ANERA’s Milk for Preschoolers (MfP) program reaches about 20.000 children across Gaza, including the 55 children of the Shams Al-Amal preschool.
The preschool is part of the Society of Physically Handicapped People’s program to offer educational, treatment and social services to the disabled of Gaza. “The children are always asking for the fortified milk, even before saying good morning,” laughs Mirvat Al-Hadad, a teacher at Shams Al-Amal. She and other teachers have noticed changes in the children’s health and energy since they began receiving MfP’s fortified milk and biscuits three years ago.
The youngsters’ healthy progress is encouraging. Preschooler Moemen has weak muscles and is not able to use much of his body. Moemen’s mother explains she learned of his handicap while in her ninth month of pregnancy. “To develop his muscles, I used to give him crayons to color.” She says the daily dose of MfP’s fortified milk gives him strength and raises his hemoglobin count. “Along with regular physical therapy he now can write, drink milk and eat,” Shams teacher Al-Hadad. “His mom has noticed the difference.” Moemen proudly shows visitors how he can write the alphabet.
A key part of the MfP program is getting the children to drink the milk everyday in front of their teachers to make sure someone else doesn’t drink it in their place.
Moemen’s classmate Basmalah is four years old and also handicapped due to a lack of oxygen at birth. Since she joined the preschool and started participating in the MfP program, the teachers have been surprised by her strong will and her progress. “Basmalah keeps telling me, I want to walk like you, “says her teacher, Ayat.
“I think the milk is helping Basmalah build her strength. We were all surprised when we saw her walking.” The school also designed a specific pen for her to enable her to write with both her foot and hand. “We are so thankful to ANERA and SIF [Secours Islamique France] for supporting us and showing solidarity with the handicapped.”
In 2004, Shams Al-Amal preschool was configured for handicapped students in response to the disabled children who had been rejected or underserved by regular preschools for lack of facilities and personnel. The preschool does not have a steady income to cover costs, but Director Fadwa El-Shara insists she will never stop giving handicapped children the educational opportunities they deserve.