Gaza, Palestine

The Sharjah/IBBY Fund approved another round of funding in 2015 for training, the purchase of new books, replacing the lost equipment and more activities for the children. 

Progress at the IBBY Rafah Al Shawka and Beit Hanoun al Sikka libraries in Gaza

The libraries have become centres of attraction for the children of Gaza. Their main objective is to encourage the children to read, as well as write stories appropriate for their age. The library staff offers many activities for all ages. In particular, the children benefit from bibliotherapy sessions, which help them express themselves and cope with their difficult situation. 

The activities include storytelling, reading and exchanging books and then discussing the stories with other children. With the help of the librarian the children are encouraged to write their own imaginative stories. 

There are several acting activities: telling recently-read or newly-invented stories to the group (“story channels”) or role-playing family situations, such as how technology affects family members and distracts them from social activities. Group games include “using the last letter” where one child names a country name or story title and then the other children must find another name beginning with the last letter of the previous country/story title. In “question and answer” a number of questions are prepared from selected books and stories to which the children must find the answer and share with the whole group.

For older children novels such as The Old Man and the Sea were summarized and discussed in depth. Another literary activity introduced Mahmoud Darwish, who is regarded as the Palestinian National Poet.  The young people studied his life and literary writing, including his most important national poems.  

Art activities include drawing, cutting and pasting as well as creating theatre pieces with cut-out characters. Activities that focus on heritage include training the children in the use of classical Arabic. This helps the children use their language as a tool with which to improve their vocabulary and their way of expressing themselves. Popular stories and songs are also included in this area. Psychosocial activities (the picture- words- the mirror- the young journalist) are provided to help the children to pinpoint their suffering and deal with it through stories. These activities form the basis of the bibliotherapy sessions that are very beneficial for the children.

Parents are also encouraged to participate in the libraries’ activities. At the al-Sikka library workshops on reading and education are held. At al Shawka library parents and children have attended the very successful recreation days that offered entertainment, sports and storytelling and discussion. 

Parents and children have commented on the positive role of the library in meeting friends and gaining confidence and motivation for school. A father commented on his son: I was afraid he had a social problem preventing him from forming relations and friends, but this fear subsided as he participated in the activities of al-Sikka library. A mother commented on her daughter and the recreational day: the participation of my child in the recreational day was before her monthly exams, the activities and the interaction helped her to excel and gave her motivation. A child commented on the acting activities: I love acting and it elevates my spirit. I started to participate in the school radio programmes and in acting.

Recreational and Learning Day for PBBY libraries, October 2015

50 children from both libraries Beit Hanoun al-Sikka and Rafah Al Shawka with 12 animators and the librarians participated at the event held at Crazy Water resort in Gaza.

The children gathered in an open place where they could relax and where PBBY implemented a number of learning and recreational activities.  These included games using drama, relaxation, music and movement, concentration and imagination. There was also mask making and storytellers shared Palestinian stories with the children. The children were also provided with breakfast and lunch. Over breakfast they had time to talk and get to know each other. This was very important as this was the first time that the children from the two libraries met up!

One of the girls said: I am very happy that I got introduced to girls like me in another library in a remote place in the north of Gaza. We live in the south so when we sat down and talked about our suffering during the war, I thought we alone suffered and had our house destroyed, but I found out that there was the same suffering, fear and terror as if we were watching a film for the same people and heroes and directors. 

These activities are important psycho-social tools to help reduce the stress and suffering of Palestinian children in Gaza who continue to be traumatized because of the occupation and siege conditions under which they continue to live.The day was a great success and will be repeated in the summer of 2016. 

Palestine: Gaza Libraries

In 2007 IBBY Palestine presented a project to IBBY to start educational projects and supply books to children living in two of the most marginalized and deprived areas in Gaza: Beit Hanoun and Rafah in the Al-Shawka area. The Katherine Paterson Family Foundation was approached and funding was secured for project through the IBBY Children in Crisis programme and thus began the long-term commitment that IBBY has to the children of Gaza. 

Working with the Tamer Institute, IBBY Palestine (PBBY) provided training in bibliotherapy and supplied books and the necessary furniture needed to set up two small libraries.  The librarians organized activities for the children and workshops for adults where the importance of reading was stressed.  

However, the activities had to be halted in the early part of 2008 because of the escalation of violence against Gaza, but after a couple of months they could be resumed.  The training of the volunteers and libraries eventually took place in Beit Hanoun in January 2009. 

Despite the setbacks the children benefitted greatly from the libraries.  The libraries have played an important role and made a difference in the lives of these children – in their achievements in school, psychological health and confidence. The libraries also had a positive impact on the community, as many mothers have become members and readers. 

The project progressed and the libraries were beginning to create a reading society amongst the children.  The psychological effects were also evident as the stress levels of the children dropped and they became more self-confident.  The teachers reported that the reading and writing skills of the children who attended the libraries had improved; also the work with the children with special needs was showing beneficial effects. 

The Sharjah/IBBY Fund for Children in Crisis provided funding in 2012 to continue the project, which included upgrading the two libraries and providing more activities, including workshops with experienced writers and illustrators.  More books and some computers were purchased and librarians and teachers were trained at the Tamer Institute and at the al-Qattan Centre in Gaza. 

In July 2014 the Rafah library was badly damaged and the Beit Hanoun library was razed. IBBY sent out an appeal for funds to its members and PBBY began to rebuild and refurbish what had been destroyed. The appeal is open-ended and IBBY continues to receive support for these libraries. For more information see the IBBY Children in Crisis Gaza Appeal.