Even the smallest of projects can make a difference in Gaza.
In May 2008, with funding and tools provided by a local program called Jumpstart, Anera facilitated a clean-up project in Deir El-Balah, located in central Gaza.
Workers started as soon as they received street brooms, shovels, and wheelbarrows. After the first week, a rotation of fifteen workers replaced the first fifteen in a plan to allow more workers to earn some income for their families.
“The project cleans up our neighborhood, Hekret Jame,” said Mohammed Abu Amera, a graduate of Qalandia University. “It’s a marginalized area, and many people are living under the poverty line with no jobs.” He added that each of the workers participating in the project has at least eleven people to support.
The project’s proximity to a local elementary school also inspired the workers to go beyond just clearing the garbage and refuse surrounding the school. They also cleaned the school itself. Before, “when kids would reach their houses, they would have filthy and muddy clothes. The garbage could cause diseases and make it difficult for the children to keep themselves clean,” explained Abu Amera, a mechanical engineer who lost his job when Gaza’s borders closed.
The project came at a critical time in Gaza: the local municipalities were facing a severe deficit in their budgets due to limited or no sources of income, in addition to the already deteriorated economic situation in Gaza, which is a result of the borders’ closure eight months ago.
Anera worked with the Heker Jamea Youth Association, an active NGO in the region, to clean up the streets and the local cemetery, as well as the elementary school. The garbage had spread from the streets to the agricultural land bordering the buildings. One of the residents, Abu Rami, said, “The garbage has harmfully affected the crops. If a cigarette is thrown by mistake in the garbage, it will burn all of the crops.”
“We dream of a clean environment for our kids,” Rami added. “It is very inspiring that we ourselves are cleaning our area and we also are feeding many families through this work.”