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Aisha is a 7th-grade student and lives with her family of seven in Johur Al Deek, a marginalized border village in Gaza. Despite the family’s financial hardship due to her father’s unemployment, Aisha works hard in her school lessons. However, in August 2021 a tragic incident occurred during the Israeli military operation on the Gaza Strip. During the offensive, Aisha’s mother left the house to visit and help her grandmother. Unfortunately, shortly after her departure, a powerful explosion shook the area, causing Aisha extreme distress. Aisha feared that her mother had been killed in the blast.
Since then, Aisha has been plagued by nightmares about losing her mother and a constant fear of loss. This has resulted in a lack of interest in her usual activities, isolation from her friends and family, and a decline in her academic performance. Aisha was invited to participate in the WA Project – establishing counselling units in schools in Gaza for traumatised children. The counsellors developed a personal counselling plan for Aisha and during one of her first sessions with the school counsellor Aisha expressed her emotions in her journal.
“I’m exhausted. All day long, I am crying and scared… I don’t want to be away from my mother.”
The violence children in Gaza continue to experience can have a severe impact on their mental health and their everyday life, including their education. These children require professional mental health support. Schools can play a crucial role in addressing this need, helping to identify problems and facilitating the support children require. Parents also need support to better understand what is happening with their child and how they can most appropriately support their needs. However, of parents in Gaza, 25% indicated that there is no psychosocial and counselling support in schools.
Thankfully, Aisha was able to access the support she needed though WA’s ‘School Counselling Units for Traumatised Children in Gaza’ project with our partner, Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. WA 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.
To read about this project and its impact in full, please click here.
Welfare Association has established counselling units in more than 50 schools with more than 11,000 children supported in Gaza.
This project was incredibly successful, with the following key achievements:
From December 2022 to April 2023, a total of 371 students benefited from counselling services provided in the dedicated counselling units.
Aisha was one of these students. GCMHP’s professional psychologists, worked with the school counsellors to develop personalized interventions for Aisha, designed to help her manage and overcome her trauma. Aisha undertook a range of therapy in the new facilities, allowing her to express her emotions and fears. Play therapy, drawing, and relaxation exercises enabled Aisha to communicate her experiences. The counsellors also reached out to Aisha’s mother directly to provide family counselling, support, and education, emphasizing her crucial role in Aisha’s therapy. Aisha’s teachers were provided with psycho-education training, to increase their ability to support her academically and psychosocially.
As a result of these interventions, Aisha has experienced significant improvements in her mental health and wellbeing. Her mother and teachers have noticed that she has become livelier and once again she is actively participating in her education and social activities. There has been a notable improvement in her academic achievements, as Aisha begins to feel like her old self.
Aisha herself expressed her progress, saying:
“I am feeling better now; I am much less afraid.”
 Multi-Sectoral Needs Assessment, OCHA, July 2022 https://www.ochaopt.org/data/2022/msna
* Names have been changed
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