In Gaza, nothing goes to waste. In Ghassan Kanafani preschool in Jabalia, teachers help recycle materials like discarded clothing, cardboard, old toys, egg cartons and buttons to make puppets and other toys for the children.
“Ever since the closure ten years ago, the situation here in Gaza has been bleak,” explained teacher Zaynab El Jamal. “So many of our parents are unemployed. Many lost their homes during the 2014 Gaza war and still have no rooftop over their heads.”
Browse Photos of Gaza Children Playing with Their Creations!
Children at Ghassan Kanafani preschool in Gaza create dolls, toys and crafts from recycled materials.
©MZ, ANERA | January 2016
Gaza Children Have the Right to Play
Toys are an unaffordable luxury for most Gaza children, compared to the need for basics like food or milk. So, teachers looked for other options to create toys and learning materials from discarded items that were still in good condition. A teacher training organized by ANERA, with support from Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA), guided teachers on how to transform everyday objects like the recycled products into toys and art. “I would never have considered these neglected scraps as useful but now whenever we see items that are still in good shape, we clean them, sort them and start making attractive products,” Zaynab said.
ANERA trainer Saed Humid added that children should not be robbed of their right to play and express themselves. “All kids need and deserve toys, and even the most impoverished kids in Gaza can find things to play with from whatever they have.”
Teaching Kids to Express Themselves Creatively
Inside the preschool, the children are excited by the creativity of turning the bits and pieces into something they can play with in art class or at their playtime learning center. “When they are focused, they can create plenty of toys. They have wild imaginations,” Zaynab smiled.
She says the children are delighted when they can make puppets, robots and monsters by gluing together the recycled items. Their parents are delighted by their children’s enthusiasm and relieved by the lessened pressure on their limited budgets. Teacher Zaynab El Jamal explained the parents also join in the fun, “We have taught parents how to transform old socks into puppets so all they have to do is find old socks, cut them, stuff them with other socks and use an old ball as head and finally decorate them.”
“We love to encourage kids to be creative, so what better way to tell stories than with their own puppets.”
From simple materials, children can create monkeys, tigers, princesses, or anything else they can imagine. “We love to encourage kids to be creative, so what better way to tell stories than with their own puppets,” Zaynab said. “We also make sure to encourage kids to move their bodies as they build and play with their new toys in order to stimulate motor skill, concentration and hand-eye coordination.”
Playtime is one of the core elements of ANERA’s early childhood education (ECD) program, which is an integral part of a holistic, integrated approach to early childhood development.
Early Childhood Development in Gaza and the West Bank
ANERA’s ECD program, with support from Islamic Relief USA, now reaches Al Najah in Khan Younis, Maise El Reem in Deir El Balah, Ghassan Kanafani in Jabalia, Ajyal El Tahreer in Khan Younis and Ghosn Al Zaytoun in Rafah. The project includes renovating preschools, equipping classrooms with child-appropriate furnishing and educational materials, and training teachers. In total, ANERA’s ECD program supports 140+ preschools in Palestine. Donate to ANERA>>