Laila El-Hazeen took a deep sigh when she looked at the new clean street before her in El Nusairat, Gaza. Her face showed signs of relief marking the end of a life-long struggle with unpleasant smell and unceasing worries day and night. “My children cross the street to go to school. I used to cautiously helped the younger ones by holding their hands, or my husband would carry them on his back. My older kids rolled up their pants’ legs to pass the overflowed streets hoping to reach schools clean and dry,” she said.

gaza sewage network laila and maram

Laila and her daughter Maram stand in front of their home.

The mother of five children describes how it felt to live on this street  before the new sanitation project was completed. “Before the wastewater network was installed, sewage used to flood into the streets of the neighborhood,” said Laila, who lives in an unfinished house with walls made of old sheets. Her own mother, Marriam, sits next to Laila and shares the same concerns: “Life before the wastewater project was terrible. A huge pool of sewage used to be here. It’s so threatening for the little ones,” she echoed.

Like many of the residents of El Nusairat, the family excavated a septic tank to cope with the lack of an appropriate drainage system. People discharged their sewage into those cesspits. The cesspits, often ‘homemade’, were inadequate and sewage would frequently overflow onto the streets.

Yet the misery continued with twofold struggles: a horrible stench and hovering insects during summer and overflow of Gaza sewage in wintertime. “The worst time of the year for us was during winter when the septic tanks would overflow, and the sewage would mix with the winter rain. It was horrible. I was worried about my house being indulged with unsafe water.”

Moreover, the septic tanks had to be emptied by trucks; “We had to call the municipality trucks 3 times a month to empty them. Each time, it cost us 50 NIS (about $12.50),” Laila added.

With the completion of this project, Laila’s life is now easier. “We have already buried the old tanks. Now, we enjoy the clean street instead.”

Gaza sewage network Ahmed eldest son

Ahmed, a 9th grader, is Laila’s eldest son. It’s now safe for him to ride through the streets to visit a friend nearby.

Clean Streets Ease Life for Residents

Walking a bit further in the street, Isam El-Hazeen was chatting with his two grand kids. Despite the fact that he had a severe fracture in his left leg, he went out to enjoy the fresh breeze. “The situation was bad. It hurt us a lot when the cesspits flooded; they caused a huge problem,” said Isam, who has lived in this area for the past 10 years.

gaza sewage network Isam and grandkids

Isam and his grand kids sit outside, enjoying the clean streets.

“We used to fear to open our windows. Infection was very common among children because of the sewage,” Isam explained. “I worried my grandchildren would be infected with diarrhea while playing out. We could not detain children all day long. They insisted to go outside for a bit to play with other kids,” he said. Now, he says the family is able to open the window to allow some fresh draft to flow inside the house. “I enjoy watching the kids playing with balls or on bikes.”

The new efficient sewage disposal system helped to improve health and hygiene for 500 people in El Nusairat, so they can enjoy a better environment. This project is part of Phase II of the Urgent Water System Repair Project, funded by Islamic Relief USA, which aims to implement six sanitation systems in the most impoverished communities in El Maghazi, Deir El Balah, Wadi Salqa, El Nusairat, Rafah and El Shuka.

ANERA recently completed 6 projects under Phase I, which improved water networks and household water connections for 5,000 individuals in war-ravaged areas of Gaza, generating a reliable source of water for cooking, showering and drinking.

The Urgent Water System Repair Project consists of three phases and aims to implement a total of 18 water and sanitation projects throughout different location in Gaza; reaching more than 12,000 beneficiaries by the end of the project in June 2015.

Gaza sewage network street view-fixed

Children safely walk to school now that the streets are clean and dry.

Dozens of patients feeling under the weather sit waiting their turn to see the doctor at Hebron’s charitable medical center. “Fluctuating weather conditions, such as the conditions we are currently experiencing, can weaken one’s immune system, making it more susceptible to bacteria and germs that thrive in such a habitat,” explains Wael Rajabi, the medical center’s family doctor.

Luckily for the center’s patients, ANERA recently received a shipment of medicine from Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), which included a large donation of Azithromycin antibiotics. ANERA delivered the medicine to several charitable clinics, centers and hospitals in the West Bank, including Hebron. The medication is given free of charge to the neediest patients.

Hebron clinic Dr.Rajabi

Dr. Rajabi, a clinic doctor, is thankful for the medicines ANERA delivers.

And, it’s not just the patients who benefit. The donated medicines help the charitable center sustain its services. “When antibiotics that are chronically needed each winter are donated to us, it eases our financial burden,” says Dr. Rajabi. “When fundamental medications fill our shelves, it allows us to provide our patients with other vital medications and services that otherwise might be unavailable or unaffordable.”

