Friday is the busiest day of the week at the Spafford Children’s Center in the Old City of Jerusalem, and it is also when the center is most lively and vibrant.
Kids and mothers alike are seen around the center taking notes, asking questions and learning.
Through Anera’s ongoing program in health and youth education for Palestinians, the center helps 700 children with educational support services and extracurricular activities. Awareness and parenting sessions also target 400 parents and caretakers.
Health development is an integral component of the program, which is carried out at the center’s branch in Ezariyeh, serving 3,000 children from the villages and suburbs around East Jerusalem through treatment and vaccination.
Small Classes Help Palestinian Children Learn and Thrive
Seven-year-old Mohammad arrives in the morning for his 10 o’clock play therapy class in East Jerusalem. Inside the spacious classroom, he plays together with Marwa and Angelica while instructor Reem Zahaykeh facilitates the activities. The three kids are the only ones in the session, which, according to their instructor, gives her the adequate space and time to thoroughly observe and analyze the developmental levels of each child.
The children’s mothers are present in the same room. They sit afar observing the interaction and behavior of their children silently, without interfering. Mohammad’s mother Sana Dajani, 41, smiles as he answers the instructor with confidence.
“My son is very self-assured, yet quite stubborn. He sometimes refuses to conform to his teachers’ instructions, and I just want to find an effective way to communicate with him,” explains Sana, who is a teacher herself.
However, it was poor writing skills that brought Mohammad to the center in the first place. According to the instructor, the problem lies in the underdeveloped of his fine motor skills, which can be solved with training and exercises.
My son is very self-assured, yet quite stubborn. He sometimes refuses to conform to his teachers’ instructions.
Interactive Learning Improves Skills and Attitude
Although Mohammad has only been going to the center for three months, his mother has already noticed some improvement in his motor skills. According to her, he can now color inside the lines, use scissors efficiently to cut shapes, and connect between dots with continuous straight lines.
He also benefits from the speech therapist to help him enunciate more clearly.
The center offers psychological support sessions, as well as English, Arabic and mathematics classes in small groups to motivate learning. It also involves parents and caretakers by meeting with the parents after each class to discuss their children’s progress, and engaging them in the teaching process.
Although Mohammad does not enjoy school as much as his mother would hope, he always looks forward to coming to the center. His mother is delighted to see him happy.
“My son loves coming here and finds the atmosphere comfortable” says Sana. “It is also the commute to here that he enjoys very much; especially that it involves walking through the markets and alleys of the Old City. He arrives here energized, motivated and very stimulated.”