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24 May 2004

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

USAID pledges $3 million to continue support of children's mental health program

JERUSALEM - After successfully reaching more than 100,000 schoolchildren over the past year with psycho-educational activities through its Classroom-Based Intervention program, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged another $3 million to continue the project. The follow-on project, called "Bina'," is expected to target 350,000 children in the West Bank and Gaza. Bina' starts July 1, 2004, and will conclude June 30, 2006.

Both Bina' and the current project, scheduled to end June 30, are part of USAID's efforts to reach Palestinian communities with psychosocial support. Classroom-Based Intervention is a professionally designed, five-week, 15-session group intervention program that involves a series of highly structured expressive-behavioral activities. The sessions have increased children's hopefulness by increasing their belief in their capabilities to achieve self-determined goals. Additionally, the sessions have reduced emotional and behavior difficulties that many Palestinian children experience as a consequence of the situation on the ground.

"The program is popular with children, the Ministry of Education, and with UNRWA," says Veerle Coignez, USAID program manager. "School principals, teachers and parents are delighted with the changes they notice in their children. Families report that they find their children to be happier, more cooperative at home and more enthusiastic about homework. Teachers report that students are more focused after the training, more ready to learn, less aggressive and less violent overall," she says.

And what do the children themselves say? "Report after report notes how children tell the field coordinators that Classroom-Based Intervention helps them feel better and gives them an increased sense of trust and security. In one school, children apparently started crying upon learning that they had just completed the last session. They wanted the sessions to go on!" Coignez says.

Under Bina', activities will take place at summer camps and public, private and UNRWA schools. Save the Children Federation, which has managed the Classroom-Based Intervention program, will also have responsibility for implementing Bina'.

USAID administers the U.S. foreign assistance program, which gives economic and humanitarian aid to more than 100 countries worldwide. Since 1993, USAID has provided more than $1.3 billion in assistance to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.

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