At ANERA’s recent Gaza teacher training, 34 teachers at five preschools across Gaza took part in an early childhood development (ECD) training on child rights and developmental psychology.

An integrated and holistic approach to ECD includes using expressive arts and play to engage children in learning and help them maintain a positive outlook. This is vital for children who often undergo trauma at a very early age due to occupation, siege, poverty, and periods of bombing and violence.

Health & Happiness in Developmental Years

According to the World Health Organization, many challenges faced by adults – such as mental health issues, obesity, heart diseases, and poor literacy and numeracy – can be linked back to early childhood. Children in their earliest years, from birth to age six, are in the most important developmental span of their lives. Yet, early childhood development is underfunded and often ignored in places like Gaza. Limited resources are often diverted to post-kindergarten education.

In a Gaza teacher training session organized by ANERA, teachers learn to incorporate expressive arts into an organized and comprehensive curriculum. In doing so, they have the chance to act like kids again, painting pictures, creating crafts from leaves and twigs, and molding clay to create dioramas. These photographs from the session show just how much fun they had!

Thank you to our donors and to Islamic Relief USA for supporting this program.

Gaza teacher training session, April 2016.
A teacher has fun molding clay by hand, something her children will do in class art sessions.
Gaza teachers make a sign for the classroom.
Teachers create fun dioramas using colorful clay.
A Gaza teacher pays close attention to the shapes and textures of leaves, which will be used for craft activities.
Gaza teacher training workshop focuses on healthy foods.
A cat wanders onto the Gaza teacher training session.

Preschool teachers in Gaza learn to incorporate expressive arts and healthy foods into preschool curriculum in an in-service workshop.

A teacher has fun molding clay by hand, something her children will do in class art sessions.

Teachers paint a sign to use in the classroom. The colorful pictures will help engage students in the lesson.

Outside, teachers use plants and paints to engage in hands-on learning practices.

Teachers create fun dioramas using colorful clay.

A teacher uses a magnifying glass to study the shapes and textures of leaves.

Healthy, fresh, and colorful fruits and vegetables help combat malnutrition in young children.

A cat wanders onto the teacher training session and a teacher offers him a healthy snack.

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The name Qalqiliya may have originated from the Roman name of the city ‘Calecaicea’ or ‘Calcelie,’ which is derived from the Kanaanite word for rounded stones or hills.

The city of Qalqiliya is the center of the governorate, yet is entirely surrounded by the Israeli separation wall, except for an Israeli-controlled passage to the east and a tunnel that connects it to the neighboring village of Habla.

With many illegal Israeli settlements surrounding the city and encroaching on nearby farmlands and small villages, the governorate has suffered various hardships, including huge land and water confiscations through the years. As agriculture is considered the backbone of this rich rural area, many farmers are forced to leave to other districts in search for work.

Fortunately, ANERA has been able to contribute to the economic development of the area by addressing some pressings needs:

  • More cultivated land with higher productivity and quality of produce.
  • New water connections and sewage networks.
  • New educational classrooms, rehabilitation work, and bigger schools with more facilities and services.
  • Public facilities that serve and empower the most marginalized and neglected groups, namely women and children.
Qalqiliya villages map

ANERA has completed projects or has ongoing sustainable development work in all 24 of these towns.

Boosting Agriculture in Qalqiliya District

During the 1980s and early 1990s, ANERA invested in the agricultural development of the district of Qalqiliya, among many others across the West Bank. With eight brand-new, modern tractors and 38 other pieces of agricultural machinery divided between the Qalqiliya Agricultural Market Cooperative and another farming cooperative in the village of ‘Azzun, hundreds of small-scale farmers were able to utilize their family lands efficiently and easily. Moreover, 265 member farmers were able to rent the machinery at lower prices, encouraging them to reclaim their lands and enhance their production.

Land owners and sharecroppers were not the only beneficiaries, as the project ultimately opened up job opportunities for tractor drivers, workers, agricultural engineers and many others.

A farmer works in a Qalqiliya greenhouse provided under ANERA's agriculture program.

A farmer works in a Qalqiliya greenhouse provided under ANERA’s agriculture program.

