In August 2022, an Israeli military operation targeting Gaza resulted in 44 deaths, 41% were women and children. In total, 360 people were injured – 58% of these were women and children, as reported by MoH. In addition, damage was caused to 1,764 homes, leaving thousands of people displaced from their homes and with no safe place to turn to.
This violence severely impacts children’s mental health, which can affect their behaviour in every aspect of their life, including their education. Schools play a crucial role in addressing this need, helping to identify problems and facilitating the support children require. This is especially crucial because many parents in Gaza are unaware of how best to support their child, and 25% indicated that there is no psychosocial and counselling support in schools.
Welfare Association has supported the development of school counselling units in Gaza for over a decade, with more than 50 school counselling units established supporting many thousands of traumatised children. These units are established in a permanent location in each school, fully equipped, and specialised training is provided for the counselling unit and teaching staff. A special individual programme is developed to suit each child’s needs, with a range of services and sessions included. Access to these services contributes to preventing traumatised students from dropping out of school as well as improving their mental health and general wellbeing.
In this project Welfare Association staff work with local partner and expert Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. Two schools were selected for the project, Wafaa Al-Amer School in central Gaza, and Amir Al-Mansi School in Gaza City. The key project achievements were:
Three school counselling units were established, furnished, and equipped.
12 school counsellors received training, to increasing their knowledge and skills.
371 students received counselling services in the new counselling units during the project, and 8 students were referred for advanced services.
10 awareness raising sessions were arranged for parents and teachers.
Therapeutic recreational activities were held for the over 1,200 students.
Three school counselling units were successfully established and equipped, one in Wafaa Al-Amer school and two in Amir Al-Mansi school, as this school effectively operates as two separate schools. The school buildings are also used in double shifts due to high numbers of students. By establishing the counselling units, a secure and supportive environment was created for students (and their parents) to receive the counselling services and support they require.
In order to promote a healthy and happy learning environment, therapeutic recreational activities were organised for the children receiving mental health services, their friends, and their families. Totalling over 1,200 students from the beneficiary schools.
These events brought a much-needed opportunity for these children to have fun, offering much-needed respite from their difficult daily lives and stresses. They helped to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety of living in Gaza, enabling the children to relax, participate in a range of fun activities, and to enjoy themselves with their friends.
Awareness raising sessions were also organised, attended by over 50 teachers and almost 200 parents from these schools. These 10 sessions increased their understanding of a range of mental health related issues and boosted their knowledge and skills in ways to better support their children. These sessions also provided opportunities for parents to ask questions and share experiences.
The positive feedback received from parents, along with their requests for more sessions, demonstrates the value of these sessions.
Additionally, a therapy-through-play corner was established in Wafaa Al-Amer school, to provide a dedicated space and opportunity for children to engage in therapeutic activities going forward. Play therapy has proved to be an invaluable approach in treating traumatised children, enabling counsellors to engage effectively with children and facilitate their healing process. The counsellor closely observes the child's behavior and the impact of play, aiding in identifying and diagnosing any psychological issues the child may be facing. Play therapy was a key focus during the training course attended by school counsellors.
This project benefitted more than 1,800 children in Gaza, as well as teachers, parents, and counsellors.
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