A Renewed Friendship in Gaza

War Child’s Helping Children Heal project provides protection and recreation opportunities to the most marginalised children in Gaza. It also provides a space where friendship can blossom away from violent conflict - as the story of Heba and Chaima shows…

A 12-year-old child living in the Gaza Strip has witnessed three armed conflicts in their lifetime. And the potential threat to the safety of children is increasing once again following the bitterly contested opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

Many of Gaza’s children have grown up entirely under blockade and only know the world as an unsafe place. UN refugee body UNWRA states that 300,000 children in Gaza are currently in need of psychosocial support. The magnitude of the challenges facing both Gaza and the West Bank show no signs of abating - nor the threat to local children and youth.

War Child’s Helping Children Heal project works to address these threats by providing support, protection and recreation opportunities to the most marginalized children and communities. A core element of the project is War Child’s life skills intervention I DEAL which employs creative activities and discussions to help build children’s resilience and improve their coping skills.

Heba and Chaima

Heba is a 12-year-old girl from Beit Hanoun, a city located in the north of the Gaza Strip. In the spring of 2017 she took part in I DEAL sessions.  

Before attending the course, Heba was shy and struggled to interact with others in large groups. She also felt very embarrassed when she found out that her cousin Chaima was in the same module as her - someone she was told to keep away from following a family dispute.

Yet Heba’s fears were unfounded - particularly with regard to Chaima. Since taking part in the project module ‘peer relationships’ the two girls have become close friends, planning their summer holidays and ‘open day’ activities together.

Through their participation in workshops designed to build trust and reduce day-to-day conflicts Heba and Chaima have also discovered something new - a culture of tolerance and forgiveness.

“Before, we did not know that we have to forgive each other,” Heba said. “We also have to stay objective and not get involved in the problems of adults.”

“We are children and equals so we can continue playing and talking together - as there is no conflict between us.”

Words: Martha Shardalow
Photos: War Child

*The names of the two girls have been changed. Both girls have agreed to share their story and photograph. Their parents are aware of the story and about the two girls' friendship.