children Play and Heal
This psychosocial support program was initiated by our partner Afaq Jadeeda (New Horizons) to address children’s psychological needs after the 2008/2009 New Year’s assault on Gaza. “Let the Children Play and Heal” gives tens of thousands of children and youth opportunities to express themselves though art, dance, music, story-telling, theatre and puppetry; to get support from the larger community; and to have fun and just be children.
Following the horrific eight days of Israeli attacks on Gaza in November 2012, MECA and our partners have re-launched this project. MECA is working in partnership with the Red Crescent Society and Afaq Jadeeda Association to reach children who have been directly impacted by Israeli attacks and to train mothers and caregivers in how to support the children in their community during this traumatic time. Psychologists and social workers are running group sessions in schools, community centers, and clinics throughout Gaza. Some children will need more intense psychiatric assistance and we will turn to another organization in Gaza to provide this service to the children in need.
Teams of Afaq Jadeeda's trained staff members, supervised by a psychologist, visited 120 schools and community centers throughout Gaza to work directly with 110,000 children age 4-15. In addition to the group art activities, the teams identified children who need follow-up for their physical and psychological wounds and refered them for specialized ongoing care and treatment.
Afaq Jadeeda is worked with parents in Gaza because the best way for children to heal from their invisible wounds—their terror, their anger, and their deep and prolonged sadness—is to involve their families and their community. Experts have led 20-hour training courses for mothers in different areas of Gaza that gave 480 women new ideas for ways to support their children and children in their communities during this difficult time. Additionally, Afaq Jadeeda created and distributed 10,000 pamphlets for parents that gives advice on dealing with children during crisis situations such as last year's three-week assault.
All programs in the first year of the project were free, thanks to the support of MECA donors. Afaq Jadeeda has given us a tremendous opportunity to heal the psychological wounds of tens of thousands of children who might otherwise be facing a lifetime of depression, anxiety, and rage.
Following the success of the first year of this unique program, MECA supported another year of this critical project. The Afaq Jadeeda team continued its very successful activities at schools and community centers throughout Gaza. A psychologist offerred an expanded training for mothers, social workers, and teachers in Gaza on how to identify signs of trauma in children and support them in recovering. And, responding to the feedback of participants, Afaq Jadeeda also organized courses in creative writing, drawing, and drama for boys and girls in three locations in Gaza.
The outcomes were amazing:
- 110-120,000 children participate in psychosocial activities at their school, community center or summer camp
- 500 children participated in running a marathon
- 240 children participated in month-long art classes
- 240 children participated in month-long creative writing classes
- 480 women (mothers, teachers, and social work students) received 30 hours of training on helping children suffering from trauma