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 and has started its sixth cycle in 2016, 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!
Six summer camps are held close to the six schools where the new counselling units will be established. The summer camps include up to 300 children to maximise the project impact and benefits traumatised children between the ages 8-11. 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

Six public/governmental schools are prioritised for establishing counselling units and for upgrading the skills of their school counsellors through training and mentoring. Furniture, therapeutic aids and educational resources are 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 provides 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.