This piece is based on an interview of Basima Shushaa, a teacher who trained with Anera’s early childhood development program.
Basima works at Al Amal preschool in Zarka, a poor district in Gaza City. Anera’s partner, the Kind Hearted Organization, agreed to help build a new kindergarten in place of the old run-down site. In a little over six weeks, Anera has constructed four classrooms, one kitchen, two bathrooms and one outside play area. Teachers have also been provided with 18 days of training. With funds from Dubai Cares, Anera has been able to provide children with vital learning opportunities.
My name is Basima Shushaa. Like many people in Gaza, I had trouble finding a job after I graduated college—in fact, I faced endless challenges. I was searching for something that would reconnect me with my own soul, something that would revive the light inside of me.
I decided to go back to school and study community rehabilitation. After a lot of volunteer work, I ended up getting an opportunity to work as a teacher at Al Amal preschool. That’s when I found that passion I had been searching for. In Arabic, 'amal' means “hope.” With my new career, I found the hope that I was missing.
It can take a lifetime to find your way, but I found everything I wanted within the walls of this preschool. The best times are those I spend with the children during our morning activities, when I lead them to their learning corners (we do not call them classrooms). We have corners for music, reading, art, concentration and role-play. They all support children’s physical and cognitive growth.
In Arabic, 'amal' means 'hope.' With my new career, I found the hope that I was missing.
It feels like I am the substitute mom as I watch the children play on swings and slides. Their laughter and giggles warm my heart. It all takes me back when I was a child, too. I used to love going on trips with my parents to Al Bayara, go olive picking with the kids in my neighborhood, and visit the seashore where I would build sandcastles and collect hundreds of seashells.
I always say that the strongest memories are those captured in youth. They could be pleasant or detestable memories, but either way, those are the memories that a child ends up carrying for the rest of her life.
Just a few weeks ago, Al Amal preschool was was only a cement block with decaying playgrounds, windowless and inappropriate for learning. The building was not ready for winter with its partially covered rooftop. But Anera rehabilitated the preschool and restored hope. Likewise, joining Anera’s training course has helped me boost my abilities as a teacher, expand my knowledge and deepen my understanding of children's needs.
I dream of painting smiles on the faces of Gaza’s children. They have been deprived of the right to be children. Years of war and blockade have influenced them and now just a simple smile signifies hope.
I live by an excerpt from a poem written by the late poet Mahmoud Darwish: “We have on this earth what makes life worth living.” Children make my life worthwhile.