During that same period, ANERA assisted the Qalqiliya Agricultural Marketing Cooperative with a $30,000 grant for establishing a new electronic scale with a capacity of four tons for weighing trucks. The weighed trucks used to load fruits and vegetables between Amman and the West Bank markets. This project helped strengthen the efficiency and marketing scope for involved farmers.

ANERA’s microfinance credit program complemented its agricultural work in the region by reaching out to even more small entrepreneur farmers or those who wished to reclaim their own small-scale lands. This was implemented through main farming cooperatives across five districts.


The Jinsafut thyme project helped farmers increase productivity at lower costs.

Only a few years back, around 30 farmers in Jinasfut received local thyme seedlings, an efficient irrigation system and a new cistern for rainwater harvesting, as supplementary irrigation. Through this project, ANERA attempted to increase the productivity of the farmers at lower costs and ultimately help them earn a better income.

Improving Water Access

In 2004, ANERA installed a total of 3,300 linear meters of pipelines in Ras at Tira and adjacent Ad Dab’a, providing a reliable and clean source of drinking water to the residents of these villages at affordable costs. Before the intervention, the villagers relied on tankered water that was expensive and prone to contamination.

“Before ANERA’s help,” says beneficiary Afaf from Ad Dab’a. “We used to buy water in tins, which was extremely costly, or draw water in buckets from neighbors who were lucky to have cisterns. But now, we finally have water taps for washing and drinking and we have even built a new toilet and shower. We also have a washing machine!”

In more recent years, ANERA delivered different water projects in Palestine at seven different locations in the district of Qalqiliya, connecting more households to running water and enhancing the efficiency of sewage collection systems.

A new reservoir constructed in Jinsafut stores water for the community.

A new reservoir constructed in Jinsafut stores water for the community.

New water networks and extended water networks were installed, and four elevated reservoirs were constructed in ‘Isla, Khirbet Sir, Jit, Kafr Thulth, Jinsafut, Baqat al Hatab, Hajja and Falamya. Work included the installation of new booster pumps, chlorination units, pipelines and one balance tank.

These projects either successfully replaced inefficient and dilapidated networks that contributed to significantly high levels of water loss and contamination, or connected entire villages or certain areas that had no network to begin with. Most inhabitants of these villages depended on expensive purchased water to cover their families’ needs.

In addition, ANERA built a rainwater drainage system in ‘Azzun, and built rainwater collection cisterns, serving 15 impoverished households in Immatin.

In the village of Habla that has a population of 7,000 people, ANERA intervened in two ways. Its first intervention included the addition of 3,770 linear meters of pipes to an existing water network, thus serving a bigger population and newly inhabited areas. Its second intervention was completed only recently, installing a secondary sewage collection network and house connections, in addition to laying 4,000 linear meters of sewer pipelines in areas that were not connected to the existing network. The project has served an additional 400 households.

Education for Qalqiliya Youth

Since 2003, and over a period of 13 years, ANERA has been investing in the development of the Palestine education sector in the district of Qalqiliya by adding new classrooms, rehabilitating existing buildings and training preschool teachers.

In total, ANERA added 24 classrooms, four multipurpose halls, two newly-constructed toilet facilities and a school canteen, in addition to connecting staircases and corridors, drinking fountains, retaining walls, sunshades, playground benches and storage spaces.

Iman in the new computer lab at Kufr Thulth, a West Bank secondary school for girls. She wants to become a computer engineer.

Iman in the new computer lab at Kufr Thulth.

The projects were delivered in 11 different schools in the villages of Sinniriya, Izbat al Ashqar/Al Mudawwar, Izbat Salman, An Nabi Elyas, ‘Azzun, Ar Ras, Kafr Thulth, Beit Amin and Habla.

In recognition of the Kafr Thulth Secondary Girls School’s achievements, ANERA furnished the newly-constructed computer lab with 17 state-of-the-art personal computers to the school, including two printers, an LCD projector with its own white screen, networking equipment, infrastructure and cabling, and a two-year ADSL Internet subscription.

“This has surpassed our expectations. We were simply neglected and now we have all the essentials we need.” said the headmistress Ayda Mwafi.

