When it is necessary to reteach children how to live like children
Israel is a country of hi-tech, falafel, beaches and …. children in the south traumatized by permanent danger. This reality is discussed when rockets are falling or when a tunnel dug by terrorists is discovered but, once the silence returns, quickly forgotten. For 12 years, the Sderot-Boston project, run by the “Help for residents of Sderot and Gaza border”, eases the daily routine of these children. Here is a snapshot of this vital program, which is supported by the FJSU:
“Even when it is calm, the children live with a fear embedded deep inside them,” explains Sveta Chitrit. This young woman, 37 years old, arrived in Sderot from Belarus at the age of 15. “Then, immigrants could buy apartments at bargain-basement prices. I and my mother moved there.” Starting in 1996, Sderot became the target of systematic attacks by Hamas. The rockets rain down. The population lives in terror, with the children the first to be affected. Sveta, after acquiring her BA in Public Institution Management, decided to act. In 2008, she created an association whose purpose is to allow children to escape the infernal rhythm of sirens warning of rockets coming and the run to the shelter. In the beginning, thanks to contributions from the Boston community, we sent some twenty children to the United States for two weeks. We quickly released that it was extremely expensive. We thus decided to organized summer camps in neighboring cities. The project expanded very quickly. We created a day center to take in children after school from 4 pm to 8 pm. Provided with tutoring, arts and crafts or just simple physical presence, more than 250 children have benefited from the framework set up by Sveta Chitrit since then. The Boston-Sderot project has become an island of peace for the children and adolescents subject to constant tension. “Once the calm (always relative) returns, we must deal the post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms that are so deeply rooted. The Israeli cities and villages that surround the Gaza Strip are never completely relaxed. You have to live with this reality,” explains the director. This explains the need to organize summer camps that are different from the standard ones. On the program you can find the relearning of community life with the corollary of mandatory absence of cell phones and other screens that block sociability. “We emphasize group activities in order to promote the creation of ties between the youth as well as the discovery of their own personalities and talents.” Physical, theatre and artistic activities take up most of the time and contribute to the process of revealing countless unknown qualities. Tongues loosen. They speak of anxieties and deep fears. “Today, thanks to the Iron Dome system intercepting missiles, the children have less fear of explosions than before. However, they are terribly frightened of terrorist incursions into their houses via tunnels. Our teams are trained to manage this stress.”
Our teams know how alleviate the fears that certain (older) children express in wetting their bed, for example….” We have also set limits to all activities involving games with inflatable balloons after the panic crises triggered by the balloons exploding,” explains the director, noting that certain activities aim to teach the children to breath in order not to vomit or strangle during an anxiety attack.
“Above all, these summer camps aim to reteach children how to live like children.” For two weeks, their routine does not include emailing frightening information, the noise of fighter planes or explosions. Of course, this costs money. Thanks to the help provided by FJSU Israel, this year 80 children will be able to enjoy this break, which is more necessary than ever. “Of course, they find it a great comfort that families in France are thinking of them and worrying about their welfare,” adds Sveta.
We would like to say that solidarity is exactly that, precisely what FJSU specializes in, but she already understood…