Last Updated: Thursday - 09/30/2010
October 4, 2010
Rockets, tanks burst out of Gaza artwork
CCODP funds heal traumatized Gazan children through art program
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA - When Gazan children were asked to draw something that reflected their feelings and experiences their drawings depicted violence, tanks, shelling and destroyed homes.
"None drew something beautiful, such as the sea, the sky or bird," said Omar Almajdalawi, the Gaza program manager for a Danish NGO that is a partner in Gaza with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP). "They drew killing, blood, shelling, destruction and violence."
The saddest aspect of these drawings is that each one has an experience or real story of violence behind it, he said.
The DanChurchAid program Almajdalawi runs, aided by CCODP funding, targets traumatized children. So far, they have reached some 7,000 school children, but that is only a tiny proportion of the 900,000 children growing up with no hope, he said.
Almajdalawi pointed out 58 per cent of Gaza's population is children under 18. "The demand is bigger than the supply."
"All the time the situation is moving from bad to worse," he said.
The 1.6 million Gazans feel frustrated and desperate, he said. They are psychologically upset and socially sick.
Economically, they have no hope. About 85 per cent live below the poverty line; 45 per cent are unemployed. This breeds terrorism, he said. A young person growing up in these circumstances might find suicide bombing a form of self-fulfillment.
THERAPY AND PLAY
The programs aim at providing psychological, social and educational care for traumatized children and giving them a space to play and to practise their hobbies, Almajdalawi said.
The program also targets families with educational and awareness campaigns. The children and families that have been helped can then help identify others who could benefit from the programs.
The program has established two centres in Gaza North. DanChurchAid also trains school staff and teachers to identify and help traumatized children.
"This program is very successful and the first of its kind within the schools," he said. The centres are the first comprehensive treatment centres in the area.
Almajdalawi came to Ottawa Sept. 16 to meet with officials at Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT), after meeting at CCODP headquarters in Montreal.
While his focus is on humanitarian help, he noted the political issues that created the humanitarian crisis exacerbate the crisis in Gaza.
The people in Gaza should have access to international laws, to the world's markets, and to see how children live in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, he said.
"Their fathers should have access to the external world to bring bread home for their families."
DanChurchAid, a faith-based, ecumenical non-missionary NGO, is rooted in the Danish National Evangelical Lutheran Church. This CCODP partner ensures aid goes to all peoples in need, with no distinctions based on religion.
The CCODP monies also fund a project to help women form cooperatives and small businesses, aided by training, microcredit loans and help finding markets.
One project involves helping women prepare food such as sandwiches for institutions and for families with working mothers. The aim of this project is to empower women, to improve their sense of "group works" and to improve their economic status, he said.
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