From August 5 through 9, 31 children participated in a summer camp hosted by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in the Gaza Strip. The camp was organized for children affected by and/or prone to experience trauma, and delivered rehabilitation, relief, and support services to the participants. The summer camp is a component of a European Union-funded project “Strengthening Monitoring, Protection and Rehabilitation of Civilians Victimized by, or at Risk of, Human Rights and IHL violations in Gaza with Relation to ARA and Torture”.
The 15 male and 16 female attendees were between ages 12 and 15 and reside in different areas of Khan Younis. The children have all been injured or experienced trauma due to a parent’s injury or death within the Great Return March protests that were launched as a non-violent, grass roots movement in on 30 March 2018. Some of the children endured injuries that resulted in their hospitalization, such as those targeted with rubber-coated bullets; one child was directly targeted with a tear gas canister and hit in the abdomen area; and other children were tear gassed and experienced difficulty breathing. Some of the children are now coping with the killing of a parent by the Israeli forces within the context of the demonstrations.
The administrators implemented a range of activities centered on play therapy, during which the children were encouraged to communicate with each other and camp administrators, explore their thoughts and emotions, and address unresolved traumas, in the aim of experiencing personal growth. These activities ranged from active-game playing, to swimming, to specialized sessions on psychological wellbeing and child rights and protection.
The camp was organized and run under the leadership of Mrs. Shirin Al-Shobaki, the Coordinator of the Training and Mass Communication Unit at Al Mezan on the European Union-funded project, an experienced psychosocial health expert and camp advisors. Mrs Al-Shobaki briefed the children on Al Mezan’s role of protecting and promoting child rights, and the children were given uniforms to wear and safety guidelines to follow.
The camp is one of three implemented by Al Mezan this summer and is part of Al Mezan’s mission to ensure that traumatized and trauma-prone children in the Gaza Strip have access to the necessary support for protection and better social participation. In light of this mission and as a component of the European Union project, Al Mezan also coordinates referrals of specific cases where individualized psychological intervention is needed to its partner organization the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.