The first of the
Culture and Free Thought Association’s community centers, Al-Shruq Wal Amal
Center was established in 1991 in Khan Younis Refugee Camp. The Center runs
educational, recreational, and cultural programs for boys and girls between 6
and 12 years of age living in Khan Younis Refugee Camp in particular and in the
governorate more generally.
Each year around 8,200
children (40% girls) have benefited from the center activities – some 200
attend activities daily at the Center and an additional 8,000 participate in
the Center’s community outreach activities.
Open from 8 am
till 3 pm five days a week, the center hosts a library, ongoing programs
in fine arts; games and sport; music, theater and Dabkah (traditional
Palestinian folkdance); computer; gardening; and after-school support as well
as a wide range of periodic activities like the CFTA annual cultural festival,
Juthoor cultural heritage festival and annual summer camps.
Highlights in 2014
As part of including parents in supporting their children, CFTA
implemented “Bird Nests,”
with 52 children aged 6 to 12 (22 boys, 30 girls) and 50 of their mothers. Bird
Nests involves a series of discussion workshops during which children talk about
their problems and reflect in writing on their feelings about them. The
writings are put in a special nest for each child. At the end of the workshops,
the mothers together with their children open the nests and discuss the issues
of the children. This activity has proven very helpful in helping mothers to
listen to and better understand their children.
30 children (6 boys, 24 girls) organized
workshops and discussions during which they selected key community issues
of concern that they wanted to address. Over 150 children (40 boys, 111 girls) then designed and participated
in different activities addressing these issues. One group, for example, focused
on raising awareness about water and water pollution by organizing art
galleries, a radio series and radio spots, and public awareness workshops with
specialists and families.
Al Shruq Wal Amal
Center seeks to nurture a new generation capable of giving, sharing, and taking
responsibility by creating a healthy learning environment for the holistic and
integrated development of children (6-12 years). Every child is encouraged to
continuously seek out new opportunities for discovery, experimentation,
self-expression, knowledge-building, and connecting with others.
The Center’s approach
is rooted in the understanding that healthy childhood development begins with
ensuring that each child is at the club of her/his own learning processes.
Learning is pursued through active participation in an open and diverse range
of individual and collective cultural and educational games and activities
grounded in self-expression. Recognizing that each child has her/his own unique
set of skills and capacities, children are encouraged to take
responsibility for their own learning and at the same time supporting and respecting others’ learning efforts. Conversation and debate are used as alternatives to
punishment and abuse and the Center works to build children’s awareness of their rights as well as a sense of
responsibility and mutual respect.
Within this framework,
the Center works to: contribute to finding solutions for educational, recreational and cultural challenges for children; foster an atmosphere of
dialogue amongst children which encourages self-expression and exploration of
community issues; ensure time and space for play, recreation and leisure;
and support the development of children’s talents and skills in their
particular areas of interests; and nurture their leadership qualities.