Mohammad

Mohammad“I want to be a teacher. I love school, learning many new things, and teaching”. Here is Mohammad Rizeq, a 5 year old boy at the Hope Flowers Kindergarten.

When he first came to the kindergarten, he was very aggressive and Abeer, his teacher, noticed also that he had problems with his eyesight. The poverty of his family situation was reflected in his torn clothing and the fact that he never brought food for lunch. His parents had a hard time keeping up with the troubles of daily life, and at home Mohammad did not get the attention he needed.

Mohammad used to escape from the Kindergarten to the house of his grandparents, which is just next to the kindergarten. “I love my grandmother, she loves me and I love her the most. She gives me food, and allows me to play”, Mohammad said.

Mohammad’s eye was injured the year before, and he needed to wear glasses. The parents did not want to afford that. His bad eyesight made Mohammad more insecure and added to his problematic behaviour. Teachers and social workers from Hope Flowers initiated several meetings with Mohammad’s parents to discuss the situation and support them in bringing about changes. One year later, things have improved – Mohammad now has glasses, regularly brings food and his clothes look much better, too.

But most importantly, his aggression and unease have subsided and he feels a lot better. No wonder he, too, wants to be a teacher now.

Amera

amera“I wish to go to the medical school in the future and be a doctor”, says Amera Mohammad Salah, a 12 year old girl in 6th grade of the Hope Flowers School.

Amera is not an ordinary pupil: she was born with a gap in her spine which dislocated her left hip. For this reason, her childhood years were very different from the other kids in her surrounding. She was never able to walk normally.

Hope Flowers School offers special boarding facilities for disabled children like Amera, who cannot walk on their own or use public transportation to get to school. It is the school’s vision that every person with or without disabilities should have equal opportunities and should get the support that is needed to fully participate in society.

Amera’s disability did not stop her from trying to play along with the other kids as best she could. She loves football and tennis, and she wishes that Hope Flowers will one day be able to provide sports facilities for the students. “It bothers me when I see other kids walk normally while I cannot walk like them. Sometime I become annoyed because of my situation. I become sad when I see my friends and how they can walk. But I will succeed in school and be a doctor, and will be happy”.

Amera’s family, though suffering from the economic difficulties like so many families in al-Khader, is currently trying to arrange for surgery that they hope will improve her walking ability.

“Amera is a dedicated student and determined to achieve her ambition and goals in life”, her teacher Mona says. It is through the constant encouragement from her teachers and her own strong personality that Amera will no doubt get there one day.

Experts in trauma hantering

“We’re now bringing our expertise to the South-Hebron region, and we’re supported in this by the Ministry of Education of the Palestinian Authority. Also, the German Foreign Ministry has provided a grant to our trauma handling programme, in recognition of the vital importance of what we’re doing”.

A group of about 20 men and women, all of them teachers at various schools, have come together the week before Christmas in one of the meeting rooms of the Hope Flowers Community Center for the last part of a training programme that has been running since the start of the school year. The session is led by Mahmoud who is in charge of the Hope Flowers trauma handling programme. Over the past 20 years, Hope Flowers School have developed a unique expertise in helping teachers to handle the problematic behaviours and learning difficulties of children who are impacted by violence, either as witnesses or as direct victims.

The late Hussein Issa, founder of Hope Flowers, had the motto: “all violence comes from an unhealed wound”. Hope Flowers is built on this simple recognition, and it is the basic principle for the educational curriculum. The trauma handling programme is therefore at the core of it’s philosophy, and it is a very important recognition of Hope Flowers’ achievements that their expertise is now being extended to other areas of the West Bank.

The teachers from the South-Hebron area who participated in the programme are all without exception enthusiastic about what they learn. “This is an approach that taught me that I first have to face my own traumas before I can help my pupils”. “This programme has given me very practical advice on how to handle difficult and aggressive behaviour of children”. “Now I no longer think that a child is lazy if they cannot come along quickly enough, but I am able to recognize the fear and hurt that causes such problems”. “In this programme I have learned how I can help children to express themselves when I see that they are too quiet and don’t interact with their peers”.

We’am

weam

“I want to be a painter, and I want to earn money as much as I can to help my father, mother, and brothers”.

That is the wish of We’am al-Masalmeh, a 12-year-old introverted, sensitive, witty and talented pupil in the 6th grade. She lives with her parents, 2 brothers and 2 sisters in a small house with only 2 rooms in the al-Azzeh refugee camp, a few kilometers north of Bethlehem. The family is very poor.

We’am had great difficulty with reading and writing. She had low self-esteem, was very shy and did not socialize at all. She was absent minded all the time. After an assessment by the school psychologist, she was enrolled in the learning disabilities sections, where there is more individual attention as the groups are much smaller. One of the approaches that Hope Flowers uses, is to stimulate creativity and self-expression so as to boost the self confidence. We’am soon started improving, and by now she can come along in reading and writing. Her ability to concentrate has improved.

“Now, We’am knows how to write, read, and she paints very beautiful. She is talented, but she needs someone to encourage her to be creative”, her teacher Monfa said. “We’am started to get high grades, and besides, she started doing sports exercises and she enjoys doing this. When she first came to the school, she did not like sport at all.”

We’am says she feels very happy in the school; she likes all the classes. She loves her teachers, and she is encouraging her cousins to also enroll at Hope Flowers School.

Nourhan

nourhan“I have changed and improved a lot since I enrolled in the Hope Flowers School. I am so happy with the students and now I have so many friends”.

This is the story of Nourhan Hassan Masalmeh; she is a 12-year pupil who started at Hope Flowers School just one year ago. Her family lives in the al-Doha village, where Nourhan did not get much attention at home, with both of her parents working and 1 sister and 5 brothers to be taken care of.

Nourhan had serious learning disabilities, and this also isolated her from her age group, as she was treated as retarded.

First of all, the staff at Hope Flowers made an assessment of her situation. There were several learning problems together complicating her situation, and so they created a personalized pedagogical and social treatment plan for Nourhan, involving also the use of technology (e.g. specific software programs used to tackle speech difficulties).

Step by step over the next months, Nourhan improved as she was responding positively to the plan that was put together by the school.

“Nourhan depends a lot on learning through computers; our new computer center has highly helped her to learn in a fast way and to better concentrate”, says her teacher Fatin.

After one year at the school, Nourhan is now able to come along very well in reading, writing and learning in general. When she came to Hope Flowers she was very introverted, but now she has started socializing with the other pupils and she has made soms friends.

Moreover, her self-esteem has grown and consequently her personality got stronger – which is a very promising sign toward her future.