School Counselling Units in Gaza

School-Based Counselling Programme for Traumatised Young Children in Gaza

Children in Gaza live in a conflict zone, they have experienced military activity without any warning. Many children have witnessed severely traumatic events that have a huge impact on their lives. They have been through two intensive conflicts within 4 years (Israeli military actions in 2008/9 and in 2012), in addition to the ongoing pressure from the continued blockade of Gaza, bringing high rates of unemployment and deteriorating economic and health conditions. A study by Gaza Community Mental Health Project (GCMHP) conducted one year after the 2008/9 conflict indicated 57% of children in Gaza suffered moderate reactions to trauma, with 11% reporting severe reactions. Most governmental schools in Gaza do not have dedicated counselling units, while those that do are inadequately equipped.

Together with GCMHP, Welfare Association is supporting traumatised young children by establishing counselling units in schools and upgrading the skills of school counsellors, as well as also providing summer camps, to rebuild self confidence and help address their needs.

This project is a continuation of the pilot school-based counselling programme launched in 2011, with the aim of integrating mental health support services directly within the educational system (in schools), to create a healthy and supportive environment. This project has two major components:

Summer Camps

Summer_camp_recreation_day_to_relax_and_have_fun_with_friends.jpgSummer camp recreation day to relax and have fun with friends!
Summer camps are held close to the schools where the new counselling units are to be established. The summer camps address psychological problems and help develop self-confidence through a variety of individual and group activities including team sports competitions, arts and crafts projects, drama and role playing, family open days and recreational / therapeutic visits to the seaside, the local zoo etc, all designed to relieve stress and provide support for children whilst also addressing underlying issues.

Counselling Units

In 2016, six public/governmental schools were prioritised for establishing counselling units and for upgrading the skills of their school counsellors through training and mentoring. Furniture, therapeutic aids and educational resources were provided for each counselling unit. In the second cycle of this project a total of 1,028 counselling sessions were provided for 1,033 children at their schools. In addition, 19 family counselling sessions raised awareness of how families can most effectively support their children and10 parent and teacher meetings on behavioural issues were held. The most common psychological issues addressed include hyperactivity, aggressive behaviour, low academic achievement, attention deficit, bed wetting and post traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

This project provided multi-layered support – working with children and their friends, children and their parents and children and their teachers, with continuous support through the counselling units.

The current 2018 programme runs until the end of the academic year with additional therapeutic activities at the start of the summer holidays, and closes by the end of August. The project enables children to work through and overcome their fears and it provides support for their families as well.

By the end of the 2018 project:

  • The skills and capabilities of four school counsellors will be increased and properly equipped so that they will be able to deliver psychosocial support and interventions for traumatised children. Furniture, therapeutic aids and educational resources will be provided for each counselling unit.
  • There will also be an improvement of the skills and abilities of 24 school staff and caregivers (including head teachers, teachers and parents) so that they are better able to provide appropriate support to traumatised children.
  • The project will provide effective counselling services and will have improved the health of at least 200 traumatised children who have been badly affected by the conflict in Gaza.

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