We are unfortunately all too familiar in the UK with the concept of PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder. What we are less familiar with is chronic traumatic stress disorder. This is the condition of those for whom the cause of stress is an ongoing occurrence. And that is the sad plight of many in Gaza, including, by UNICEF’s estimates, 373,000 children.
Apart from three major carpet bombardments in the last nine years, they are living with the daily reminders which the siege on Gaza forces on them—the bullet-pocked walls, the crumbling infrastructure, the unrepaired homes, schools, and hospitals. In addition there are the frequent incursions and sonic booms that make sure they don’t forget.
Their trauma shows up in myriad ways, ranging from bedwetting to an inability to focus, to persistent nightmares, to extreme aggressiveness, to abnormal levels of dependency and withdrawal.
It is hard to relate to these numbers. But they are very real, and very individual to the therapists on the ground. They need to assess the level of trauma for each child. For some, assessment is easy, because dismemberment gives the answer. For others, they need to find out whether the child witnessed the violent killing of parents or brothers or sisters or friends, or strangers. Or if they were at home when it was shelled, or if it even collapsed on them.
That is the context within which Hope and Play, the UK charity, funds psycho-social therapy for traumatized children in Gaza. The programmes are holistic, bringing the children’s schools, families, and community centres into the support process.
They have supported 500 children to date, and have just started another programme, with the goal of bringing the children back into mainstream society and effective education.
The programmes are delivered on the ground through their partner, the Canaan Institute of New Pedagogy, whose president was until recently the head of Gaza’s YMCA. With St Mary’s help, Hope and Play aims to reach a further 500 children in 5 villages during 2017.
The above is written by Iyas AlQasem, trustee of Hope and Play. Donations are welcome to the charity’s website, or by post to: 71 Chudleigh Road, Twickenham TW2 7QP. They are eligible for Gift Aid.
Iyas AlQasem, who was in Gaza recently, will be giving a talk on Sunday 25 June in the church hall following coffee after the Morning Service.
All are welcome.