Dear friends and supporters,
In the Western part of the Palestinian-Bedouin settlement of Umm al-Kheir are two extended family clusters of approximately 100 people, over half of whom are children. These centers perhaps suffer more from the persecution of the occupation authorities than any other place to the south Mt. Hebron. The direct reason for this that they are a mere few meters away from the Carmel settlement that was established decades after the forefathers of these Bedouin were expelled from their homes in the region of Arad following the 1948 war and, as a result, they settled in Umm al-Kheir, which was at the time under Jordanian rule. For the past year and a half on the ‘Villages Group’ blog, we have reported the efforts of the Israeli authorities to embitter the lives of residents in both centers near the Carmel Settlement, chief of which is the ongoing cruel destruction of homes.
In the daily reality of despair and distress imposed by the occupation authorities on these people’s lives, there are also lights of hope – some the result of cooperation between local residents and various organizations and groups, among them Israeli organizations and groups, such as ‘Cultural Projects ‘Mifalei Tarbut” of the Tel Aviv Hapoel football team, Taayush, and the Villages Group. Most important of all are projects resulting from local initiative – like the one discussed here, and appearing in the images.
A young local engineer, Aziz Hazalin, established a small playground for the children of one of the two clusters; an initiative that was facilitated by a donation from a Jewish-British business man. Another important initiative is a learning enrichment program for children initiated last year by Na’ama Hazalin, a local qualified teacher. This enrichment program has now functioned for a year and is run by Sara, Na’ama’s sister. For the past year, this program has been supported by the Jewish-British organization – The British Shalom-Salaam Trust. Approximately fifteen children from the second cluster, between the ages 6-14, participate in the program. In a conversation we had with the two teachers, Na’ama and Sara, they reported significant achievements resulting from the enrichment program:
- The program enables personal attention from the teacher. The main activity takes place over the weekend when the teacher personally helps the students. Consequently, there has been a significant improvement in the children’s learning achievements, particularly in such subjects as mathematics and English, which are the focus of the program.
- Over and above mathematics and English, there are also projects in the fields of painting, drama and story reading.
- The particular importance of the program is that it is an intimate meeting place, within the family, where children can express themselves freely, without fear of being mocked by their peers at school.
It is our impression, based on many visits to the place, that the learning enrichment program has been a great success and should continue. Moreover, the program should be expanded to include the second center as well. There is another young woman who is willing and able to run the program in the other center.
The annual cost of running an enrichment program is $3,000 per cluster $6,000 per two clusters. We appeal to groups, organizations and individuals to help us continue and maintain, even expand this small and very important educational project.