Working to Improve the Lives of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing People in Gaza
Every corner of the Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children shows the impact of how an early and long-standing partnership with Anera helped the society grow to provide the essential services and education that it does today. Atfaluna is the only school in Gaza city that works to improve the lives of deaf and hard-of-hearing people, particularly those aged between 3-5 years.
Atfaluna was founded in 1992 by graduates of a training that took place in Bethlehem and included trainees from all over the Palestinian Territories (Rafah to Jenin). The training was given by experts to 25 trainees on hearing aid maintenance, performing hearing evaluations and following up with people with hearing loss.
In 1993, Atfaluna established an audiology department that was funded by Anera. Graduates of the original Bethlehem training operated the new audiology department, with two people performing hearing evaluations and hearing aid fittings and two others working on hearing aid maintenance and ear molds. At its beginning the audiology department at Atfaluna was very small, being housed in a temporary building with little room.
By 1997 the audiology department had grown to become the first in the Gaza Strip to provide comprehensive services to people with hearing problems. In 1998 the department grew more and a speech therapy clinic was established and attached to the audiology department to provide deaf and hard-of-hearing children with therapy sessions.
Mahasen Al Refie has worked as an audiologist at Atfaluna since 1993 and was among the original trainees who were able to develop the society into what it is today.
“Back in 1993 it was a small department with one testing room and the capacity to test and serve, at most, 5 people every day. In the beginning this was acceptable, but after a while the department could not meet the demand. This pushed us to look for a bigger place with larger facilities. We intervene as early as possible to make a difference in the life of deaf children and their families. I am sure that the funding and help from Anera is one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, this place is what it is today,” she says.
In 2018, A Trip Down Memory Lane
“This is how we used to document events and our memories,” says Ms. Hilda, a founder and teacher at Atfaluna since 1992, of the piles of photo albums in her office. A discussion with Sabah Al Moghrabi, an Anera employee of 33 years who was present at the opening of the audiology department, generated lots of stories from the past detailing Anera’s history with the Atfaluna. The smell of coffee and loud laughter filled the room as Ms. Hilda and Sabah went through each photo album. Within the albums, pictures showed project inauguration ceremonies, field visits, the building of a library, science labs and the audiology center.
On why she has chosen to work with deaf and hard-of-hearing people, Ms. Hilda says, “I have chosen to work with this community because of my motivation to help people who suffer from hearing loss and face difficulties living in their community. The services we provide open the door to many opportunities for them to become effective and productive members in their societies.”
Through the years, Anera has organized training programs for Atfaluna staff, renovated and improved its facilities and generally supported Atfaluna’s work to prepare so many talented children and adults for life. Anera's work was made possible through private donations and USAID grants.