One of the students during the “Peace with Japan Art Contest” at the Gaza Training Centre presenting his drawing © 2019 UNRWA Photo
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said Palestinian children in the blockaded Gaza Strip live in extremely difficult conditions that strip them of childhood joy.
“Children in Gaza often grow up in very bleak conditions, frequently surrounded by poverty and violence, and face particular challenges when it comes to enjoying basic human rights including freedom of movement”, said UNRWA in a Wednesday statement posted on its official website.
“However, they have much potential, dreams and want a future, like every other child in the world”, the statement further read.
The statement was released shortly after 10 students from UNRWA elementary and preparatory schools in Gaza participated in the “Peace with Japan Art Contest,” co-organized by UNRWA and Takeda High School in Hiroshima, Japan.
Takeda High School started communicating with UNRWA students in Gaza following their expression of solidarity with Japan through annual kite-flying events in commemoration of the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Four UNRWA teachers who had travelled to Japan in March 2019 at the invitation of the Japanese Government to participate in a special “peace education” workshop, led the activities in UNRWA schools, including overseeing the drawing contest and facilitating a presentation by students from Takeda High School about the Peace Forum in Hiroshima. The selected drawings will be presented in exhibitions in Japan.
Stressing the critical need for Gaza students and teachers to understand and connect with the world beyond Gaza, the UN refugee agency said: “Therefore, the agency always seeks opportunities through which Palestine refugee students can connect and share ideas with their peers and others outside Gaza.”
“This is an opportunity for our students in Gaza to show their solidarity with people around the globe, to express their perspective towards peace and its importance for children,” said Azza Sheikh Ahmed, the UNRWA Education Program’s Art Supervisor.
“This is a new experience for me that allows to share information with other students from the world,” said Mariam Al Najjar, one of the participants from Bani Suhaila Preparatory Girls’ School. “My message to the world is that despite all the challenges surrounding our life, we grasp chances for joy! These moments inspire us and give us more hope and determination,” she added.
The Government of Japan is a dedicated donor to UNRWA, having supported the Agency since 1953. The Government of Japan is the 8th largest contributor to the Agency so far in 2019, playing a critical role at a time of severe financial challenges.