Like several healthcare providers across the West Bank, the Hebron center has a longstanding partnership with ANERA, which provides nearly 75% of the center’s medicine supply. These donations are considered the center’s driving force. Significant donations like the recent supply from CMMB have enabled the center to use its resources to renovate and upgrade the facility to provide even better services for their patients. They were able to move their center from the ground floor of an old building, where tiny rooms had poor ventilation and served many purposes, to an upper level floor occupying a larger area with a subsequently larger number of patients. There is now a separate room for dentistry and one for gynecology, a waiting area, and a pharmacy with an attached storage room.

Hebron Clinic Doctor Educates Patients

Patients fill the hallway of the center during morning hours but Dr. Rajabi doesn’t complain. He welcomes each patient with a warm smile and reassuring voice. But he does raise concerns about some of patients’ detrimental practices. “I’d say that almost 60% of our patients come here for a check-up as a last resort after taking various types of antibiotics without consulting a doctor,” he explains.

When 30-year-old Suzanne Al-Natsheh steps into his office with her complete blood count (CBC) results, Dr. Rajabi’s suspicions are confirmed: She has a secondary atypical viral infection that has developed into acute sinusitis. The doctor suspects her deteriorating condition is the result of an earlier faulty diagnosis and incorrect treatment.

Hebron Clinic Suzanne holding medicine

Suzanne, a patient at the clinic, receives antibiotics and a health lesson during her visit.

Like many of Dr. Rajabi’s patients, she has been treating herself with different antibiotics for two months without getting rid of her infection. “What patients don’t realize is that by taking antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription, they are wasting time and money,” he says, “And, what’s worse, is they are endangering their health.” He predicts that if Susan takes the antibiotics donated by CMMB she will fully recover within a week.

Dr. Rajabi says he always takes time for some health education at the end of a treatment session to explain just how important it is to get a proper check-up first to get the right medicine. “Taking course after course of antibiotics arbitrarily could make the body less receptive and cause the condition to worsen, especially if it’s the wrong treatment. By getting the right diagnosis from the outset, you can guarantee a safe and speedy recovery.”

Seven years after getting her bachelor’s in primary education, 32-year-old Wijdan Moqdi got her first chance to work at a governmental school. To her dismay, she was appointed as a preschool classroom teacher. Wijdan had no choice but to accept the position in the village of Masha in Salfit, West Bank.

“I convinced myself I only had to get by for a while until I would be reappointed as a primary school teacher where I believed I belonged,” explains Wijdan.

Teacher Training Takes a Surprising Turn

Her attitude changed dramatically a year later when ANERA organized a 30-day in-service teacher training program and a renovation and rehabilitation project as part of its Early Childhood Development (ECD) program. ANERA’s intervention was made possible with a generous donation by Dubai Cares.

ANERA restored the preschool and added a new playground, furniture, child-appropriate games, toys and books. Masha has a special significance as one of the first preschool classrooms in a government school, established through ANERA’s ECD program. ANERA has worked in tandem with the Ministry of Education since 2014 to rehabilitate two government preschools in the southern West Bank and three in the north, all with funding from Dubai Cares.

The program in Salfit provided 23 teachers from three locations in Qalqilia and seven in Salfit with 30 sessions on early childhood development and core curriculum topics. It was the fifth training held since the ECD program was established in 2010 in the West Bank.

early childhood development palestine wijdan playground

Wijdan took ANERA’s preschool teacher training program and realized that children need vibrant, stimulating activities to learn.

Wijdan recalls the first time she met Sulaima Abu El Haj, ECD coordinator and trainer: “I burst into tears. That’s how frustrated I was. I always felt like I was under constant pressure to develop myself as a preschool teacher but never could figure out how.”

Although Wijdan had a natural love for children, the first year as a kindergarten classroom teacher was very difficult for her, she says, especially because she had mainly relied on her university background to get by.

“Soon after ANERA stepped in, I discovered what I had learned at university was entirely theoretical and almost completely inapplicable to preschool,” explains Wijdan. “I was running the class improperly and that was the biggest hurdle in my path as a preschool teacher. The frustration I felt was predictable,” she sighs, “I lacked the fundamentals!”

A Breakthrough in Interactive Learning

As she continued the training program with ANERA, she started to believe that everything would be okay. However, Wijdan says the real breakthrough came when she changed her perception of what learning is all about.

early childhood development palestine two girls paint

Preschoolers get creative with finger paints.

