Lajee Center would like to thank all donors, partners, volunteers and friends of Lajee Center. Without your support Lajee Center wouldn’t be able to continue serving the community and doing all these activities.
Health and Environment Unit
January marked a successful and active month for Lajee Center and Health for Palestine. On 21 January 2023, Lajee Center hosted a free Medical Day for over 100 community members from Aida camp, Al-Azza camp and Bethlehem. The community health workers lead the way and facilitated each step of the event. Seven physicians comprising three family medicine physicians from the University of Massachusetts Medical School and four Palestinian physicians specializing in orthopaedics, ophthalmology, internal medicine, and urology care spent the day addressing acute and preventative care concerns. Lajee Center is grateful to Drs. Mulhem al-Kuqa, Mohamad Salah, Malek Ghuweer, and Richard Jaar for volunteering their time and expertise to make this day a success. Paediatric care for children of all ages from Aida camp and Bethlehem was provided as well. Between visits, educational discussions were held in an open space with the community members. Free medicine was distributed to the community members, provided by the Beit Jala, Bir Zeit, and Dar al-Shifa pharmaceutical companies. The day was successful and the community was filled with smiles and wellness.
The community health workers conducted regular field visits to patients’ houses on a weekly basis in Aida and Al-Azza camps, some of which were accompanied by Dr. Muhammad Abu Srour and Dr. Henry Louis. The community health workers and doctors follow-up on patients’ health conditions, examining their blood pressure and blood sugar levels for diabetes patients. They also emphasize the need to take prescribed medications as directed and to perform necessary lab tests. During the visits, many patients were referred to specialized doctors, hospitals and medical laboratories. Community health workers follow-up with patients after the undergo surgery to make sure they following a good path to recovery.
The community health workers also worked with the international health team – Drs. Laurel, Judy and Henry and nurse Christine – to offer two medical days at the Jaffa Center in Nablus’ Balata refugee camp. They also made several visits to patients’ homes in the camp.
In February, the community health workers prepared baskets with various contents (toothpaste, toothbrush, women’s perfume, men’s perfume, scarf and hijab for women, cap and scarf for men, shaving cream, wet wipes, dried raisins) and packaged them with the help of some patients. They were distributed to the patients during a health day. A lecture was presented by Dr. Henry on the difference between viruses and bacteria. The aim was to give patients simple materials that benefit them on a daily basis and focus on the continuity of activities and follow-up on their health.
In January, the environmental workers re-installed and sterilized the hydroponic unit. They planted some crops such as lettuce, parsley, and strawberries in the units and improved the quality of the system with the help of some patients and children of the environmental club. In February, the environmental workers examined water, plants, and the percentage of elements in the water basins, spraying pesticides inside the plastic house, preparing and perforating cups for planting inside, and irrigating and cleaning crops on the surface. They also gathered new students for the environmental club from the ages of 12 to 14 years, and held a meeting with them at Lajee Center to introduce the work of the Environmental Unit inside and outside the center. They coordinated for an environmental trip and environmental camp in March for these students.
Zahrat Al-Yasmeen Kindergarten
In January and February, the kindergarten conducted several educational activities that would help to develop children’s abilities in all educational, psychological and social aspects:
- The activity of making zaatar bread pastries with the children
Zaatar – thyme – is considered one of the most important traditional herbs and is used in many Palestinian dishes. Children made pastries with zaatar to learn about the herb’s growing cycle in the winter and the different parts of the plant. The activity was carried out over two days. On the first day, the children were introduced to the zaatar plant and its parts (stalk, root, leaf) and its importance to Palestinians and Palestinian heritage. The children separated the leaf of the plant from the stem, to use it on the second day. On the second day, the mother of one of the children was invited to participate in the kneading activity. The mother explained the method of kneading, and the children shared with her the placement of the ingredients, then each child kneaded their piece by themselves.