Under its Early Childhood Development (ECD) program, ANERA was able to rehabilitate and furnish two dilapidated preschools in Kafr Qaddoum and Far’ata. The project included, infrastructure work, new toilet facilities and fixtures, as well as child-friendly furnishings, carpeting and curtains. The preschools’ playgrounds were also renovated and brand new toys added.

Under ANERA's early childhood development program, this preschool in 'Izbat al Ashqar/Al Mudawwar was completely rehabilitated.

Under ANERA’s early childhood development program, this preschool in ‘Izbat al Ashqar/Al Mudawwar was completely rehabilitated.

Reading and play corners were also established, and a large collection of educational toys and books filled the empty shelves. Preschoolers were also provided with ANERA’s Hayya Naqra’ (Let’s Read!) readings bags that included reading and coloring books and a leaflet addressing the children’s parents, in an attempt to engage the parents in their children’s development, and establish good reading habits among the young children.

The program also trained four preschool teachers from the same preschools, including two teachers from Ad Dab’a on active learning and fundamentals of early childhood care and education, including child development, child rights, learning theories, safety, classroom organization, expressive arts, play and much more.

Community Empowerment in Qalqiliya

2004 was an exciting year for the women and youth of rural Qalqiliya, as ANERA delivered three much-needed public projects to benefit the development of different communities.

The first and only community center in Jayyous built by ANERA empowers over 400 youth and women alike. The two-floor building comprises a sports club with sport activity halls, and houses the Women Saving and Credit Association for micro-financing, in addition to a surrounding garden that also serves center’s mission.

Jayyus, Qalqiliya governorate community center

A Palestinian teenager plays table tennis at the new community center in Jayyus in 2009.

“Financial independence helps women break free from subordination. And, it encourages them to exercise their rights and become decision makers,” says Nahed Jaber, who has been involved with the Women Saving and Credit Association for five years, first as a participant and now as the society’s treasurer.

In ‘Azzun, an additional floor was dedicated to empowering the women of the village. The added floor also houses the Women Saving and Credit Association, promoting self-development and independence among women in rural areas. The floor is also utilized as a training space for all the women of the village, where they gather to attain new knowledge and participate in various activities.

A new 0.65 km road was also built to connect the villages of Ras ‘Atiya and Habla, away from the main road for an easier commute, and facilitate access to agricultural land. Other villages like ‘Azzun and Kafr Thulth also received new roads that serve their entire communities.

Children in Gaza preschool get new reading bags.

Children in Gaza Discover Magic of Reading

April 15th, 2016 by ANERA

Children intuitively love listening to stories. Storytelling can play a critical role in developing a child’s personality. “Storytelling connects children in Gaza to their culture and their heritage and serves as an escape from the stress and strain of their surrounding reality,” says trainer Tahani Daloul. “Books are their building blocks for a better future.”

Helping Children in Gaza Read and Express Themselves

Tahani says storytelling can fuel a child’s imagination and a love of learning and also expand understanding of the world. Her ultimate goal, she explains, is to change the traditional methods of education and energize teachers to offer more varied strategies for reading.

With funding from Islamic Relief USA, ANERA has bolstered reading programs in five preschools in Gaza, through renovations, equipping classrooms with child-appropriate furnishing and learning materials as well as training teachers in creative teaching techniques. The schools are located in Khan Younis, Deir El Balah, Jabalia and Rafah.

At the Ghassan Kanafani preschool in Jabalia, children gather around their teacher, eagerly listening to a story about a farmer and a carrot.

Children in Gaza dress up as characters in story

Children dress up as the characters in a story about a farmer and a carrot.

“The story underlines the importance of participation, cooperation and teamwork. How the animals of the farm were united to help the farmer in pulling out the cord to remove the orange carrot stuck into the ground. Otherwise, the farmer would not be able to take it out by himself. How the team efforts is important and needed to access goals. After telling the story, the children dressed up with the costumes of the farm’s animals and performed a short play about the farm.”

“By telling stories with a meaningful message, you can talk to youngsters about basic values like courage and honesty,” says preschool teacher Zaynab El Jamal.

