Today we mark World Refugee Day. For TYO staff, volunteers, and interns it was especially poignant as we spent the afternoon at Balata Refugee Camp – the largest camp in the West Bank. With over 30,000 residents on 1 kilometer of land, Balata is a microcosm of the plight of Palestinian refugees across the region. With limited access to water, sewage, health, and educational services, camps are a haven for disease, poverty, and unemployment.
Children are the most vulnerable victims. Without access to quality early childhood education and the space and freedom to play as every child should have, psychosocial problems such as post traumatic stress disorder and aggression are on the rise. It is for this reason that the dedicated team of TYO staff, volunteers, and interns work hard each and every day to bring a little hope to each member of our refugee community.
Today was no different. After filling the bus up with staff, teachers, volunteers and interns, we took the five minute drive down to Balata, following the gentle, rolling hills that lead away from Nablus city center. After setting up shop at a local community center, soon came a jolt of brightness, of energy, of hope, of life. What a day! Young boys and girls made their way in waves, cautious and curious at the same time. We welcomed them, shared some introductory games and songs, and fed off their effervescent presence. We split the group, some engaging in thrilling relay races and sports games, others having the chance to embrace their artistic side: for the latter, we asked that they design a peace letter, illustrating and decorating a card of self-expression, showing who they are to the world, showing the peace they hope for to the world.
I hope these photos can do it some justice. Thanks to Andrea of S.O.W. for the great work!