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Source: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
14 August 2007

Palestinian adolescents find an outlet through UNICEF-supported community centres

By Monica Awad
JABALIA, Occupied Palestinian Territory, 14 August 2007 – Palestinian adolescents often find themselves with no place to go and nothing to do during the summer school holidays and in their spare time.

The ongoing border closure, coupled with increased poverty, continuously undermines the ability of teens to get a good education and enjoy their time off. The chronic anxiety adolescents are facing on a daily basis undermines their self-esteem and increases their feelings of loss of control over their lives.

To help adolescents overcome stress and hopelessness, and to provide meaningful programmes outside schools, UNICEF is currently supporting 40 adolescent-friendly learning centres in the West Bank and Gaza in cooperation with the Tamer Institute for Community Education and the Ma’an Development Centre.

Serving disadvantaged teenagers

In the midst of poor living conditions at the Jabalia refugee camp here in Gaza, the only available outlet for adolescents is one of the UNICEF-supported centres. At the Jabalia Community Centre, teenagers can learn music, play sports and improve their literacy and information technology skills.

The centre serves at least 17,000 of the most disadvantaged adolescents in Jabalia camp, where the poverty rate exceeds 70 per cent in some areas.

“This centre is the only place that gives me the opportunity to learn and widen my knowledge,” said Mohammed, 15. “I built good friendships as well. I am now able to express myself better than before.”

For many, a dream come true
Because most of the 300 youth clubs in Gaza and the West Bank are under-funded and ill-equipped, most Palestinian adolescents do not have access to safe recreational areas. At the Jabalia centre, however, they are able to socialize with their peers and learn new things, including dabkeh, the traditional Palestinian folkloric dance.

For many adolescents, it is a dream come true.

“I joined the centre 10 months ago,” said Mohammed. “The thing that I love the most is music, dabkeh and sports. They are very important in helping me build my body and activate my thinking.”

“Because I am interested in learning dabkeh, my life is totally different now,” added Hanin, 16. “Before coming to the centre, there were no places that could teach us.”

Training for local committees
The Jabalia Community Centre, which receives funds from the Canadian International Development Agency, is open six days a week – three days each assigned for boys’ and girls’ activities.

This and the other centres for Palestinian adolescents are run with the help of local committees, trained by UNICEF, consisting of at least four adolescents (both girls and boys) who oversee the planning and implementation of activities and programmes.

Committee members receive 30 hours of training on child rights, communication skills and project management. UNICEF also provides core supplies such as stationery, library furniture and books, as well as computer, sports and music equipment, to enhance the adolescent-friendly environment.

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