Ahmad has just finished chewing on a carrot, after devouring some fortified biscuits and a container of juice.
Now, he said, it was time to brush his teeth with his new toothbrush. “I like my new bag; it has toothpaste, a toothbrush and a towel.”
Ahmad, along with his classmates at Amjad Preschool, attended one of Anera’s five summer camps in Gaza that offered two weeks of fun and healthy habits taught through games, drawing and painting, theater performances, storytelling and open day activities. Anera’s summer camps program for 630 school kids also trained 60 teachers, parents and camp counselors.
At Amjad Preschool, there was no doubt that fun is the order of the day. The walls were decorated with colorful paintings mixed with mottos about health habits, like “Health is my life…We are always healthy…Let’s never forget to clean our teeth.”
Mohammad Dawood received special training before he worked as a camp activity leader. He welcomed the chance to share his love for drama and music with the children. “Drama was a main component of the training and I put it into practice. I imitated sounds of animals in storytelling to encourage children to eat healthy food like vegetables and fruits and juice,” he said, while handing out carrots – the vegetable of the day.
Mohammad appreciated the principle of the camp activities to teach healthy habits through entertaining activities. “I like the idea of educating children about the importance of health in a fun way that makes it memorable,” said Mohammad.
Suad El-Zaaneen, whose child is taking part in the summer camp, says she learned a lot from helping at the camp. “I learned how to use songs and music to talk about hygiene,” she said. “Now my daughter even tells her brother to clean his teeth to stay healthy.”
Another mother who arrived to pick up her children said she was amazed at the words they learned–like “health” and “purified water.” “I thought it would be difficult for them to understand but now we use these words a lot and they know what they mean.”
More than 630 children joined Anera’s summer camps this year, thanks to funding from Dubai Cares, which supports Anera’s early childhood development program.
Amjad preschool director Bushra Hamad acknowledged that without the camps, the children would have been at home or playing in unsafe, dirty streets.
Bushra had the added pleasure of seeing her school once again provide a safe haven for Gaza’s children. “During the 2008 war, the preschool was damaged during the war and one of the classrooms was totally destroyed so we didn’t get a chance to do much because of our limited funds.” Anera repaired the damaged structure as part of its emergency response in the wake of the conflict. After the November, 2012 bombings, Anera replaced broken windows and rebuilt damaged bathrooms.