Reading is Crucial to Development

Zaynab, a preschool teachers, reads to children in Gaza.

Preschool teacher Zaynab reads to her students.

Using techniques she learned from ANERA trainers, Zaynab varied her narration, using puppets and acting out parts of the story. She already notices a difference in one student’s behavior because of the more animated storytelling style. Mohammed’s mother used to complain that he never paid attention, didn’t drink his milk and didn’t listen to her. Zaynab says she reads stories to the whole class to encourage Mohammed and his classmates to talk and listen. “We talk about pictures in the story that are familiar to them and it’s a great chance for them to open up about their feelings.”

The mother has reported a significant change in her son’s behavior. She also noticed his vocabulary is expanding.

“Reading out stories is also a great way to teach children new words and pronunciation,” says teacher Zaynab.

Zaynab says developing a reading routine in the classroom and distributing books to children fosters more reading at home too. “It’s a magical tool that can give children a lifelong love of learning.”

Children in Gaza learn to love reading.

Teacher Zaynab, young Mohammed, and the class at Ghassan Kanafani are excited about their new reading materials and classroom renovations.

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Burj El Barajneh is a Palestinian refugee camp located in the southern suburbs of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. The camp was established in 1948 after the “Nakba,” when Palestinians were forced to flee their homes and villages. The camp was built on one square kilometer (0.38 square miles) of land to accommodate 10,000 refugees. Today, Bur El Burajneh is home to some 31,000 refugees, including thousands who have recently fled fighting in Syria.

Residents of this overcrowded camp face many challenges due to the lack of proper infrastructure, limited job opportunities, and under-funded health facilities and educational institutions.

ANERA first extended its services to Burj El Barajneh in 2006 to provide relief following the 2006 Lebanon War that heavily destroyed the southern suburb of Beirut and the camp. While substantial relief efforts continue today, especially with the presence of some 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, ANERA’s programs also advance long-term, sustainable development in the areas of health, education and economic development.

Burj El Barajneh refugee camp map

Early Childhood Education in Burj El Barajneh

Typical street in Burj El Barajneh

This is a typical “street” in Burj El Barajneh, with unsafe electrical wires exposed.

Early childhood development is critical to a child’s future success and ANERA supports Burj El Burajneh’s preschools in in a variety of ways. To promote reading, ANERA supplies many schools and community centers with storybooks for 3-to-5-year-olds and organizes sessions, in cooperation with organizations like at the Women’s Program Center, to teach parents how to use books as a tool to encourage learning in their families.

In partnership with the United Methodist Committee on Relief, ANERA has also rehabilitated a preschool in the camp. The renovations have created a healthy and safe environment for children to learn and socialize in, restoring a relative sense of normalcy in their lives in otherwise very abnormal and difficult circumstances.

“When we first opened the newly rehabbed kindergarten, the children started running around full of joy and excitement,” preschool teacher Sarah Mchayrfe says, smiling at the memory. “They thought it was a new public park.”

Burj El Barajneh early childhood development

Students at the ANERA-renovated preschool in Burj El Barajneh interact with their teacher while playing with the news toys ANERA provided.

Health and Awareness for Burj El Barajneh Camp

Community and family health is a key pillar in ANERA’s work. ANERA public health work in the camp started in 2006. Working with local organizations and health clinics, ANERA’s campaigns raised awareness about diarrhea treatment, smoking cessation and breastfeeding. The long-term goal was to put health on the agenda of local groups working in poor and marginalized communities and to use simple, smart and cost-effective practices that can be adopted to save on cost and foster self-reliance. The program encouraged community organizations to continue and expand beyond the campaign, using materials and guidelines provided by ANERA.

Public health educators in Burj El Barajenh

Public health educators use posters to describe the rational use of medicines in dealing with illness

ANERA’s health promotion activities currently focus on the rational use of medicines as well as healthy eating, hygiene, and preventing parasitic infections. These activities are often combined with ANERA’s in-kind deliveries of hygiene, baby, and women’s dignity kits. Adolescents are especially vulnerable and ANERA has developed specific curricula for youth that address a range of topics, from cyber safety and hygiene to sanitation and reproductive health.