“I couldn’t imagine a classroom without desks facing a big blackboard. These were fundamental elements of a classroom to me from preschool all the way to university,” she explains. “The blackboard was always there. It had to be!”

Now, she realizes the blackboard can be replaced by games and activities. “When a fun game can teach kids letters, words and spelling, why would I need a blackboard?”

Wijdan was skeptical when Sulaima trained the group of teachers on modern teaching methods and techniques and classroom arrangement. But, when Wijdan put it all into practice, she was convinced it was the best approach.

“We don’t have lessons, but rather a daily program. We sit together on the floor every morning to chat and plan our day. We have various components to our activities like nature, art, games, blocks, drama and storytelling. At the end of each day we have a wrap-up session where the children recall the day’s events and get to express themselves,” says Wijdan with a note of pride in her voice.

Like a large majority of teachers and parents, she used to believe that preschool revolved around reading and writing, and a lot of homework. Today, an enlightened Wijdan understands how the process of learning is always ongoing and takes time.

“With all honesty, I’ve recently discovered that our traditional way of teaching in Palestine is quite rigid and even crippling. Teachers cramp the children’s personalities and imagination, instead of empowering their creativity.”

early childhood development palestine girl with blue paint

Nadira gets her hands dirty playing with finger paints during a fun art lesson.

“It’s all about giving them a right start in life and giving them the emotional and physical space for their personalities to develop. It’s been over two years, and now I dread the possibility of working in more advanced grades. The preschool has become my home.”

One of Wijdan’s early memories was struggling to learn a sentence by heart. She recalls her preschool as being no different than primary or elementary school. They were both a “dreary” classroom with no games or toys.

“When I look at the children I teach in this very rich and stimulating environment, I see a promising future ahead of them,” contemplates Wijdan.I truly believe they will grow up to become better adults. I wish I could go back in time and experience preschool in the same way.”

View the slideshow to see more photos of Wijdan’s preschool class:

early childhood development palestine wijdan hoola hoop
early childhood development palestine girl red paint
early childhood development palestine girl two blue hands
early childhood development palestine wijdan holding painting
early childhood education palestine spelling game
early childhood development class playing outside
early childhood development palestine boy jumping
early childhood development palestine wijdan with students

When Wijdan changed her perception of what learning was about, she was able to foster her students' creativity and growth.

Farah plays with the red finger paint her teacher helped the class make using flour, water and food coloring.

Nadira shows off her very blue hands — finger painting is one of her favorite activities.

Wijdan proudly holds up Dimah's finished masterpiece.

Children learn Arabic words and their spellings with fun, colorful games.

Wijdan's class has fun outside playing with hula hoops.

Nabil and his classmates take turns jumping into hoops during an outdoor play time.

Wijdan poses with her class outside on the playground after playing games with hula hoops.

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Friday is the busiest day of the week at the Spafford Children’s Center in the Old City of Jerusalem, and it is also when the center is most lively and vibrant. Kids and mothers alike are seen around the center taking notes, asking questions and learning.

Through ANERA’s ongoing program in health and youth education for Palestinians funded by the Margaret Cargill Foundation, the center helps 700 children with educational support services and extracurricular activities. Awareness and parenting sessions also target 400 parents and caretakers.

Health development is an integral component of the program, which is carried out at the center’s branch in Ezariyeh, serving 3,000 children from the villages and suburbs around East Jerusalem through treatment and vaccination.

Small Classes Help Palestinian Children Learn and Thrive

youth education for palestinians mohammad landscape

After three months of educational support at the Spafford Center, Mohammad’s motor skills have improved.

Seven-year-old Mohammad arrives in the morning for his 10 o’clock play therapy class in East Jerusalem. Inside the spacious classroom, he plays together with Marwa and Angelica while instructor Reem Zahaykeh facilitates the activities. The three kids are the only ones in the session, which, according to their instructor, gives her the adequate space and time to thoroughly observe and analyze the developmental levels of each child.

The children’s mothers are present in the same room. They sit afar observing the interaction and behavior of their children silently, without interfering. Mohammad’s mother Sana Dajani, 41, smiles as he answers the instructor with confidence.

“My son is very self-assured, yet quite stubborn. He sometimes refuses to conform to his teachers’ instructions, and I just want to find an effective way to communicate with him,” explains Sana, who is a teacher herself.

However, it was poor writing skills that brought Mohammad to the center in the first place. According to the instructor, the problem lies in the underdeveloped of his fine motor skills, which can be solved with training and exercises.

Interactive Learning Improves Skills and Attitude

youth education for palestinians mohammad marwa angelica

Mohammad, Marwa, and Angelica play together in the classroom.