- The formation of rain
The children learned about how rain is formed and the stages it goes through by watching a video explaining this and discussing what they saw in the video. They noticed the water evaporating and gathering in the cloud in the form of drops and turning to gray and descending on the ground. Then they did a scientific experiment showing how rain collects in the cloud and its descent. The children all participated in making a painting showing the stages of rain formation.
- Cultivation of sagebrush in cooperation with the Environmental Unit
The environmental workers and a father of one of the children discussed the importance of sagebrush and mint with the children. They talked about their importance in the winter season, and the topic was linked with the children’s sense of smell by smelling the plants and distinguishing between them. The children learned about the parts of the plant by showing them the sagebrush plant and explaining its parts (leaf, stem, root), and then each child planted his seedling in a plastic cup by placing it in the soil and watering it with water, and placing it outside to be exposed to the sun and air. After several days, the children transplanted them all into one large tub, to take care of them every day.
- Potato breeding and cultivation
The children were introduced to the method of growing a potato with water. They watched a video about the stages of plant growth and its parts such as: stem, roots, leaves. Then they planted a potato inside the water by placing three wooden sticks inside the grain and placing them inside a jar containing water. After several weeks, the parts of the plant began to appear, and the children planted it in the soil and took care of it.
- Yoga Training Activity
The children participated in a relaxation yoga training with trainer Ruth from Ireland. It was a beautiful and beneficial experience for the children
- A healthy day for children to protect their teeth
On 13 February 2023, a health day was held at the kindergarten to teach the children how to keep teeth healthy. Dr. Shorouq Asaad was invited to the kindergarten to teach the children how to take care of their teeth. The doctor showed a short film to the children on how to keep teeth healthy, and she brought with her a dental model to teach the children the healthy way to brush their teeth. She did an educational activity with the children by sorting pictures of healthy food and unhealthy food for their teeth, so that the children can distinguish between healthy food and unhealthy food and put the healthy food pictures on the board. A free dental examination was conducted for the children, and the dental report was sent to the parents. At the end of the day, the teachers distributed gifts for the children which consisted of a toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Music activity
The kindergarten children participated in a music activity with the volunteer Roger from Spain. The children of KG1 and KG2 took music lessons for 3 days and they all enjoyed this activity. It was a wonderful and useful experience for the children.
Sixteen children aged between 6-12 years have been taking circus training at Lajee Center. Trainers from Pallasos en Rebeldia in Spain came several times to the center to train the children. The trainers also gave trainings to Mohammad Romi to become more professional in his circus skills in order to be able to teach more children to join Rebel Circus. In January and February, Alba and Guille came to Lajee Center and gave intensive circus training to the children of Rebel Circus. They also gave classes to the children of Zahrat Al-Yasmeen Kindergarten. In addition to that, the children of Rebel Circus started taking Spanish classes to help them learn the language in order to travel to Spain.
It has been a busy couple of months in ACLAI Palestine with more participants in the gym, international volunteers visiting, and new training programs on the schedule. Ainle arrived back to Lajee in mid January, and has been providing intensive training for the coaching team; Athal, Romi, and Haya, as well as helping to set up the new training programs and coordinating with volunteers. In February, ACLAI Palestine had 313 visits, 86 training sessions, and over 60 participants using the gym. ACLAI Palestine has seen an increase in the number of participants in all groups from young men and women and patients from Lajee’s community health program, as well as introducing boxing, kickboxing, training for people with back pain, and yoga to the gym’s schedule. The 26th of February also marked 3 years since ACLAI Palestine opened its doors for the first time.
