In 2010, Anera kick-started its early childhood development program, and I joined at the outset. Having spent many years studying and working in the United Kingdom, I returned to Palestine to join Anera and help invest in the most important sector in education and development. Although our work focuses on the kindergarten years, ages four to six, our program aims to help all children from birth to eight. This is called the early childhood period, the stage that is considered to be the most important period in the human lifespan. What happens in these early years pretty much determines the overall outcomes of a person’s life – their health and overall status. This is when a person’s brain develops most, and the need for optimum nutrition, health, protection, and stimulation is vital. Also, we now know that for every dollar that government invests in the kindergarten years, society reaps anything between $8 and $16 in return over the lifetime of an individual. These stark facts compelled Anera to consolidate its efforts and focus on investing in the early years.
Over the past eight years, Anera’s education program has focused on early childhood education, helping to renovate over 180 kindergartens – approximately 10 percent of Palestinian kindergartens – and train more than 600 teachers. To date, our program has also helped 30,000 children and 20,000 mothers. Crucially, Anera took the lead in the development of the first Palestinian preschool curriculum – an impressive effort on the part of the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, Save the Children, and many other individuals and organizations that focus on childhood. This initiative was launched by Minister of Education and Higher Education Dr. Sabri Saidam in October 2017.
Our kindergarten-building program is a bold statement of intent to afford our youngest children the best start in life by offering the finest learning spaces and pedagogy. Our children deserve the best, and we work with talented local architects, designers, and trainers to create state-of-the-art learning and play spaces and facilities.
We aim to connect Palestinian families in the diaspora with their homeland by investing in Palestine’s youngest children. To date, we have built four new kindergartens and are currently building another ten across Gaza and the West Bank. I am personally grateful to the Tarazi family who have built two kindergartens, one in Al-Majd Village in South Hebron and the other in Qibya Village, and to the Ghiath and Nadia Sukhtian Foundation, which has committed to establishing ten new kindergartens and a teacher-training center in Nablus this year. As I write this, more Palestinian families are coming on board to help us reach our target of 50 new kindergartens over the next five years.
This an invitation to all our friends and families in the diaspora to connect with us to help meet the needs of Palestine’s youngest and build a better future.