Although Mohammad has only been going to the center for three months, his mother has already noticed some improvement in his motor skills. According to her, he can now color inside the lines, use scissors efficiently to cut shapes, and connect between dots with continuous straight lines.

He also benefits from the speech therapist to help him enunciate more clearly.

The center offers psychological support sessions, as well as English, Arabic and mathematics classes in small groups to motivate learning. It also involves parents and caretakers by meeting with the parents after each class to discuss their children’s progress, and engaging them in the teaching process.

Although Mohammad does not enjoy school as much as his mother would hope, he always looks forward to coming to the center. His mother is delighted to see him happy.

“My son loves coming here and finds the atmosphere comfortable” says Sana. “It is also the commute to here that he enjoys very much; especially that it involves walking through the markets and alleys of the Old City. He arrives here energized, motivated and very stimulated.”


View the slideshow for more photos from the Spafford Children’s Center.

youth education for palestinians play therapy teacher
youth education for palestinians mohammad dajani portrait
youth education for palestinians angelica
youth education for palestinains girl jump roping
youth education for palestinians Hadeel Qrei' teacher
youth education for palestinians arabic grammar lesson
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youth education for palestinians boys homework

Reem Zahaikeh is a play therapy teacher at the center. She develops training and exercises for the kids.

Mohammad loves coming to the Spafford Center. Here, he plays with blocks in the classroom.

Angelica, one of Mohammad's classmates, plays with blocks during her session with the play therapy teacher.

Marwa jumps over a rope in her play session with Mohammad and Angelica at the Spafford Center. These sessions help children develop motor skills.

Hadeel Qrei' is an Arabic language teacher at the Spafford Center. She's been working at the center for 16 years!

An Arabic grammar lesson at the Spafford Center involves interactive learning in small groups.

During an Arabic lesson, a young boy practices writing on the white board.

Two boys work on their activity sheets in the classroom. Small class sizes give the children more opportunities for individualized attention.

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world-water-day-black-and-white

World Water Day 2015 [Slideshow]

March 20th, 2015 by ANERA

Water is essential to ANERA’s work in Palestine and Lebanon. In a region where water is becoming scarcer and demand is always growing, sustainable and environmentally sound water and sanitation projects are vital. With donations from people like you, ANERA builds and repairs water networks, erects reservoirs, provides water tanks and wells, develops new ways to treat wastewater for use in agriculture, reconstructs sewage systems, and provides emergency relief in times of crisis.

Water Day Slideshow

For more than 45 years, ANERA’s has helped thousands of families by providing them with water to drink, cook, clean, and grow food. Take a look at  the slideshow to see a few of our water projects, and some smiling faces, in Palestine through the years.

World Water Day - Gaza Rainwater Conservation 1980s
World Water Day - Beneficary near An-Nu'imeh Spring Jericho
world water day - boy at spicket gaza 2000s
EWAS rainwater collection cistern project EW-WB-042.
World Water Day - Gaza EWAS project water tank 2011
World Water Day - Gaza EWAS2 project washing dishes
world water day jericho construction
World water day - CED.EWAS.WB.Jericho.2013.waterrunning
World Water Day - Gaza water relief august 2014
World Water Day - Gaza water deliveries 2014 relief

In the 1980s, the Gaza Rainwater Conservation Project was implemented to redirect large quantities of rainwater to a depleted aquifer.

In many West Bank communities, ANERA rehabilitates natural springs to make them more efficient for irrigation. A farmer near An-Nu'imeh Spring in Jericho is able to grow crops with the new irrigation system.

Ahmad enjoys the water flowing at his family's home in Al Mossadar, Gaza. In the mid-2000s, ANERA extended the water network and erected a reservoir to connect all of the village home to clean water supplies.

For decades ANERA has constructed cisterns like this one in Aqraba all over the West Bank. Where there are no water networks, underground rainwater collection cisterns provide free water that sustains families throughout the dry summer season.

ANERA built this reservoir in Khan Younis, Gaza. It is a clean and reliable source of water for 70,000 people.

A woman washes dishes in her Gaza home after ANERA restored her community's water network with the Emergency Water and Sanitation project.

In 2006, an ANERA contractor builds a drainage system to direct rainwater away from the Jericho city center. Though usually very dry, when the rains came they caused flooding and a lot of damage.

In 2013, the Jericho rainwater run-off works perfectly after a huge winter storm hit the town.

During the 2014 Gaza war, thousands of families were displaced and without access to water. ANERA provided relief via 10,954,500 liters of water tank refills and 429,732 liters of bottled water.

A young boy is glad to receive water from ANERA during the Gaza war in the summer of 2014.

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