Since January 2023, ACLAI Palestine has hosted 5 international volunteer coaches from Ireland in the gym who came to share their experience and expertise with ACLAI coaching team, and run training sessions in the gym. Rosin from Belfast spent two weeks helping with the women’s training, and Ciara from Galway spent one month volunteering in both the gym and circus units. Ruth from Galway introduced yoga to the gym for the first time while she was here for a month including providing yoga classes for the children and staff of the Zahrat Al-Yasmeen Kindergarten. Christopher from Dingle returned for his second volunteering trip to ACLAI Palestine and is currently in Lajee Center for a month teaching boxing, kickboxing, and gym sessions. In addition to Shannon who is in ACLAI Palestine at the moment and is spending her time helping to upskill ACLAI’s coaches and train the women who use the gym on a weekly basis. So far the international volunteer program has been very successful and ACLAI Palestine is looking forward to building on this progress in the coming months.
The Media Unit continued covering all the activities of Lajee Center as media coverage is very important to spread the message of Lajee Center and support its work. Moreover, the media unit strongly believe that it is important to empower the youth to express themselves through media such as photography, videos, and writing.
Sally MacMonagle, who is a member of the ACLAI Palestine team, was back in Lajee for two weeks in January, and continued her work with the media unit while she was here. Sally organised a series of practical photography workshops with children from the camp, which included learning the basics of photography and how to use a camera, and going out into the camp to take photographs. The workshops included challenging games that the children played while practicing their photography skills such as capturing photos that included certain shapes, colours, and types of light. The participants of the photography workshops made great progress over the two weeks that Sally was here, and the media unit is looking forward to welcoming Sally back again soon so that they can progress to the next level.
Lajee Music Institute
Lajee Music Institute teaches four musical instruments for children and youth of the center: oud, qanoun, violin and percussion. Twenty students take weekly music classes with the teachers. They also have group playing classes and theory classes. In February, the students did their music exams and they got very good results.
Other Activities for the Children of Lajee Center:
- Library Activity
On 27 January 2023, a group of thirteen children (boys and girls) aged between 5-10 years were welcomed and introduced to the library and to the Arabic and English stories. They were asked to choose a story they liked and read it on their own then to say the story in their own words to the group. They also colored, drew pictures, and played LEGO. At the end of the meeting, each child borrowed two stories to read at home and tell staff about them the next meeting. The group agreed to meet every Friday at noon.
- The Lantern Play
33 children from the center attended a theatrical show entitled “The Secret of the Lantern,” produced by the Fridge Theatre in Hebron. It was a fun show for children and they had a great interaction in the closing discussion of the show.
- Group breakfast
A group breakfast was held for the children of the Dabkeh group, in cooperation with the Dabkeh trainer, Samah Darwish.
- Read and discuss a story entitled Sawdust
This activity included twelve children (boys and girls). The story talked about the village of Al-Dawayima and the artist Abdel-Hay Musallam, who emigrated from this village and became an artist. Through this story, the children learned about this village, and each child talked about the original village from which they were displaced. The children learned about the shapes of sawdust and the difference between sawdust, clay and mud. Children made drawings about professions.
- Activity on the topic of time (hourglass/time/clock)
An activity entitled “Time” was implemented for a group of children to think about their understanding of time. The children were given inputs to express time through writing or drawing: how do you spend time when time goes faster and when time goes slow? Children expressed by drawing about: Time goes fast! Time goes slow! There was a difference between children depending on their ages.
- Simple story writing activity
Children participated in an activity to develop their own imagination and storytelling. The children were divided into three groups, and each group thought of a simple story on a specific topic that they were interested in. They assigned a child from the group to express the story through drawing. One of the stories they wrote told about a Palestinian child who lives in a village and his daily life. He goes to school, and one day he encounters an Israeli army checkpoint. This child is afraid of them because he is young, and people gather around him to help him. The other story was about a little girl named Mona who loves drawing a lot. She is from the city of Jaffa. Her father and mother love her very much, and they gave birth to her after waiting fifteen years. She is alone because her father is in the occupation prisons. The children will continue working on the stories and perhaps create a publication from the activity.
- Free watercolor painting activity
Upon the children’s request, an activity was carried out for them, which consisted of free drawing with watercolors, and each child expressed what he liked by drawing. It was a fun activity because they chose it and it was a space for expressing themselves.