During the summer of 2009. Anera has organized camps for 1,000 children in seven locations throughout Gaza.
In the Khan Younis area, in southern Gaza, over 400 children – ranging from 6 to 12 years old – donned t-shirts and caps and joined the Cultural and Free Thought Association summer camps.
“Gaza is turning into one huge summer camp. The children are releasing the fright and trauma they had a few months ago during the war,” said Husam Shehata, a volunteer trainer at the Cultural and Free Thought Association.
For many children, the summer camps act as a sanctuary and refuge, offering a space where they can find love and peace of mind. The camps are special, for they include group discussions and meditation, as well as fun activities.
“The existence of the summer camps this year is a vital necessity. The children are psychologically affected by the recent war,” said Husam. “The camps can’t heal the children’s psychological scars completely, but they can help them maintain psychological balance.”
Activities include music, art, drama, sports and creative writing.
“The timing of the summer camps is excellent,” Husam continued. “They come right after a long and difficult school year. The camps develop the children’s abilities and skills in a very optimistic and safe atmosphere.”
One of the camps took place on the seashore, which children found very enjoyable. “The boys’ summer camp finished last week. This week is only for girls and they are enjoying swimming and fishing,” said Husam.
“It is a lot of fun. I’ve caught three tiny fish so far. I will take care of them and feed them daily,” said 12-year-old Nida, wearing a pair of jeans and a cap and holding a fishing rod in her hands.
“I believe that the children need more of this sort of intervention. They need our utmost support and encouragement to get them to smile again,” said Husam.