Let the Children Play and Heal
“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.
We are raising funds for this critical project again. Dr. Mona El-Farra, MECA's Director of Gaza Projects, explains why your support is needed now:
There are different reports about how many children need mental health care, how many are at risk of becoming anxious, depressed or aggressive.
I can tell you, without a doubt, that every single child in Gaza is suffering. Every single child needs help and support.
For 51 days children in Gaza heard the sound of bombs and lived with absolute terror all day and all night. They were not safe in their homes and they were not safe in shelters.
Children saw their loved ones turned into shattered corpses, their homes turned to rubble. Some have stopped speaking or eating. Many, many children constant nightmares, bed-wetting or insomnia.
The best way for children to heal from their terror, their anger, and their deep and prolonged sadness is to involve their families and their communities in the children’s healing, along with mental health professionals.
In the aftermath of Israel’s massive attack five years ago, MECA helped create “Let the Children Play & Heal,” which has reached more than 100,000 children. With your help again now we can expand this vital community mental health project to:
• Send trained staff and volunteers to schools and community centers to lead special games and arts activities to help children express and resolve aggression, fear, and grief.
• Provide psychologists observe and refer children for therapy.
• Train parents, teachers and social work students about how to identify trauma and support children through it
• Distibute information about children’s psychological needs throughout communties in Gaza
I am so worried about how the next generation will grow up—to work, to love, to be parents themselves and to fight for their basic human rights.
Outcomes from Let the Children Play and Heal
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 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
Following the horrific eight days of Israeli attacks on Gaza in November 2012, MECA and our partners re-launched this project. MECA, in partnership with the Red Crescent Society and Afaq Jadeeda Association, targeted children who were directly impacted by Israeli attacks and exhibited signs of trauma such as becoming mute, bed-wetting, and aggression. We trained mothers and caregivers in how to support the children in their community during this traumatic time. Psychologists and social workers ran group sessions in schools, community centers, and clinics throughout Gaza. Some children needed more intense psychiatric assistance and were referred to other organizations in Gaza for follow-up.