Summer camps support wellbeing of young Palestinians in East Jerusalem

Palestinians growing up in occupied East Jerusalem have suffered from decades of systematic discrimination, forced displacement, violence, neglect and exclusion from society. The lack of safe places for young Palestinians to learn, play, and unwind has a severe impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

As highlighted by a 2021 study by the Saraya Centre, one of Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)’s partners, many children living in the Old City of East Jerusalem experience various symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder such as: anxiety, behavioural problems, attention deficit, sleeping disorders and functional impairment.

Responding to these needs, the Saraya Centre organised a series of summer camps between June and August for children living in the tense and insecure environment of East Jerusalem’s Old City.

Young people participated in a range of creative and educational activities including arts and crafts, and developing life and employability skills. 

Fifteen-year-old Menna has been coming to the Saraya Centre for the last five years. “I love coming to the centre. I never regret signing up to any of their courses as there is always something new to learn,” she said. “I really enjoyed the summer camps as they helped me explore different career options and I was very happy to be able to visit different Palestinian universities.”

Yacoub, 17, also joined the summer camp. “The activities we learn here are both entertaining and educational. We do simple activities that we learn so many important things from, sometimes without even realising,” he said.

Palestinian residents in the Old City face the persistent risk of being forcibly displaced from their homes and are constantly subjected to the threat of being harassed and arrested by Israeli soldiers. Menna and Yacoub are exposed to this violence on a daily basis, whether on their way to school, to the Saraya Centre or to visit relatives.

“Most of the difficulties I face are due to the presence of Israeli forces in East Jerusalem. One day, when I was on my way to the summer camp, Israeli forces closed Damascus Gate under the pretext of security, which meant I arrived late,” said Menna. “But we have got used to all of the challenges here.”

“You can be relaxing at home and then suddenly Israeli forces storm into your house to search it.”

Violence by Israeli forces is also a fear that Yacoub experiences regularly. “There are a lot of challenges living here. You can be relaxing at home and then suddenly Israeli forces storm into your house to search it,” he said. “But we are all one family in this community.”

The Saraya Centre aims to provide a safe space for Palestinians living in this hostile environment and has provided essential mental health and psychosocial support to young people and women for more than 30 years.

The vital activities that the centre organises, like the summer camps, are also helping to create the next generation of Palestinians who are empowered to play a positive role to support their community. “I really hope to come back to the Saraya Centre as a volunteer or a leader, so I can help to organise future summer camps and activities that I had the chance to participate in,” said Menna.

MAP has been supporting the Saraya Centre to provide psychosocial support services and empowerment activities for Palestinian youth for more than ten years. The aim of the Saraya Centre is to build a safe place for Palestinian children, youth, and their parents.

Amid tensions and escalating violence, the centre delivers life skills sessions for young people and children on topics related to identity, rights and responsibilities, leadership, expression and on dealing with peers. By increasing young peoples’ confidence and resilience, the Saraya Centre helps them become more effective positive agents for change in their communities.

Please consider making a donation to help MAP and our partners continue to provide essential mental health and psychological support to Palestinian women and children.


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