On June 19, I arrived on my first visit to East Jerusalem. I started the mission with a morning briefing with United Nations OCHA before I begin my visit to UNRWA’s school and summer camps.
Afterward, I went to the Shufat Girls’ School. The school is run by UNRWA and there I had the opportunity to meet the Student Parliamentarians. These inspiring young women leaders are elected by their peers as student parliamentarians to represent their voices but also to lead on community projects. Not only did they share their story and showed me their classrooms, but they also pointed out the challenges that affect their education.
Lack of continuity of teachers, maintenance of school buildings, and recreational spaces are only some of the few things that these young people have to face. Without adequate funding, it will be difficult to ensure that these young women have a chance to continue their education.
I also joined the UNRWA Summer Camp in Ramallah when I visited the West Bank. Here, young men & women from the age of 18-24 years old can develop their leadership skills and connect with other young Palestine Refugees.
During this mission, I also had the opportunity to visit Gaza. I first visited a school that is run by UNRWA. It was noticeable that underfunding has overstretched the education system. UNRWA’s schools in Gaza operate on a 2-shift basis, hosting one group of students in the morning & a different group in the afternoon. On my visit to the school, I met Kareem, Deema and their friends. They shared with me that school is their best and only hope for a better future. Sadly, they fear missing out on education due to funding cuts to UNRWA.
I also met UNRWA Student Parliamentarians during my visit to the Gaza Strip. Not only that they told me about their dreams of becoming doctors, engineers, diplomats, and teachers, they also shared with me the challenges they constantly have to face. They told me about how electricity cuts are affecting their studies, how difficult it is to travel outside of Gaza for studies. They also shared about the increasing mental health issues among their peers and rising domestic violence. Regardless of the dire circumstances, they continue to dream, and they don’t give up.
Then I got the opportunity to meet the beneficiaries of Vocational Training and Microfinance Programs. The quality and outcomes of these programs were exceptional. Today, the youth Unemployment In the Gaza Strip is ~68% and with more support, UNRWA can scale up these initiatives and reach more unemployed young people.
Finally, I met with Gaza Sky Geeks, (the world’s toughest coders!). What we always see on the news about Gaza is conflict, violence, and destruction; but young people are resilient. The Gaza Sky Geeks an example as to how young people use technology to create and innovate even in the midst of dire humanitarian conditions.
Every young person deserves lives of dignity. Gaza’s problems need long term solutions, but the International Community has a collective responsibility towards these young people. Though my mission has ended, I’ll ensure to keep advocating for the rights of all young people, no matter who they are, where they are leaving no one behind.
I believe that every child and young person should have access to school and quality education, do you? You can the young people in Gaza to ensure that their school will stay open by donating #ForPalestineRefugees through this link: bit.ly/1YroxwK.