Sally Abu Baker is arts project coordinator for the Ramallah Municipality. She is also a parent and she worries about her children’s well-being and the lack of open space for them to enjoy as they grow.
“We desperately need such a place, especially our children. There are hardly any open spaces in Ramallah.”
Ramallah-Al-Bireh is considered the leading center of economic and political activity in the Palestinian Territories. With a population of nearly 590,400, the city is witnessing a construction boom. And, that has left minimal space for recreational activities.
City officials are committed to improving the lives of Ramallah residents, and they asked ANERA to help expand the Family Park’s building by adding an additional floor in 2007 under JOBS (Job Opportunites Through Basic Services). The Family Park is the only park in Batn Al-Hawa, and one of the few parks that exist in Ramallah.
Four years later, the park attracts even more children and families, free of charge, as the public demand to create more open spaces is on the rise.
“My two daughters come here once a month with their teachers to learn new things about nature and art in the open air,” says Sally Abu Baker.
Recreation Center is Multi-Purpose
Family Park’s multi-purpose building now has a second, pillar-free floor, measuring 250 square meters, which accommodates the increasing number of visitors and encourages cultural, artistic, leisure activities, and open-day events. The center organizes everything from ‘dabke’ and break dance training classes and rehearsals to drama workshops, birthday parties and other social events.
ANERA project manager Mazen Dabbagh recalls the park, prior expansion and upgrading: “We used to hold my kids’ birthday parties here when it was just a one floor building, so when the project came about, I felt so proud being able to contribute so directly to my community.” He added, “Being part of this project to build a new floor for a center that has always been a harbor of joy, dreams and celebration to many children makes me a proud as an employee and as a parent.”
ANERA also upgraded the playground, which has encouraged regular school field trips and extra-curricular activities for children aged 4-12. Today, the park attracts more than 2,000 visitors a month.
Adding Space to Meet Future Needs
The Municipality of Ramallah recognizes the immense need for recreational spaces like the Family Park and has been working on several projects around the city.
Ahmed AbuLaban, general director of Ramallah Municipality, describes one project that would turn part of Family Park into Ramallah’s very first science museum, specially geared for children. “We are planning on expanding the building to include a science museum, which we hope would attract 10,000 visitors. The museum will be based on unconventional educational methods, and will be disability-friendly.”
“It’s a nice place!” exclaims 12-year-old Sandy Maher, who was playing with her cousins in the park. Sandy is originally from Hebron but always comes to the park while visiting family in Ramallah. “It’s not very big, but its location is excellent. We don’t have many recreational areas around to have fun. Here, we play sports and learn important things.”