Medical Relief and In-kind Deliveries

Since 2006, ANERA has supplied valuable medicines, such as insulin and injectable antibiotics, and medical supplies to Burj el Burajneh’s clinics and hospitals. Other in-kind efforts include the distribution of hygiene, winter, and baby kits, quilts, and clothing vouchers. Working through a network of local partners and clinics, this program responds all year long to people’s needs, delivering millions of dollars’ worth of relief items.

In June 2015, ANERA distributed Ramadan food packages to 900 Palestinian refugee families from Syria now residing in Burj el Burajneh. Each package contained a variety of essentials such as rice, lentils, beans, dates, sugar, tea, milk, and traditional jallab juice. There was enough to feed a family for up to a month, critical for families struggling to pay the most basic of services. Dima Zayat, ANERA’s in-kind health manager, said the food packages were a welcome relief for refugees who have suffered so much. “We are glad we were able to distribute these big parcels on time. Ramadan is supposed to be a time of joy and sharing and now you can see how happy the young children are to help their parents carry the gift boxes back home.”

A Burj El Barajneh mother collects her family's Ramadan food package.

A Burj El Barajneh mother collects her family’s Ramadan food package.

“When people lack access to safe water, they are most vulnerable to diseases like diarrhea, scabies and even lice,” says Lana Agha, ANERA Health Officer in Gaza. Untreated infections, she explains, may also lead to death, especially in the poorest and most marginalized Palestinian communities and among those with weaker immune systems like newborns and children under the age of five.

With funds from Islamic Relief USA and community of committed donors, ANERA has been able to connect residents of the Zarqa area in Gaza City to a reliable source of clean water. But access is not enough. ANERA also has implemented valuable health awareness sessions to provide lessons on personal hygiene and other health tips. Lana says, “Simple health practices can save families a lot of misery.”

ANERA is implementing 8 water and sanitation projects across Gaza that provide access to safe water, hygiene kits, and awareness sessions.

Based on questionnaires circulated before the start of the health sessions, Lana was able to focus her discussions to address the most acute health needs. One topic was water storage: “Some families eat unwashed vegetables and never cleaned their water storage tanks.” Another practice that caught her attention was hand-washing. Most of the women washed their hands often, but didn’t think about washing their hands before changing diapers or eating their meals. “And, many impoverished families can’t afford basic items like soap and detergent, ” Lana adds.

Gaza health officer teaches parents how to protect children from parasites.

ANERA health officer, Lana, teaches Gaza mothers how to protect their children from parasites

Awareness Classes Lead to Treatment for 3-Year-Old Rahaf

Once the women in the health sessions relaxed a bit, they started sharing their health concerns, including the spread of parasites and lice. “When I talked about how parasites are transmitted from one body to another and how they can live in mud contaminated by animal feces, mothers in the class were anxious to learn what they could do to protect their children,” said Lana.

Sumaya Moqat says she was grateful for the classes. “When I learned that some parasite infections could affect my children’s learning abilities, I really got worried,” she said. “I was anxious because all the symptoms we discussed, like diarrhea and lack of appetite, were applicable to my 3-year-old child, Rahaf,” she said.

Safe water is not the only need. Parents also need health education and hygiene items.

Rahaf is tested for parasites at the clinic after her mother recognized her symptoms in ANERA’s hygiene awareness session.

Soon after the class, Sumaya rushed her three-year-old to a nearby clinic for parasite testing and treatment. Sure enough, Rahaf had a parasitic infection. After comprehensive treatment, she’s making a full recovery. To prevent further infection, Sumaya follows the instruction and advice she learned in the health session.

The impact of the Gaza water project, from water connections and classes to the distribution of hygiene kits, is evident almost immediately. “When safe water is available, we give our children frequent baths, we wash our hands more often and the vegetables too,” explains Sumaya.

ANERA’s health officer says the goal of the awareness program is to prevent children from falling ill in the first place. “Prevention is better than treatment.”

With the combination of safe water, health awareness, and proper hygiene supplies, Sumaya is equipped to protect her children against parasites.

With the combination of safe water, health awareness, and proper hygiene supplies, Sumaya is equipped to protect her children against parasites.