The makeshift tent camp of Bebnine in north Lebanon is home to many refugees from war-ravaged Syria. It’s a culturally and ethnically diverse community. But the refugees share one love: soccer.

ANERA rehabilitated a soccer field next to the camp to provide the kids a space to play and offer a sports program to help promote peaceful coexistence and team-building.

“We wanted to offer fun activities to promote a healthy lifestyle, reduce tensions and aggressiveness and also teach life skills,” explains ANERA sports program manager Jacki Atwi. “We have set up a daily schedule that keeps them busy, but also we try to redirect them toward continuing their education.”

The programming builds on ANERA’s Sports for Peace project, which helped cultivate understanding between youth from Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian communities through sports like soccer, capoeira and basketball.

syrian refugee girls soccer

In addition to being a lot of fun for refugee girls living in dire conditions, soccer eases tensions in the community.

Volunteer Coach Gives Syrian Refugee Girls the Chance to Play

The program has attracted volunteers both from inside and outside Lebanon. Zainab El Kheshen came from Cairo to teach young Syrian refugee girls and boys soccer skills. The 31-year-old has degrees in law, management and early childhood education, which she has combined with her love of sports to work as a trainer.

“I believe that soccer is a great tool for development, especially for young girls in conservative communities who don’t often get the chance to play outside,” she explains. “Soccer offers them the opportunity to meet others, work out and break gender boundaries.”

Syrian refugee girls soccer goal

When it’s their turn on the field, the girls put their hearts into the sport.

Zainab worked with 39 girls and 11 boys at the new playground. The youngsters had fun choosing their team names and enthusiastically cheered each other on to victory. Girls who never dreamed of the possibility of playing sports were running and laughing as they kicked the ball down the field.

It's a rare sight for the boys to be watching from the sidelines as the girls play.

It’s a rare sight for the boys to be watching from the sidelines as the girls play.

Lina Amer didn’t hesitate to join the girl’s team. The 12 year old fled Syria two years ago, along with her family. “We used to see the boys playing here and wished we had a chance to play,” she remembered. “We came every morning, stayed by the fence and watched them play.” Lina says her parents didn’t want her to play soccer because they thought it was a man’s game. “But when they learned that a woman was going to train us, they agreed to let me join.”

At the end of the day, girls followed Zainab to the car, asking when she would come back. Everyone wanted to show their appreciation and hospitality, inviting the Egyptian woman to their tents for coffee and a chat. They were curious to know how she managed to convince everyone that girls can play soccer too. One young girl said she had found a new career for herself, “When I grow up, I want to be like Zainab and teach all the girls back in Syria how to play soccer.”

Syrian refugee girls watching soccer

The girls loved playing soccer and wanted to learn as much as they could from Zainab.

Walid Khalil went to the Palestinian Medical Relief Society clinic in Gaza with a runny nose, sore throat and cough. He had a hard time breathing too. His medical test showed a urinary system infection. He was not surprised.

Walid lives in the Shujaeya neighborhood of Gaza City, which was hard-hit by the 2014 Gaza war.

“There is dirt and rubble all over the place in my area and the air is really polluted with it. I find that it is affecting my breathing,” said Walid.

He contracted the ailment last year and since then he swings between recovery and infection. He also sustained a few wounds in his back which healed over time. “But my breathing problems and bladder pain don’t go away,” he said.

Walid says the medicines he received before were ineffective, but this time is different. At PRMS, the doctor prescribes Cefuroxime, a broad-spectrum antibiotic. It works against a variety of bacterial infections that can attack the skin, chest, ears and sinuses.

Delivery of Antibiotics Helps Improve Poor Health Situation in Gaza

Walid received a new antibiotics from the pharmacist at the PMRS clinic in Shujaeya.

Walid received new antibiotics from the pharmacist at the PMRS clinic. The pharmacist is optimistic they will relieve his suffering.

Thanks to a generous donation from long-time partner AmeriCares, ANERA delivered Cefuroxime 250 mg tablets to 16 clinics and hospitals in Gaza.

