ANERA has been supporting the construction of a preschool curriculum framework that prepares Palestine’s youngest children for a better future. In the past six years alone, the ANERA early childhood development (ECD) team has reached 30,000 children with innovative learning techniques, helped rehabilitate and rebuild 165 kindergartens, and trained more than 600 teachers.

On May 15th, the Ministry of Education held a launch to recognize the culmination of ANERA’s efforts to co-draft the national guidelines for a preschool curriculum. The framework was launched under the auspices and participation of Minister of Education and Higher Education Dr. Sabri Saidam.

It is considered a cornerstone of the Palestinian education system that is expected to change the face of preschool education in Palestine. “We are confident that with the platform that the curriculum framework provides, many, many more children will enjoy quality preschooling opportunities in Palestine,” said Paul Butler, ANERA’s director for Palestine. The achievements of the program are already visible in preschool renovations, teacher training and community involvement.

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Children at an ANERA partner preschool in Ajyal al Tahreer, Gaza receive new reading materials provided by ANERA and Islamic Relief USA.

New Framework Empowers Children & Educators

The first-ever national framework for preschool education in Palestine evolved through four months of intensive work, meetings, field visits and work sessions. It was a joint effort including the Ministry of Education, ANERA, and other well-respected international and local organizations. Preschool supervisors, who have a vested interest in the program’s success, also actively participated.

Dr. Ilham Nasser helps develop framework for preschool education in Palestine.

Dr. Ilham Nasser, an early childhood expert and longtime friend of ANERA, was brought in to help develop the framework.

ANERA engaged former board member Dr. Ilham Nasser, associate professor in the early childhood education program at George Mason University, to develop the framework. As a consultant to the ministry, Dr. Nasser led the national work team through the entire process. At the May 15 ceremony, she proudly held the framework document and underscored its significance for Palestinian children:

A national framework is an investment in a better economic, cultural and social future…It’s an educational roadmap with a clear path toward a safe and constructive preschool experience. But we need to move quickly to implement the plan to better serve young Palestinians.”

Training Preschool Teachers in Expressive Arts Education

Teacher training is part of ANERA's program for preschool education in Palestine.

Teachers take part in a training session focused on implementing expressive arts in the classroom.

One of the keys to success is ANERA’s enrolling teacher training in creative education techniques. In July, 25 teachers from Jericho and 25 from Ramallah will complete the ANERA-designed-preschool teacher in-service program, supported by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. So far, 32 teachers have completed the training in Gaza. Apart from the core curriculum topics, the teachers learn how the use of drama, art and music in the classroom offers a new perspective on the teaching and learning experience.

This month for example, ANERA exposed teachers in Ramallah to a musical experience they usually do not come across. Traditionally, music is not viewed as a means of creativity and learning, but rather as a way of release, according to ANERA’s music trainer Buran Sa’ada. As a musician, child musical therapist and a trainer, Buran works to promote music education in Palestinian schools.

Music and arts are an important part of preshool education in Palestine.

Children express themselves through music and dancing in this Palestinian preschool.

For the training, Buran quickly placed percussion instruments in the hands of the teachers so they could be a part of the excitement that music provides. Instead of passively playing music for the children, the teachers experienced the excitement and joy of creating the music themselves with rattles, a tambourine, a set of castanets, xylophone, drums and other instruments.

A proper learning environment is also an essential part of the framework. ANERA has already renovated 165 preschools in the West Bank and Gaza. In the next few months, ANERA will renovate six preschools in Jericho, eight in Ramallah, one in Tubas and five in Gaza. ANERA is also building a new preschool in Marj Na’jah in Jericho and another in Deir al Balah in Gaza.

ANERA’s ECD program is built on a comprehensive and holistic vision to provide the best learning environment for children in safe and colorful settings with child-appropriate learning materials and furnishings, sanitary facilities and playgrounds.

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This preschool classroom in Al Ramadeen showcases ANERA’s environmental guidelines: plenty of light and ventilation, colorful walls, child-sized-furnishing and appropriate games and learning activities.

