When summer approaches in Gaza, it usually means more electricity outages and more economic burdens.
With school being out, children in particular struggle with the lack of recreational facilities. This summer, Anera is making a special effort to make summer 2011 different by providing fun and educational summer camps. As part of the Milk for Preschoolers Program, Anera has turned 30 Gaza preschools into summer camps that provide a recreational outlet for kids while also teaching about healthy living habits like hygiene and nutrition.
Inside Sanabil Preschool in Al-Nosairat, in the middle region of Gaza, Samar Al-Moghari came to check on her son, Eyad, who attends the preschool year-round and recently enrolled in the summer camp. From a distance, Samar happily watched her child play with other children.
“This is his first time Eyad is participating in a summer camp, and it makes me happy to see him learning about health through activities with other children,” said the mother. “I can see the difference it has had on him – he doesn’t drink tea after meals anymore and asks for milk in the mornings.” Eyad, only 5, keeps rehearsing the camp’s motto aloud in an effort to teach his parents about anemia. “We are the powerful children, with nutrition we grow. One…Two…three…anemia get out of my life!”
By bringing children together in a relaxed environment like a summer camp, youngsters like Eyad are having fun learning about health while also playing with friends.
In the school’s hallway, children wearing their new Anera t-shirts and caps scamper around – playing with balls, singing, and drawing. Laughter filled the space and smiles are on every face. After posting one of the slogans on the wall, one of the camp attendees repeated it with a smile on his face. “Staying healthy is a precious gift …we‘ll keep ourselves clean …we’ll live with proper nutrition.”
Standing next to a sink, Mohammed Thabet, one of the camp counselors, taught 23 children how to brush their teeth. One component of the camp included a play the children performed about the importance of dental hygiene.
Another group of children were participating in a creative activity to learn about the types of vegetables and fruits. The camp counselor, Mawaheb Abu Shmise, incorporates arts and crafts by having the children cut and paste the different foods. Mawahed, teacher and mother of four, enjoys helping out in the summer camp because she looks at it as opportunity to help children year-round. “Although I have been working with children for seven years, this is my first time participating in a summer camp, and I love it because it encourages the children to be more creative as they learn.”
Anera Summer Camps have engaged around 2,000 preschoolers in 30 preschools (all part of Milk for Preschoolers) and created jobs for 120 teachers, animators and custodians. These summer camps with the health theme are the first time to be implemented in Gaza. Three weeks before the summer camps started, awareness sessions were given to teachers and mothers. Activities include morning sports, hygiene practices, games, drawings and the provision of healthy snacks.