ANERA’s 2015 Annual Dinner on October 2 will be raising funds for health and well-being. Get your tickets now!

Despite the eight-year blockade of Gaza, ANERA has continued to supply the Gaza health sector with vital medical aid for Palestinians struggling to get adequate care.

“It is really a miserable health situation in Gaza. There is a severe lack of medical equipment and medicines,” says PRMS pharmacist Dina Shawa.

Before Walid left the clinic, the pharmacist reminded him to take the antibiotic every 12 hours with food to increase absorption and reduce chances of an upset stomach. “To achieve the most effective results, Walid has to take a full course of the antibiotic even if he feels better while taking the medicine,” explained the pharmacist. Walid promised he would.


Soft colored walls, adequate lighting, child-friendly furniture, soft cotton curtains and single-color carpeting promise an inviting and safe environment for preschoolers. Child-friendly lavatories that are easily accessible help ensure taught hygienic practices are being applied.

Through its early childhood development (ECD) program, ANERA is leaving its special mark on nearly 140 preschools in Palestine that have been renovated according to ANERA’s high standards.

Although location and staff differ from one preschool to another, all the interiors carry the same identity. The first thing one notices when entering an ANERA-renovated preschool is the pleasant, cheerful ambiance.

It is not by chance. Furniture styles and specifications are the result of careful planning and evaluation by ANERA’s team of early childhood experts. All the toys, books and other educational materials are at arm’s length in and neatly stored in locally-produced, stylish and colorful cupboards and shelves.

preschools in palestine colorful shelves

These colorful and height-appropriate shelving units were made by local carpenter, Fouad Nassar.

“Appropriate high-quality fixtures and fitting, including wood furniture, carpets and curtains are essential in making preschool environments more conducive to learning and ensuring that children have a positive experience during their preschool years,” explains ANERA’s Palestine education director, Sulieman Mleahat.

preschools in palestine pink bookshelf

A pink bookshelf will infuse a preschool classroom with a positive, inviting vibe.

The soft shades of green, blue, pink, orange and yellow that decorate the walls, along with the matching curtains help create a cheerful and serene environment for children.

“Softer colors help children focus better, as they are a limited source of distraction and infuse a positive vibe that motivates the little ones,” says preschool teacher Wijdan Moqdi. That is why the same colors are also used on wood furnishings. The sturdy pieces of furniture are built to accommodate children’s sizes and heights, and have smooth surfaces and rounded edges to ensure that they are as safe and as practical as can be.

Local Carpenters Build Furniture for Preschools in Palestine

preschools in palestine kareem worker

Kareem has worked for Fouad’s furniture company for 15 years, and is providing for his family.

ANERA contributes to the sustainability of Palestinian vendors and economic development in Palestine by putting its trust in Palestinian-made products and using local artisans to produce the furnishings. It also creates job opportunities in Palestine that help support scores of families.

For instance, local carpenter Fouad Nassar is a long-time partner of ANERA. Fouad started Nassar Office Furniture Company in 1986, and today the company provides most of the child-friendly furniture ANERA uses to equip its preschools. The company has a workshop located in Birnabala and also has retail shops in Ramallah and  Jerusalem. Fouad’s success has produced the income needed to support his family—including four children and 11 grandchildren. Fouad’s company also employs other Palestinian workers, such as 35-year-old Kareem Nazeem from Jaba. Kareem has worked at Nassar Office Furniture Company for 15 years, enabling him to provide for his wife and three kids.

preschools in palestine carpenter and son

Fouad Nassar, founder of Nassar Office Furniture, stands next to his eldest grandson, Fouad Nassar Jr.

The majority of workers are parents and even grandparents of young children, and many of them are from the same communities where our ECD program is developing. Families say ANERA offers a gift to Palestine’s youngest generation but also to their community.

