Life is hard for Palestinian children living in East Jerusalem, to say the least.
Seventy-five percent of the population, and more than eighty percent of children, live below the poverty line. For children, restrictions in movement make it difficult to do simple things like get to and from school. Restrictions, weak infrastructure and poverty contribute to a lack of social activities. And municipal services are inadequate.
For some children, these daily hardships are only the beginning. Children who have learning difficulties or developmental disorders are often unable to cope with their difficult circumstances. In these cases, kids may fall behind in school, grow extremely restless and anxious, or exhibit problematic behaviors.
Since 2014, Anera’s partnership with the Spafford Children’s Center in East Jerusalem has focused on health care, educational help, and women and youth empowerment to build psychosocial support systems for disadvantaged children.
In addition, Anera is building the capacity of Spafford’s staff through a 10-session teacher training program over the course of a year that covers different child-related topics.
Support for Palestinian Children with ADHD/ADD
The first session focused symptoms of ADHD/ADD, as well as its cognitive, behavioral and psychological characteristics. As the discussion progressed, the teachers explored ADD’s impact on the educational progress of their students and included discussions about techniques to identify, help and control such learning difficulties in children.
Spafford’s Education Manager, Manal Al Ayassa, acted as a facilitator and motivator for the participants. Her wealth of experience helped to enrich the session and encourage each participant to join in the discussion. Manal has worked with Spafford for 22 years and currently oversees the staff in the educational, therapeutic and cultural programs that serve children and women alike.
What Manal and the teachers have identified among the center’s children has led the center’s administration to seek additional ways to support children psychologically and academically. The center sees Anera’s teacher training sessions as an important investment, which will lead to the development and well-being of children in and around East Jerusalem.
The Spafford Center is a Refuge Amid Rising Tensions
Manal explains the lack of security and rising tensions in East Jerusalem are taking a toll on the center’s children. Children who present signs of ADHD/ADD have been affected the most. “In the past few months, we have monitored the decline in our children’s performance, attendance and attentiveness,” explains Manal. “They’re often nervous and agitated so we try hard to ease that tension and help them overcome it.”
Trainer Dr. Nader Shhadi, who holds a PhD in clinical psychology, saw positive benefits from the first training session. “The participants found the session to be very informative and valuable in their work.” He says the teachers also proposed including parents in a similar workshop.”We will even hold a special session to present ADHD/ADD student cases where they discuss and analyze their work in depth and how they can take it to a higher level.”
Anera's program with the Spafford Center serves 700 children with learning difficulties.
The Spafford Children’s Center opens its doors daily to children with learning difficulties, with special after-school programs offering Arabic, English and mathematics, in addition to speech and play therapy. Its array of other activities like therapeutic arts, music and reading offers such children a chance to express themselves and nurture their creativity.