“It’s like heaven in the ruins.”
That’s how Gaza preschool teacher Boshra Hamad described her feelings when she saw her preschool that Anera rebuilt after the Gaza war of 2014. Amjad preschool had been destroyed during the war, like the neighborhood around it in the northern town of Beit Hanoun. Some 150 preschool children were left without a safe place to take refuge or recapture some normalcy in their lives.
“Rubble was everywhere and nobody could believe that the pile of wreckage that was the preschool could come alive again,” says Boshra.
But as soon as the bombs stopped falling, Anera partnered with other educational institutions to organize a psychosocial gathering in a vacant plot of land next to the school ruins so children could get together, play and express their emotions through drawings, songs, therapeutic arts and storytelling. “In their drawings, they showed peaceful homes, playgrounds and a new preschool,” she said.
Life in Gaza is intense, Boshra says, where pain and suffering runs deep, so any bit pleasure is something to grab onto. That moment of pleasure came for the children of Amjad preschool. Thanks to funds from the Ajram Family Foundation, the government of Kuwait, and private donors, after 45 days of hard work and dedication, Anera was able to rebuild the preschool and make their dreams come true.
As Boshra looked through the old photographs of the preschool before the reconstruction, she said parents now call it “Amjad mansion” and are eager to enroll their children in the new facility.
AMJAD PRESCHOOL BEFORE AND AFTER:
Restoring Normalcy for Gaza Children Traumatized by War
Little Raneen celebrated the reopening of the school in her brand new dress that blended with the bright colors of her new classroom. Still, it has been hard to get Raneen to smile since the war. She became introverted and now fears any loud sounds. She and her family had to flee their home in Beit Hanoun, creeping along the walls of other buildings to avoid getting hit by bombs or shrapnel. After the fighting stopped, and she saw her preschool had been destroyed too, she hardly spoke.
Like so many other children, she was afraid to go outside. Initially, her teachers managed through drawing sessions to get her talk again and join group activities. “Making her smile was really tough. Once she saw the new preschool, it’s impressive how big a smile she now has at last,” said her teacher.
On the day of the preschool inauguration, the children turned it into a festive ceremony. They sent love messages to show how delighted they are with the new safe building.
“The best part is that we are gathering inside a lovely preschool and our children will hold onto these memories,” added Boshra. “I am certain our new preschool is planting hope in these little hearts.”
The Amjad preschool has been built with all the Anera’s standard early childhood development facilities, including five classrooms, administration room and sanitation facilities, in addition to a large playground and a shaded area outdoors. The preschool is equipped and furnished properly to create a child-friendly environment.