At the end of the 4-year Project: The Growth of the Children Observed at the Symposium

[Original by Syunya NAKAMURA, Intern of the Palestine Project/ Yoriko YAMAMURA, Palestine Project (February 25, 2020); Translated by J. Sparks]

On February 4th, a symposium was held in the theater room of a partner organization in Ramallah, the center of the West Bank, to conclude the East Jerusalem project, which JVC has supported for four years.

The project has been implemented in order to improve both the resilience of the Palestinian youth living in East Jerusalem and the health environment in the community by cooperating with local NGOs. Resilience is “the power to flexibly come back from events or encounters with difficult situations”, and in a Palestinian area routinely exposed to the Israeli occupation, rather than simply getting used to one’s situation, the terms refers to the power of the region to protect a life in which humanity is guaranteed. The project was led by local youth, particularly students from 19 school health committees, along with the local JVC and partners, and local individuals that held a variety of activities in the community and schools. More specifically, they become representatives of the school and receive training from doctors and health workers on first aid, school environment, health, hygiene, and danger avoidance, and then take this and give it back to other students and people in the community; this outlines the general flow of the activities.

Furthermore, in order to improve the resilience of young people, young people have been made the center of activities, developing leadership among them. In addition to improving the health of the community, young people have been able to foster better relationships with adults in the community through improving the local environment.

On the day of the event at the symposium there were about 40-50 people including teachers, students of the school, partner organizations, and local people; students of the School Health Committee (SHC) made a speech on stage, presenting their activities and achievements. After this, during a panel discussion in which questions were raised from both the audience and the Education Bureau, the students answered questions and exhibited their sharp opinions.

Preparation for the symposium. In order to make a relaxed atmosphere, we invited a chairperson who is well experienced in handling children.

Students answered questions from facilitators and audience on stage. The speaker was selected either by discussing among the students or by candidacy. In that way, we could draw their direct opinions.

The audience had also hot discussions.

After the symposium, the participants praised their speech each other and took pictures together.

What stood out in particular was the fact that women and students all participated so actively in the discussion as speakers on stage or as audience. In the Arab world, elderly males are overwhelmingly vocal, and their old-fashioned values often hinder the development of the region, even in Palestine. In this project, students of the School Health Committee acquired the ability to take action and developed self-esteem through the activities. They were filled with a sense of accomplishment and confidence. Adults participated in the symposium looked at them with a new impression.

JVC places emphasis not only on this project but also on projects that support women and youth, and by recognizing each other and rebuilding a mutually beneficial relationship among women, youth and local adults, JVC aims to increase the resilience of the entire region.

On February 4th at the symposium, the awareness of children and young people had increased alongside the health and sanitation of the local environment over the past four years, as well as the fostering of the independence and confidence that “we can change the environment on our own”. Additionally, the local adults were surprised by the appearance of the children, and the way they view the children as well as their relationship to the children is changing little by little. This project will be temporarily closed from February 2020, however we hope that the young people will continue to lead the region and we hope to contribute to improving the whole of Palestinian society along with the regional environment.

JVC will continue to operate in East Jerusalem where the situation is more difficult and where there remains a lack of support, and the JVC is in the process of formulating a new project that focuses on areas in a more serious condition. We will continue to develop activities that believe and support the power of the local people of Jerusalem, so we look forward to your continued support.

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