History and goals
At the IPPNW European – Middle East Student Meeting in June 2003 the Refugee Camp Project (Recap) was founded by medical students of more than ten different countries from around the globe. In August of 2004, the first group of students travelled to Palestine to participate in the project.
Now, the second summer session is about to begin. The project idea should also serve as a base for future refugee vamp projects in other areas of the world.
Our major goal is to support medical health care projects, becoming active within the health awareness and educational sector. Our target group are adolescents aged 10-16 years.
Brief project description
Within the project international medical students should get the possibility to have a one-month-experience in a Palestinian Refugee Camp. In the first 10 days an introduction into the social, political, cultural situation of the people in the refugee camps will be given by Palestinian medical students at the Al-Quds University in Jerusalem.
Afterwards, the social project will be planned and prepared, for example by joining a medical health care project, and learning about educational and health awareness projects.
The rest of the month will be spend at the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, where the participants will not only recevie medical training, but also organize English classes and Drama activitities with children of the camp.
The project’s aim is to draw a greater awareness to the actual situation in the refugee camps, to provide medical and social help to the refugees and to work towards non-violent conflict prevention.
We, as future doctors, have a crucial role not only in taking medical care of people but also to spread the values of justice, peace and human rights.
The Palestinian refugees are one of the largest displaced populations in the world today, approximately one in three refugees world wide is Palestinian, constituting about 5 million people, most of whom live in the Middle East countries (Jordan, Lebanon, Syria), West Bank and Gaza.
Therefore they constitute a global problem in the Middle East. We, as medical students and future physicians, have the responsibility to do our best towards improving their conditions, especially in terms of health, and towards better understanding of their problems and needs.
There are about 60 Palestinian refugee camps in the Middle East. They constitute the “home” of about 33% of the refugees.
In most cases they are deprived of the right to evolve democratically and culturally, and isolated through repeated closures of Palestinian areas, and they are left with little exposure to outside ideas, customs and cultures. This increases the chances of becoming involved in dangerous activities and increasing their frustration, making them more susceptible to join extremist groups.
Taking in mind the socioeconomic profile of refugees we find that they face higher rates of unemployment and poverty. Housing conditions in many areas do not meet international standards.
Literacy rates and educational attainment are generally high, but there is a weak correlation between higher education and economic advancement. They appear to have higher rates of mental and chronic diseases. These indicators are more prominent in the refugee camps.
The Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem
Aida Refugee Camp (surface area of the camp and surrounding is about 66 dunums= 66,000 m2) accommodates about 4,000 people (around 650 families) who took refuge to it in 1948 and later in 1967 from 35 different villages in Palestine as the result of the two Arab-Israeli wars. This camp, like the other 21 camps in west bank and the 8 camps in Gaza strip, as well as the other camps (12 in Lebanon, 10 in Syria, 10 in Jordan, and others), was established with tents as an emergency and temporary camp, but have been transformed to a permanent stage of refuge.
Since the problem of these refugees was not resolved, United Nations began, in 1951, the construction of small houses made of one or two rooms, and a small kitchen (rooms of 9-12 m2, and ~2 to 2,5 meters high). However after years and years of waiting, the refugees could not live in these temporary shelters created by the UN. Most of the shelters started to fall down. People, mostly poor and not able to buy a piece of land outside the camp, started reconstruction inside the camp of new houses. They became refugees on their own land, in their own country. Since the space is very limited in the camp, and no possibilities of horizontal expansion, the construction expanded vertically. ThatÕs why the camp lacks children corners and playgrounds where children could eventually play. After 53 years of living in this refugee camp, as well as for other refugees in other camps, people know that this is a station in their life; they are still dreaming and asking for the application of the UN resolutions concerning the right of return to their own lands occupied and taken by Israeli state in 1948 and 1967. Till now, the community international plays the blind role concerning the Palestinian refugees.
Around 40% of its population is children under the age of 18, with equal distribution between males and females. The camp has two schools run by UNRWA, one for boys and another for girls (till the end of preparatory classes- age 15). There is also a youth center and a kindergarten run by the local community. The camp is located at the northern border of Bethlehem. Its main entrance is closed by cubes of cement, placed by the Israeli Army at RachelÕs Tomb (originally a mosque Ð Mosque of Bilal Ibn Rabah- and converted into a synagogue in 1967), which composes a military observation point next to the camp. The Gilo settlement, built mostly on the lands of the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, which is bordering the camp from the north and north west as well as the RachelÕs tomb observation point at the eastern side, both constitute a serious threat to the people of the camp through frequent harassments, shooting and shelling.