Sulieman Mleahat says the beautiful furnishings and decoration inside the preschools are a testament to the creative passion and love of Palestinian hands—the coarse hands of a carpenter, the firm grip of a construction worker, the precise fingers of a tailor, the skilled touch of a welder, or the creative hands of an engineer.

After a sleepless night, Sundus Shakoura arrived at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Gaza to be treated for a cavity and a gum infection.

“Children dread a trip to the dentist,” explained her mother.

Dr. Zohair Barzaq confirmed: “The chair and tools are a bit scary for the little ones. Parents do not regularly take their children to the dentist in Gaza, so the experience is unfamiliar.”

At age seven, this was Sundus’ first trip to the dentist, and she was terrified by all the stories she’d heard from other kids about dentist visits. Fortunately, ANERA had just delivered new, colorful toothbrushes from Smile Squared to the clinic with the aim of promoting health in Gaza. Dr. Barzaq was able to calm Sundus down with some counseling and a new bright pink toothbrush.

promoting health in gaza, sundus and dentist

Sundus receives a pink toothbrush from her Dr. Barzaq, donated by Smile Squared and delivered by ANERA

“The colorful toothbrush was a nice surprise and made her feel that a visit to the dentist might not be so bad after all,” said her mother.

Dr. Barzaq hopes these experiences will encourage parents of patients like Sundus to take their children to the dentist regularly for cleanings, instead of when they get to the point of having pain or developing a cavity.

promoting health in gaza with toothbrushes omar

Omar’s new toothbrush and the brushing tips he received should keep him from needing another filling.

Gaza Dentists Promote Good Oral Hygiene Habits

Meanwhile, at Al-Sahaba clinic—another recipient of the toothbrushes—young Omar was a bit more courageous than Sundus and allowed Dr. Yulia to examine his teeth right away.

Dr. Yulia promotes good oral hygiene practices through health education with each of her patients. After Omar’s filling, the dentist explained to Omar and his mother how important it is to keep his mouth clean and healthy. “Brushing should be done for two minutes in the morning and evening, and children should be shown how to do it right.”

She explained that using a circular motion that starts and finishes in the same place on each tooth is the best way to brush. Dr. Yulia also added, “Sugary drinks and any foods that contain sugar, not just sweets, should be avoided or eaten sparingly because they cause tooth decay. Parents need to help their children develop healthy eating habits.”

At the end of Omar’s visit, Dr. Yulia handed him a colorful, high-quality toothbrush, hoping that Omar won’t have to come back for another filling.

promoting health in gaza smile squared toothbrushes

Colorful, child-sized toothbrushes encourage kids to brush!

With a donation from Smile Squared through ANERA’s Gaza in-kind program, 5,000 child-sized toothbrushes were shipped and distributed to children at five clinics around Gaza to promote good brushing practices and encourage oral hygiene. Smile Squared has a buy-one, give-on philosophy, so any time a Smile Squared toothbrush is purchased, they’ll send one to a child in need.

In addition to Al Sahaba and the Red Crescent Society, ANERA delivered toothbrushes to the Society for the Physically Handicapped, the NECC clinic, and Caritas.


ANERA’s 2015 Annual Dinner on October 2 will support programs that promote health and well-being. Get your tickets today!


“The holy month of Ramadan is a festive time for all Muslim communities in the world. But it is still a bleak time in Gaza,” says Mansour El Louh, director of Shabab Heker El Jamee Society in Deir El Balah. “Food is definitely a symbol of hope for poor families here,” he adds. Mansour emphasizes that food is crucial for those who suffer from malnutrition.

Mansour’s organization is helping ANERA provide humanitarian relief: boxes filled with basic food items that can help people in Gaza survive. The Gaza food packages include ingredients for healthy Ramadan meals, like cooking oil, sugar, tea, macaroni, lentils, tomato paste, white beans, chickpeas, white and cheddar cheese, beans, dates, jam and juice.

