'I wish I was like the rest of the children in the world'

West Bank and Gaza, June 25, 2010

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Roba wants to be an English teacher. Soad a lawyer. Abeer a psychological therapist, and Monzer a doctor. Hala has not yet decided what she wants to do in the future, but for now is determined to achieve the highest scores in school.

Although Roba, Soad, Abeer, Monzer and Hala have very different aspirations for the future, they have many things in common as well. They are young Gazans, between the ages of 12 and 15, and live with their families in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Their daily lives have been profoundly affected by the Israeli military blockade. Through the restrictions on import of basic goods into Gaza, for example. Or the travel restrictions, as people are only able to leave Gaza if they obtain rare medical or religious permission.

Making conditions even more difficult in Gaza, the conflict between Israel and Hamas has over the years lead to many fatalities (including children). A large number of homes and schools was destroyed. Roba, Soad, Abeer, Monzer and Hala have all been exposed to violence and injury. They grew up deprived of the basic requirements needed for life.

And there is something else that Roba, Soad, Abeer, Monzer and Hala have in common. They all participated in Mercy Corps psychosocial program, attending guided psychosocial sessions over a period of at least six months.

Evaluation results show that the program played a significant, and overwhelmingly positive, role in the children’s lives. Parents reported that their children demonstrated significantly fewer behavioral problems, and more positive behaviors, at the end of the program than they did at the beginning. This enabled Roba, Soad, Abeer, Monzer and Hala to focus more on the future again, instead of remembering past events.

Roba wants to travel. She wants to study abroad and become the best English teacher there is. She also wants the border crossings to open “so that all the injured people in Gaza can receive the necessary treatment. I want them to be cured and come back to Gaza feeling happy.”

Abeer was inspired by the psychosocial program and wants to follow in the footsteps of Mercy Corps staff. “I want to help children so that they can express themselves more easily. I want to help eliminate some of their psychosocial problems. Children should not have any worries on their mind.”

Hala wants the old days to come back, “when all the crossings were still open and people could go wherever they wanted to go. Including me. I want to travel and see beautiful places.”

Monzer is eager to help the people who are injured. “I want to make sure that families are not losing their loved ones. I want to reduce the pain that people feel and see smiles on their faces instead.”

Soad is dreaming of being a lawyer, so she can achieve justice in her society. “We are different from people in other countries, but I wish I was like the rest of the children in the world. I want to see other countries, be free to travel like everybody else.”

If you want to find out more about the lives of Roba, Abeer, Hala, Monzer and Soad, please watch our documentary For the Children of Gaza.