During these hard times, and in all cases, children were the most to suffer. Many children got traumatized, several of them were reported to wet their beds, and the academic achievement of many others retreated, their childhood has become a nightmare. This, in fact, is an added serious complication to the poor condition of the social and cultural infrastructure in the camp due to lack of safe and healthy playgrounds, childrenÕs corners, green areas and other physical settings and programs where creative activities could be organized for children.
There is no health center located at Aida camp. The people used to get health services by UNRWA center outside the camp. But during the last Intifada the need for a center inside the camp emerged as the people had no possibility to reach the outside center. This was especially the case in the time of Israeli invasions, which made the people to turn Al-Rowwad Cultural Center into a site for medical help, which was entirely provided by nurses.
Reducing the effect of war and conflict on Palestinian refugee children.
Increasing the awareness of the Palestinian refugee problem.
human resources by motivating the medical students to become involved in NGO’s and other organizations working in the field of Refugee health.
Ensuring the understanding of the medical students for the needs and multiple health challenges faced by the refugee population, by raising awareness of the connection between psychosocial status and health.
Conducting research on the mental health status of Palestinian refugee children.
Beneficaries and Target group
The direct beneficiaries are the medical students from Palestine and other countries. The end-point beneficiaries are the refugees who will benefit from the service that the training participants will provide after they have been trained and made sensitive to the crisis. The medical students who participate in the refugee health training being the immediate target group of the project will increase their professional skills, and they will be encouraged to work within the field of refugee health through local NGOs and public health services.
Performing the social activities we will concentrate on the age group of 10-16 years, as the Youth constitutes the majority of the Palestinian population, precisely among refugees. In the camps there is a lack of facilities and offers especially regarding Trauma management, educational centers, leisure time activities suiting this age group.
Part 1 – Preparation Phase:
At first, 60 medical students (15 Internationals, 45 Locals) will be invited to attend a workshop at the Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, which will provide background information on refugees, children and war, non-violent conflict resolution, current health situation in Palestine in the form of:
Pre-reading material, which will give appropriate information before the beginning of the training. These will include essays and journal articles which will provide a theoretical framework and knowledge base for each topic covered in the working groups. Also included will be case studies, NGO reports and other fieldwork documentation to demonstrate the practical application of the material. Lecturers and NGOs will be asked to suggest relevant materials.
Lectures, that will give the essential information about the issues listed in the educational goals and under topics of training.
Presentation of the survey, followed by round-table discussion, small working groups including case-studies and interactive discussion shall be the various methods employed in these sessions.
After this workshop, 15 international and 15 local students will attend a skill-training program on the local activity in the camp to be enabled to carry out the last phase of the project. This will involve the following:
Intensive course on carrying out expressive therapy in the form of drama, including lectures, role plays and group discussions.
English teaching training program involving an invented way of expression of the children’s experiences.
A field trip to the camp
Part 2 – Action Phase:
This phase constitutes the social activity carried by the 15 international and 15 local medical students in the camp, namely:
Medical training at the local clinics in the morning
Drama activities and English teaching sessions in the afternoons
The program consists of two parts:
A nine-day workshop at the Al-Quds university in Jerusalem, which will focus on the following topics (see below). The lectures and training will be given by BADIL, UNRWA, UPMRC, the Gaza Ce
nter for Mental Health,and a professional English teacher.
Introduction into current issues in Palestine and Israel
Situation of Palestinian refugees
Children and war
Presentation of the results of the survey
Skill-training in psychological programming theory and practice, special psychological situations, expressive therapy in drama, teaching English.
A social activities programm in the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, which will last an additional three weeks:
The mornings will be spend on medical rotations in the local health institutions.
The afternoons, meanwhile, will center around drama activities, as well as English classes for children of the camp aged 10-16.
Be a Medical student at the time of applying preferably should have completed 2 years of medical studies
Ready and able to attend for the full duration of the project
Interested in refugee health and working with children (experience preferred)
Ability to communicate and work in English.
Interest in activities beyond medical boundaries, e.g. drama and English teaching (experience preferred)
Capacity to raise funds for participation independently (coverage in special cases possible).
Health Insurance covering your stay in Israel/Palestine.
The travel expenses will have to depend on the participants’ own fundraising (coverage in special cases might be possible). Costs of accommodation, food, local travel expenses will be covered.
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