Dienstag, 10. Februar 2009

Gaza experience

I am back home in Basel. Sooner as expected and difficult to accept - but still good.

But from the beginning and everything in order - hopefully understandable for you.

On the 28. of January a friend contacted and told me that the Friends of Waldorf Education Rudolf Steiners are going to Gaza and a experience pedagogue isn't joining so they might have a space left in their team. So I called them and asked if I could join. They gave me half an hour to decide. I had to ask the Volkersberg team if it is ok if I am going because I said, that I gone work there at the beginning of February. For them it was a quick decision, they told me that it is important to go there. So I called the Friends and said that I gone come. Just e few minutes after I realized what I just decided - yes I am going to Gaza. A piece of earth I wanted to go long time ago but was to afraid and didn't know how to go and a place were a few days back tons of bombs were falling - thousands lost there beloved ones, lost there houses, basic live and so on, were injured people trying to recover, traumatized children/humans searching for ways how to cope with their experience - I was nervous, didn't know what to think about my decision. But at the end I said to myself - well you decided to go, it must be for some reason!

On the 31.1. I was leaving from Basel to Paris to meet most of our team, doctors, teachers, translators. We flew to Cairo were we spent a night, a huge and interesting city, I would like to spent some more time there to know how life is going. On the 1.2. we left early in the morning going to the German embassy to collect a recommendation letter, that we can enter Gaza. We arrived at the Rafah boarder (between Egypt and Gaza) at around 3pm. It took quite some time, a lot of good will and efforts until we could talk to the major which decided if we can enter or not. Finally after a few hours of discussion we made it at around 7pm to the Palestinian side of the border. We were welcomed by bearded man offering us juice. Fairly easy we got our stamps of the Palestinian Authority, the first one I got into my passport even I have been several times in the Westbank, I felt some how of proud. Until 9pm we made to the Al Quds (Jerusalem) hotel. One of the best places to stay in Gaza and one of the most expensive. I didn't understand why we need to stay there, but later we found out, that all the others were full (of refugees or closed). When we went out to get some food the streets were quite dark and our contact person told us, that most of the area is without electricity because of the denial of fuel entering Gaza which runs the Gaza power plant. Shortly after being back in the hotel, we had a blackout but only a few minutes, until the generator was started. Everyone who can effort a generator has one and runs it with fuel which is coming through the tunnels from Egypt. Approximately 2000 tunnels exist with around 30 people working in such. Most of them stay in the tunnels for a weeks and get sick due to the lack of sunnlight and oxygen.

The next day, 1.2. a small group of us is going to the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP) to organize our work. The rest of the group went around Gaza city for a while to get a first impression of the people and the destruction. Shortly after we were welcomed by Mahmoud Abu Aisha at the GCMHP which tolled us his own story, have a look at Dalal - the only survivor in her own family, than we all met with Dr. Ahmad Tawahina to discuss our work. It was clear in the whole program based on Antroposophie that we gone work first with children and than see what else need to be done. So we were looking for schools which needed some kind of support.
We split up into two groups, one going north to the heavily destroyed Al Atara region and another one south close to Khan Younis and the former settlement of Gush Katif. I was in the later.

At around 1:30pm we arrived at the Eid Al Agha school to work with some 8 and 12 years old girls. It was the first challenge for me, how do I interact with the girls, are they going to accept me as a foreign man? They heartbreakingly did! We were assisted by two people from the Quattan Centre which are doing great work. At the beginning I thought. why are we here? They are doing the best work for the kids, they don't need us. But after the session we got to know them better and they tolled us, we are traumatized ourself, we need your support as well. But we can't show our weakness in front of the children, they need us more than ever so we cant show our trauma. But you know about us, so we don't need to hide.
What we did? Some games mainly, jumping, clapping, throwing a ball, rope skipping, some "German" lesson. We were a little overwhelmed because we got the group from one minute to the other and especially me, having no experience in working with traumatized children, busy with my own to cope with the whole situation ... but at the end all of them seemed to be pretty happy. And I said before I left to Gaza, I am not psychologist, I know how to play and get a smile on children's faces, that's what I can do - and that's what I saw at the children's faces. (I will post some pics as soon as I have them, my bag got stuck at Paris airport yesterday).
With the second group (12 years) I did some stampers around the circle. For me it seemed to be pretty easy but for them them it was rather difficult. The task was to send the stamper from left to right through the circle but most of them mixed up right and left. For me it seemed to be some kind of disconnection between the two sides of the brain and the physical body. I did experience this phenomenon quite a few times. And it wasn't just the stampers which seemed to be somehow disturbed but as well the sight how some children looked at me. I had the feeling that they were physically present but mentally somewhere else between their experience and their feelings, they were looking through me.

So far for now. For those of you who cant wait to read more anniealina a friend and colleague who was with us or a press release from the NNA

More is there tomorrow.

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