This Ramadan, ANERA was able to distribute 200 food parcels in Deir El Balah and another 600 packages to Rafah, Khan Younis and Gaza City. The distribution was made possible by individual donations made to the #ANERAFoodPackage campaign, the NOLA Muslim Community in collaboration with Masjid Omar, and funding from Zakat Foundation of America.

A mother stands with her food package, relieved to be able to make Iftar meals for her family.

A mother stands with her food package, relieved that she can now provide meals for her family.

Food Packages are a Huge Relief for Families in Deir El Balah

In Deir El Balah, Mansour El Louh says families who lost their businesses and jobs during the 2014 war have become dependent on food assistance.” Each family has a coupon with names, an ID and a certain time to arrive at the society to receive the food package. This way we can manage the crowd of recipients,” he explains.

ANERA delivered over 800 food packages to Gaza families, many of whom lost their homes, jobs or businesses in the 2014 war.

Families are delighted with the Gaza food packages because they consider Ramadan a month of goodness and blessings. Mansour El Louh explains, “It is a time to enjoy some basic foods that they can’t otherwise afford throughout the year.”

Fawziya El-Atar was overjoyed with her food parcel. “This donation comes as a blessing at a time when poor families like mine are in dire need of help. This package will help us to survive,” says the 48-year-old mother.

Fawziya had to abandon her home during the 2014 war and has been living with her four daughters and grandchildren in a makeshift shelter, sewing sheets together for walls and using an old table as her kitchen workplace.

Gaza food packages: Fawziya and granddaughter

Fawziya El-Atar and her granddaughter Sewara at their makeshift home in Deir El Balah.

“We have no fridge or stove. We basically wait for assistance from people of goodwill,” she says. Fawziya cannot work to help provide for her family because of severe arthritis and other health problems.

More Gaza Food Packages Comfort the Poor in Rafah

Farther south in Rafah, Alia Abu Hasoun helps serve the elderly during the food parcel distribution. “It is difficult for anyone who has fasted all day to see their neighbors go hungry at Iftar when we traditionally break our fast,” explains the preschool teacher who also participates in ANERA’s early childhood development program.

Gaza food packages: Yaser holds dates

10-year-old Yasser is excited to bring home the food package to his family in Rafah.

She says poverty is widespread in Gaza so few families earn enough to be survive. “We preschool teachers only earn 200 NIS a month (less than $50), so the food package is a wonderful Ramadan gift to help cheer up our families.”

Young Yasser Abu Sahlhoob is also delighted with the Ramadan food package, especially the dates. The 10-year-old helps his father carry the package home.

“The rest of the family is waiting at home to see what it includes and my siblings will be excited to have something for the Suhoor breakfast.” He smiles at the thought or bringing such a gift home to his family.

View the slideshow to see more photos from the Gaza food package distribution:

Gaza food packages: two boys zakat
gaza food packages: women at distribution
gaza food packages truck unloading
gaza food packages: man carrying box
gaza food packages girl and donkey cart
gaza food packages boys motorcycle
gaza food packages boy pushing cart
gaza food packages: family on cart

These two boys had their arms full with food for their families.

The distribution went smoothly thanks to coordination between ANERA staff and local partners.

Unloading a truck carrying hundreds of food packages to families in Deir El Baleh.

A volunteer at a community organization in Gaza City helped distribute food packages to families.

A young girl helped bring her family's food package home on their donkey cart, a familiar mode of transportation in Gaza because of acute fuel shortages.

Brothers excitedly hopped on their motorcycle; the younger sibling holding on tightly to their box of food.

In Deir El Baleh, a young boy brought a hand cart along to help bring the Ramadan gift back to his family.

Several neighboring families came along to pick up their food packages, sharing a cart for transportation.

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gaza food packages: two women thumbnail
gaza food packages truck unloading thumbnail
gaza food packages: man carrying box thumbnail
gaza food packages girl and donkey cart thumbnail
gaza food packages boys motorcycle thumbnail
gaza food packages boy pushing cart thumbnail
gaza food packages: family on cart thumbnail