It may have been unbearably hot outside but several thousand of Gaza’s children cooled off inside 15 community centers, having a great time painting, singing, dancing and much more.
ANERA’s summer camps are part of our early childhood development project Right Start!, a USAID-funded program managed by Mercy Corps.
For five days, some 3,500 four- and five-year-olds slipped on comfortable white t-shirts and caps and dug into a variety of fun projects. “Basamat,” or “smiles” in Arabic, is the appropriate title of the 2012 summer camps. Teachers, counselors and community workers describe their summer goal simply as “drawing smiles on little faces.”
The 225 participating camp supervisors also had smiles of accomplishment after completing the pre-camp training sessions. Tahreer El Dbeeki, a community worker with Palestine Tomorrow for Community Developments, welcomed the three-day session. “I learned how to support the children and encourage them to participate in activities.”
And, she was delighted to put what she learned into practice. “It’s my first time working with this age group and it is great to see how well the children interact with the activities and with each other.”
Tahreer found the Hayya Naqra reading corner was the most successful. “When I first started I had only 15 children and then the number quickly grew to 38. They came to listen and read,” she said
Teacher Areej El-Jamaal sees a lot of benefits from the summer camp: “The children come from poor families in this area of Shejaiya and don’t have much, so I am delighted that they have had an opportunity to have fun and also develop their creative abilities.”
“I gained a lot from the training too,” she adds. “I learned how to lead an activity and monitor reactions and also how to consider and incorporate the rights of children into what we do.” Areej says the most popular activity for her group was coloring.
Along with the summer camp program, ANERA has established and equipped special ‘reading corners’ in 29 preschools and 15 community centers across Gaza. Right Start! expects to reach 10,000 children to promote the love of reading and storytelling and strengthen early childhood development programs in Gaza.