Recent statistics published in Gaza estimate that nearly 60 percent of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents are food insecure. With Gaza unemployment at more than 40 percent, eight out of ten people in Gaza rely on food assistance to survive.

ANERA’s most recent food security project in Gaza aims to help reduce poverty and restore access to healthy food. The pilot program is reaching 14 farming families in Deir el Balah, in central Gaza.

ANERA supplies a 90-square-meter greenhouse, vegetable seeds, a drip irrigation system and an impressive solar cooker made in Gaza using materials that can be sourced there. Our agronomist trains and mentors the farmers on best practices too.

Gaza War: “The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back” for Sumaya’s family

Sumaya is one of the poorest farmers in Deir el Balah benefiting from solar cookers and greenhouses in Gaza.

Sumaya’s neighbor stands in the doorway of her home. She’s also benefiting from the food security project.

Sumaya is a grateful participant in the pilot project. She is one of the poorest farmers in Deir el Balah and has to care for her children and her disabled husband.

She recalls feeling desperate and hopeless when she lost her business raising livestock. “I felt ashamed and disgraced to have to beg for food from our neighbors. I hated to ask for a few vegetables like tomatoes.” Sumaya’s eyes fill with tears.

Sumaya says her suffering began when massive floods damaged her livestock and crops. The 2014 Gaza war, she says, was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Farmers were forced to abandon their bombed-out fields, losing their source of food for the family and income. The continuing blockade of Gaza also has severely impacted business: the price of compost, animal feed and other agricultural materials has soared beyond what poor farmers like Sumaya can afford.

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Sumaya takes care of her children and her disabled husband. She depends on the greenhouse and solar cooker to provide meals for her family.

But she couldn’t give up for the sake of her family. And then she learned about ANERA’s food security program, which aims to help farmers like Sumaya to restore their farms in Gaza and reconnect to their source of a livelihood.

Locally-Made Solar Cookers Embody Gaza Resilience

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A delicious meal of molokhia and chicken prepared on Sumaya’s solar cooker. It’s a recipe she proudly learned from her mother.

Sumaya received all the tools she needed, including the solar cooker, a greenhouse, drip irrigation system, compost and vegetables to plant, like onion, tomatoes eggplants, mint and basil. Now Sumaya uses her solar stove to cook vegetables freshly picked from her garden. Once a week she can now afford to buy some meat, too.

“Our favorite dish today is molokhia. I pick the jute leaves from my garden and use a recipe from my mother,” she says.  “And, I never worry about the food being burned,” Sumaya laughs.

The locally-made solar cookers are the innovative design of a Palestinian agronomist who built one for himself to avoid having to buy gas canisters or deal with the never-ending power outages. ANERA added the solar cookers to its Gaza household gardens initiative to enhance the availability of nutritious meals, reduce the dependency on fuel, and further support the Gaza economy by using stoves produced right in Gaza.

The food security project, Sumaya says, has restored her hope for a better future. Her children also give her hope: Four of them already know they want to become doctors. The slogan they have written on a wall in the room where they all sleep sums it up best: Bethoon – tomorrow will be better than today.

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One of the vital elements for survival in a crisis is a steady high-quality blood supply. In Gaza these days, that is not guaranteed. Recently, the Gaza Central Blood Bank Society (CBBS) ran out of blood bags completely.

Finding enough blood bags in Gaza is nearly impossible, largely due to the 10-year blockade, the lack of funds and limited access to medicine and health care supplies. The CBBS was forced to borrow a small supply from Al Shifa hospital for surgical use, but they did not have any left over. “We have had to rebuff blood donors two or three times. We explained the problem but I’m worried they won’t come back and we always need to keep the blood bank up to date,” says Sahar Abu Sido, who has been working at the Gaza Central Blood Bank Society since 1984.

The blood bank plays a critical role in providing major Gaza hospitals with blood during emergencies. Proper equipment and a steady supply of blood are essential. “When the blood bank lacks certain items, that’s an emergency in itself,” said Sahar.

