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News of Quaker-sponsored Kindergartens in Gaza

Updates from Gaza partners of Quaker Service Norway
7 August 2014

Telephone call with Maher Safi, QSN’s local representative to PECEP (Palestinian Early Childhood Education Programme)
In Gaza City, 9:30AM Oslo time, Thursday, 7.8.14, third day of cease-fire.

- I’m OK. Things are better with the cease-fire. We’re managing, trying to make use of the last hours of the cease-fire. My family is OK. It’s been a very difficult, bad war. Very horrible, destruction everywhere. Death everywhere.

- This time they targeted whole families, not just the police stations and official buildings. Factories, big factories are destroyed completely. We had three hours of electricity yesterday (6.8.14) at home. Some areas have no electricity. That means no possibility to pump water, no refrigeration.

- There’s garbage and wreckage in the streets. The plan for rebuilding is still unclear. There is a donor conference in Norway in September. But we were still not finished rebuilding from the 2008/09 war. Now we are back to zero – even further. This will take a long time.

- Most of the PECEP staff is OK, but we do not have the full overview yet. The kindergarten buildings we are not sure about. We will check as soon as possible. No one is back to work yet. If they’re not directly affected, their relatives are. There are lots of funerals to attend. If the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) redeploy outside Gaza, everyone can go home – if they still have one. 10.000 homes are totally or partially damaged.

- We hope and pray to God that the cease-fire continues. Tonight the cease-fire ends, but I am hoping. Insh’allah.

______

Telephone call with Doaa Saleh, Managing Director of PECEP
In Rafah, Gaza, 9:52AM Oslo time, Thursday 7.8.14, third day of cease-fire.

- I am fine. Relatively, I am fine. For three days now there has been no bombing. Three quiet days. We have had to move from our house, it was damaged. In Rafah there have been many bombs, and many people killed. We are staying with relatives. We could stay in a UN school, but we don’t dare. You have seen how some of the UNRWA schools have been hit.

- There is so much damage. Some people are staying in PECEP kindergartens, the ones that are next to UN compounds. The situation is so, so bad. Some teachers have damaged houses. Some have lost relatives.

- We hope for more quiet the next days. We are so afraid. This is so horrible. We don’t know what will happen. We’re afraid to go back to our home.

- I’m uncertain about the staff. I have called the principals, but they don’t know themselves. Jawwal (local mobile network) phones have been down for 3 days, so we don’t know. The economic situation is worse than ever. We want to help the staff, the teachers. Staff got salaries in July. The bank opened one day, but not everyone could reach the bank to get her salary. There is no electricity, no water, no internet.

- Will it be more quiet or worse? We don’t know. We hope. We hope.

_________

Transcribed from Roger Cassidy’s hand-written notes. Roger Cassidy is a board member of Quaker Service Norway and a former Ecumenical Accompanier in the West Bank. Roger visited PECEP’s kindergartens in February 2013.

Roger’s note:
My impression of the conversations was that Maher was very composed, business like, as he is in face-to-face dealings. Doaa’s voice – and the pauses in her responses, told a different tale of having been under mortal danger, unable to protect oneself, uncertain what was coming their way. The voice of the engaging, confident managing director with whom I had spent time in Gaza on a QSN project visit to PECEP in February 2013 – 2 months after the previous Gaza conflict – now conveyed concern and fatigue while holding fast to some hope.

About Palestinian Early Childhood Education Programme (PECEP):
PECEP – an independent Palestinian NGO with a local board – runs 13 kindergartens for 1300 five-year-olds in 8 refugee camps and one village in the Gaza strip. The kindergartens provide a safe space for the children to play and learn in an environment where this is not a given.

PECEP provides work and continued training to 79 teachers, all women, and aim to increase the understanding of children’s development in Gazan society, and raise the status of early childhood education. This is done through public meetings, in contact with the families, in cooperation with community organisations, and in contact with the authorities in charge of education and children’s issues.

About PECEP’s cooperation with Gaza Community Mental Health Programme:
Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) run a mental health project in cooperation with PECEP. The project is a response to kindergarten teachers’ expressed need for more training to be able to assist the high number of children with psychosocial and behavioural problems resulting from traumatising experiences. GCMHP holds training workshops and gives on-the-spot guidance for teachers as well as meetings with parents.

GCMHP professionals follow-up children with behavioural problems on an individual basis or in groups, using the play therapy units established in each kindergarten. The project targets around 1600 children and their parents in kindergartens located in the marginalized areas and refugee camps in the Gaza strip.

Any support to these projects would be most welcome! We are hoping to be able to set up an emergency-response version of the mental health project as soon as there is a ceasefire (we pray) in Gaza.

Contact: Quaker Service Norway manager Kristine Hovland at khjelp@kveker.org

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