Khashem al Daraj kindergarten

Getting closer to their first day at school

Many of us remember our first day in school.  Our satchels felt as big as we were, and we left the comfort of our homes to walk into unfamiliar territory; school yards and classrooms full of strangers. Images on the news show weeping mothers, on the first day of school,  as they let go of their little ones and surrender them to the care and tutelage of their teachers. The first day of school is a big step for everyone.

In the occupied Palestinian territories, the first day of school separates a child from the care and protection of their parents. The road to school isn’t simple and straightforward. For many children there are checkpoints, soldiers and the fear of attack from settlers.

Since 2009 Leichhardt Friends of Hebron have been supporting kindergarten projects in the South Hebron Hills. With our partners on the ground, the Villages Group, we are supporting the communities in Umm Al Khair and Khasam Al Daraj to provide much needed educational services for their young and budding learners. A recent post on their website features a word and picture diary on the two kindergartens.

At the beginning of August 2012, Leichhardt Friends of Hebron sent funds raised through our third annual fundraiser to our partners to contribute to the final instalment of the building of the kindergarten in Khasam Al Daraj. The community here is one of the most impoverished in the West Bank, and their lands are increasingly being threatened by military zone closures, expansion of settlements and threat of demolitions of surrounding villages. The psychological and physical pressures on these communities are great.

 Our partners were on location late in August to oversee the continuation of the construction of the kindergarten. Additional equipment is currently being installed, including equipment for a modest playground area and equipment for the children. The inaugural opening of the new kindergarten looks to be in September – in time for the new school year.

We would like to thank all our supporters for making this dream become a reality.

Raising funds for the Al Huda Kindergarten, Khashem Al Daraj

The aim of the Hebron-Leichhardt Festival of Friendship on the 18th June 2011 is to raise much needed money for a kindergarten in Khashem Al Daraj.

The Bedouin community of Khashem Al Daraj is located at the most southern end of the West Bank. The basic infrastructure is very weak with a lot of services lacking, including adequate roads and scarce water quantities coupled with high unemployment and rising poverty. The community has a population of 650 Palestinian Bedouins living on herding as the main source of income. It has faced a number of Israeli restrictions including the demolition of 7 water cisterns in December 2010. Moreover, the community is surrounded by an area declared by the Israeli military as a “Firing Zone” to which access is not allowed.

The idea is to directly support the community’s only kindergarten which was established about 5 years ago and functioned under difficult circumstances including the lack of teacher salaries for a period of one year. Currently, the one-room kindergarten is run down in terms of infrastructure and suitability for learning; the bathroom unit has no running water and is not usable. The “toys” in the playground have depreciated throughout the years, so the 25 students use the kindergarten as the only entertainment centre in their desert community. According to Huda (the caretaker of the kindergarten), more children would attend the kindergarten if she allows it. Yet she is constrained by the limited space and lack of the very basic tools used in any kindergarten. As such, our hope for this year’s festival is pure and simple; to help upgrade the kindergarten to accommodate an influx of new students as well as to provide better education for them in a safe environment.

Our partners in this project are the The Villages Group, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Machsom Watch and the Khashem Al Daraj Village Council.

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