Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer camp for Palestinian children of torture victims explores ways of dealing with trauma

02.08.09 - 21:00

Ramallah / PNN - Palestinian victims of torture are prevalent with such a high number arrested by Israeli forces: currently between 9,500 and 11,000 Palestinians are in Israeli prisons.

The Palestinian Prisoners Society and the Palestinian Authority’s prisons ministry regularly report on the extensive use of torture by the Israelis against Palestinians.

The Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture has just concluded a three-week annual summer camp.

More than 260 children of Palestinian victims of torture have enjoyed a summer camp organized by an EU-funded project, giving them the opportunity to step out of the violence of their everyday lives and explore ways of dealing with trauma.

The summer camp comes as a part of a three-year project co-funded by the EU entitled “Sustaining and enhancing a comprehensive service delivery for victims of torture” in the West Bank. The European Union is contributing 80 percent of the project’s €1.2 million budget.

Now into its ninth year and inspired by its previous successes, the ‘Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims Of Torture’ (TRC) in partnership with the UN high commissioner office in the Palestinian territory, held its annual summer camp, titled “Zahra Al-Madain, in reference to Jerusalem” from 5-23 July in four locations in the West Bank – Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin and Hebron.

The summer camp activity enjoyed the support of a wide spectrum of international and local foundations, which participated either as volunteers, supporters or educators, and included the Spanish organization GINSO, Jawwal, NBC and the Council of Ministries.

“Similar to the summer camps of past years, the camp offered children a wide range of educational, developmental, recreational and leisure activities,” writes Fares Abdullah, Media Coordinator of TRC.

Moreover, this summer witnessed the incorporation of additional unprecedented activities, which included the ‘human rights corner’ and the simulation of democratic elections in the Jenin camp.

Through the human rights corner, representatives of the UN high commissioner office introduced children to basic principles of human rights and children’s rights. In Jenin, children simulated democratic parliamentary elections through holding their own elections under the supervision of representatives of the UN high commissioner office. This unique experience proved the willingness of the young generations to try another life full of peace, love and hope.

In his welcoming address during the graduation ceremony held for the children of the summer camp last week, TRC’s general director Dr. Mahmud Sehwail highlighted the role of the summer camps in giving children the opportunity to step out of the violence of their day-to-day lives and explore different ways of dealing with trauma without using violence themselves.

“Summer camps are set apart from the pace of everyday life,” he said. “The potential in children and their abundant curiosity and capacity for learning can be nurtured. Children learn more life skills in a few weeks at camp than in nine months of school. Through summer camps, children gain new skills like problem solving, time management, study techniques, memory, data collection, leadership and decision making,” he added.