Gaza’s Youth Making a Difference Through Voluntary Work
Even before the start of the pandemic, people in Gaza faced constant strain and trauma. One in four children has been in need of some sort of psychological support, due to exposure to continuous conflict and its consequences.
Hence, the aim of the project we are implementing together with local partner non-governmental organization Mental Health Promotion and Capacity Building Center is to develop organized community and school-based youth voluntary work, which is a way to motivate them to actively participate in their communities, teach them civic responsibility and to encourage their lifelong engagement in society. To achieve that, Palestinian children implemented different voluntary activities in their schools. One school visited an Elderly Nursing Home to exchange presents, the other visited an Orphanage in Gaza and gifted toys to children, while another school visited an olive grove to help with the harvest. Each volunteer also helps their schoolmates who have learning difficulties, each volunteer participating in the project helps at least one student. To show that school is their second home, one school organized a clean-up campaign within their school and even planted some trees, while another school provided their library with books that are no longer needed.
ITF’s local partner invited 30 school and NGO representatives to launch the project and discuss its activities and goals. At the 5-day capacity building training, 25 teachers from five different schools worked with Dr. Sami Owaida and Dr. Anica Mikuš Kos who shared and discussed their experience on voluntary work from different countries. Teachers were also given brochures to study guidelines and suggestions on what role they may play in the protection of children’s psychosocial development, mental health, and well-being.
70 workshops for preparing youth volunteers were implemented in partner schools. They were taught the importance of solidarity and active participation in solving community problems, showing that they can make a difference with their involvement. A constant feedback mechanism was established that helped provide teachers with new skills to use. 70 meetings with volunteers and their mentors were also executed, where they discussed the impact of voluntary activities on a school in general. These activities address psychosocial problems, improve school reputation, link schools with the community, and mobilize resources to help children in need.
These activities all greatly enrich the lives of Palestinian children and other individuals in the community as well as provide emotional and social support. We are extremely grateful to our donor, the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Slovenia for their donation, which allows us to continue with this program.