Gaza relief: Delivery of blood bags to Central Blood Bank Society.

Recognizing the urgent needs of the Central Blood Bank Society, ANERA responded with blood bags immediately!

The lack of enough blood bags on hand for donations is one such emergency. “In the past two months, we had to cancel our blood donations and call off all of our public blood collection campaigns because we didn’t have enough bags,” she added.

As the holy month of Ramadan nears, health workers are concerned about the reduced number of blood donations and the lack of blood bags. “While people fast during Ramadan, blood donations usually decrease. So the pressure increases to collect blood units, taking into account that these units have to be tested and checked to ensure they’re free from infections,” Sahar Abu Sida explains

Urgent Delivery of Blood Bags Arrive

Sahar smiles with relief when ANERA delivers the first set of emergency blood bags.

Sahar smiles with relief when ANERA delivers the first set of emergency blood bags.

Recently, ANERA was able to provide the blood bank with equipment, furniture and a new 66KVA generator, a reliable power source to sustain its operations thanks to ANERA’s donors committed to Gaza relief.

The blood bank asked for help and ANERA’s in-kind medical relief team responded quickly to get 8,700 blood bags brought in from the West Bank. Sahar sighed with relief when she saw the first 520 blood bags arrive.

Thanks to ANERA’s help, the Gaza Central Blood Bank Society has blood bags available to cover their needs for one month until the rest of ANERA’s next planned shipment arrives. Once in Gaza, the blood bank says the supply should support its needs for a year.

Sahar is relieved that a crisis has been avoided…for now. “The day we received the first shipment of blood bags, we immediately reactivated our blood collection campaign and collected 92 blood units in one day.”

For Sahar, making sure there is a supply of blood available for Gaza emergencies is a lifetime commitment. “Nothing gives me more satisfaction than knowing that we have blood available to respond for an emergency to help in someone in a life-threatening situation. No words can describe that moment when we can say ‘yes’ the blood you need is on the way.”


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Nineteen-year-old Ali Jibril loves basketball. You can often find him on the court practicing his skills with his teammates. In addition to their love of the game, the group has another thing in common: they all have physical disabilities that inhibit walking.

Ali was in a car accident in 2013 that caused severe bruising and fractures to the lower part of his body. Hindered by many years of blockade, communities in Gaza struggle to meet the medical needs of the physically handicapped. People like Ali, who need rehabilitation and support in dealing with physical disabilities, have few places to turn for medicine and treatment.

“I thought my life had ended at this point,” says Ali. Fortunately, he was able to find help at the Society for the Physically Handicapped, a long-time ANERA partner in Gaza. Ali is a recipient of vitamins, painkillers and antibiotics, which are all donated to the Society through ANERA’s robust in-kind medical relief program.

Medical aid to Gaza clinic frees resources for therapy games, like basketball.

Ali and his teammate practice on the court. Basketball is also part of his their physical therapy.

Supporting Palestinian Clinics through Medical Aid to Gaza

Ali, playing basketball, says he is still "young and full of dreams."

“I am still young and full of dreams,” Ali says.

The program for medical aid to Gaza enables Gaza hospitals and clinics to better care for their patients in the long term. When they don’t have to worry about the prohibitive costs of much-needed medicines, partners like the Society for the Physically Handicapped can spend their limited resources on equipment, therapy and other treatments.

At the Society, Ali discovered a talent for basketball and has regained hope for the future. “When I started my therapy classes at the society, things changed,” he explains. “I am still young and full of dreams.”

He’s embracing the opportunities available to him. “I love games, and I recently took part in the national basketball contest,” he smiles.

“Being disabled is not a choice I made, but I do have the choice to find a way to enjoy life.” 

Medical aid to Gaza clinics helps Palestinians dealing with circumstances beyond their control find a way to live their lives in health and dignity. 

Physically disabled teens renew hope thanks in part to medical aid to Gaza.

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.
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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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