In just two weeks, a 15-year dream came true for Noal El-Bohisi, Director of Bostan EL-Salam Association.
It all came to pass when ANERA contacted her to talk about renovating her preschool Bustan El-Salam, which means Garden of Peace.
“It was so run down it was no longer appropriate for a preschool,” says ANERA’s Milk for Preschoolers monitor Tahani Khader. “Every time I passed by the school walls, I thought they could collapse any minute.” She had reason to be concerned. The outside walls were deteriorated, a kitchen in the outside area was unusable, the roof was leaking and dingy classroom walls were cracked and peeling.
Principal Noal was discouraged. “The preschool was in very bad shape. When parents visited, they were upset about it but we didn’t have a way to fix it.”
That has all changed, thanks to ANERA. She says the children were excited to tell their families about their “new” school. “Now parents are so happy to see their children in a clean, happy and safe environment.”
The renovated school is a cheerful, welcoming space for 75 children. “They especially love the colorful murals on the freshly painted playground walls and the new, clean bathrooms,” said Noal.
“It takes only two weeks to change a preschool and provide a better facility for the children,” explained ANERA engineer Nahed Waheidi. “So far we have been able to renovate 12 preschools and we hope to do eight more,” he added.
Since Gaza’s borders were closed two years, getting materials into Gaza has been difficult. No construction materials have been allowed into Gaza since the January 2009 bombardment. So ANERA uses what is available in the local market. “We buy recycled materials from war-destroyed homes like support pipes and shutters,” said Nahed, pointing to a recycled window in the preschool.
Preschoolers Bahaa and Heba expressed their delight with the changes. “I love my preschool now because it is like brand-new,” said five-year-old Bahaa. Heba said her favorite change was the bright, new paintings on the school walls.
As they spoke to visitors in the playground, the sound of children’s laughter was bursting from classrooms inside, bringing a smile to principal Noal’s face as she surveyed all the changes.