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We have had quite an extraordinary Summer this year; it has
been extremely hot, with temperatures far over the average, with intense
humidity; something we had rarely experienced before. Today is September the 25th,
and the temperature is above 33 degrees Celcius. The last three months have been
aggravating in many different ways. In addition to the intense heat, we had to
cope with labourers inside and outside the building the whole time. The building
at the entrance near the gate was being renovated, and this was done through a
fabulous generous donation from our friends in Stornaway Scotland and McCabe
Educational Trust. It is now almost completed, and we hope that in the future,
it will be used as an Adult Learning Centre. However, work inside the building,
installing the lift was the most difficult part. Dirt and chaos on every floor
of the building for over three month now, and we hope that it is in its final
stages, or so we are told every day!! There were many complications that had to
be tackled, including electricity.
Fortunately, the openings of the shaft on the four floors were closed, just before the children's return to school on September the 13th.
The opening of the new school year started with four new children, two boys and two girls. Six-year-old girl Malak comes from Tulkarem, in the farthest north of the country. Her father is a teacher and her mother a housewife. She has very poor sight and has never been to a school before. She has three brothers and one sister. Malak and her twin brother Bashar, are the youngest in the family.
Aya, is a four year old girl, and has her sister with us, who is a couple of years older, called Zein. They only have one older sister with good sight. The parents are first cousins, and that counts for the fact that both girls have poor sight. They come from a village on the outskirts of Bethlehem.
Karam, a five year old boy, comes from the village of Idna near Hebron. The poor child lost his eye sight completely as a result of a car accident. His father is a taxi driver, and while he was driving his taxi near their house, accidently hit the child severely, and resulted in his blindness. Karam was only two years old then. He is a lovely bright child; very active and full of life, and has settled down extremely well. He has two sisters older than him.
Mazen, is a seven year old boy, but has never been to school before. Sadly, this child had an eye tumor, which had to be taken out. His second eye is endangered also. He is much more a difficult case than the others and needs a lot of work. He still needs time to adjust. Mazen's family lives in a village called Dhahrieyeh, a village in the farthest south of the country. He has two brothers and two sisters.
Braille Book Production
Since the national Palestinian curriculum is a trial one, the Ministry of Education tends to alter parts of it every year. This causes a tremendous burden on our budget, as we constantly need to produce new Braille books accordingly. Pressure on our employees is also being exerted as the books become of great demand when the new school year starts.
This year, four of our children left us to go into mainstream education. Hayat Hassasneh, Shireen Salem, and Haneen Abu Mayaleh have been successfully mainstreamed in regular schools near their homes. Ahmad (Jou Jou) Abu Al-Jidian, Lara's brother, who is from Gaza, has been mainstreamed at Talitha Kumi school together with his sister, as it would be very difficult for us to follow him up in Gaza. We are providing full lodging and accommodation for both Gaza children. Ahmad's parents have arranged for his school fees to be covered through a sponsor.
It was and still is a big challenge to get Shireen Salem to
join inclusive education. As some of you might recall, Shireen has a cleft
palate, an additional challenge to her blindness. When she finished 5th grade at
Al-Shurooq School in June, we thought she was academically and psychologically
ready to join mainstream education.
Work with Shireen, her family, her new head mistress and teachers continued throughout the summer. Faced with rejection sometimes and unawareness most if the time, Fida', our social worker, tirelessly overcame most of the hurdles and impediments, rendering Shireen’s daily life somehow less complicated.
Shireen now is a regular student in grade 6 at the UNRWA school in Al-Diheisha Refugee Camp where her family lives.
Shireen participating in Dabka
(Palestinian folk dance) at school
Shireen using public
transportation to get to school
Shireen walking down the
narrow alleys of the camp unaided