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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
30 June 2010

UNRWA and Mexico offer refugee children joy and hope

Over 160 orphaned and disabled Palestine refugee children take part in a week-long summer camp by the Mediterranean financed by the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM)

June 2010
Kafer Sita, Syria

Remember the first time you went to the sea? The sound of the waves, and the feeling of the water, the fun of dipping your toes in.

Today is the first time that 11 year old Aya Hassan, from Neirab camp in Syria, has been to the sea. Aya, the youngest of five siblings, has impaired vision. She is one of over 160 orphaned and disabled Palestine refugee children from all over Syria, including 26 Iraqi Palestinian children, who had the chance to join this year’s summer camp in Syria. “Here I am happier than ever before” she says before running back towards the shore.

Help for special hardship cases

This year’s summer camp was specifically designed by UNRWA for kids whose families are considered hardship cases, just like hers. “I’m lucky to be here, which is why I am making the most out of it” she says, smiling, “especially the swimming; that’s my favourite”. Aya has benefited from the dedicated attention of 40 volunteers and social workers from the Agency, in charge of supervising and implementing the activities for the children.

This year the summer camp, which took place in the sleepy and picturesque coastal community of Kafar Sita, was made possible thanks to a generous donation from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), one of the top academic institutions in Mexico. ITAM not only gave its financial support but also contributed 15 volunteers from the ranks of its international relations alumni. These young volunteers lent a helping hand to the Agency’s social workers while getting actively involved with the children and their daily chores, and enjoying a robust cultural exchange in the process.

A 'breath of fresh air’

“These children are having a much needed breath of air” says Ayoub Diab, the RSSP officer in charge of organizing the summer camp. “This not only allows them a break from the difficulties of life in the camps; it also gives them the opportunity to learn new things, develop their creative abilities and exercise their minds and bodies.

Here, the kids laugh and enjoy each other’s company in a way that is difficult to achieve under their normal circumstances”.

The camp’s activities include sports, music, and a series of workshops designed to boost the children’s self confidence and skills. One of the main objectives of the project was to nurture in the young participants an environmentally friendly approach that could eventually be incorporated into their everyday lives back in the refugee camps. In order to achieve that, UNRWA and Mexican volunteers designed a series of games to trigger the children’s 'green consciousness’. Under the motto “Saving the world is in your hands”, classes included discussions about trash collection and water rationalization.

By the time the week came to an end in Kfar Sita, all was happiness and camaraderie amongst children, volunteers and the social workers alike. It seems that a smile carries the same meaning in every language.

Text and photos by Diego Gomez-Pickering

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