Aida Refugee camp has a population of about 6,000 people, at least 60 percent of which is under the age of 24. The camp lies in the volatile region of Bethlehem and is walled off from Jerusalem by Israel’s separation wall.
Violence is a daily reality for the camp’s residents with regular military incursions and clashes with Israeli soldiers creating a climate of fear. Children are frequently exposed to gunfire and tear gas while young people live in constant dread of arrest.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2013 expressed deep concern about the reported practice of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children arrested, prosecuted and detained by the military and the police. The committee said soldiers arrested Palestinian youth regularly during night-time raids, tying children’s hands and blindfolding them.
The extreme effects of political violence together with socio-economic pressures have had devastating psychological effects on children growing up in the Palestinian territories, who have few outlets for healthy self-expression.
Alrowwad’s goal is to save and promote life and inspire hope in Palestinian children in times of extreme despair and struggle for life. The organisation, which was established in 1998, uses theatre, arts, culture and education as vehicles of self-expression and empowerment. It seeks to encourage children in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem to become active agents in the promotion of peace in and out of the camp through a philosophy it has named “beautiful resistance.”
Alrowwad professionally trains children as actors of change and has put in place programmes to support children with learning difficulties. Its Arts Programme offers training courses and workshops for children in theatre, music, choir and traditional Palestinian dance. Its Images for Life Programme aims to encourage children to get behind the camera with training courses in photography. Its Mobile Beautiful Resistance Programme tours the West Bank to train trainers in theatre, photography and video, as well as Play Bus Programme activities which aim to make education fun through playing and producing games for educational purposes. Its Educational Support (Enhancement) Programme offers Arabic, Math and English classes to children of the camp and its Women Programme helps promote women’s empowerment.
In 2015, Alrowwad impacted 6,000 people including 4,800 children within the Alrowwad facility, and more than 15,000 youth and adults in the West Bank through the Mobile Beautiful Resistance Programme.
Photo: Fadi Arouri