Gaza: Trauma Therapy Brings Life Back to Children

Children play the “Parachute Game” to work through war trauma. IOCC plans to open a summer camp in Gaza that will provide therapeutic and recreational activities for about 200 children recovering from the recent armed conflict. (photo credit: Steve Weaver, CWS-ACT International)

Gaza City (June 2, 2009) — In the courtyard of Halima Alsadia School in Gaza City, a group of girls play the ‘Parachute Game’. A social worker guides the girls through a process of remembering painful memories and happy memories. The girls put the painful memories, written on pieces of paper, in the center of a parachute. Then, each taking an edge of the fabric, they scatter the bad memories by shaking the parachute. It looks like a children’s game, but it is part of a concerted effort to provide psychological as well as material assistance to Gaza residents who endured last January’s 22-day air, ground, and sea assault.

“During the war, we were assisting people with food,” says a humanitarian worker. ‘People said ‘thank you for the food, but how do I get my child to stop crying?’” When asked what issues the children are dealing with, a clinic supervisor, Asma Abuhassan, responds, “Fear of noises, of being alone, of the dark. Lack of concentration – and us too,” she adds with a laugh.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has been providing blankets, food, and hygiene kits to thousands of families who were affected by the conflict. This summer, IOCC plans to open a summer camp in partnership with the Orthodox Church in Gaza and fellow Action by Churches Together (ACT) International-member, East Jerusalem YMCA. The camp will focus on psychosocial therapy and recreational activities for about 200 children aged 8 – 15. IOCC is also planning to reach an additional 2,000 children and youth through other forms of activities including school-based interventions.

Your gift to IOCC will help us speed more assistance to children in Gaza.

In an upstairs classroom, a fourth grade class watches a puppet show in which the puppets talk about being afraid at night. Samar, a sixth grade student at the school explains the importance of these school activities. “We passed through a lot of pain, fear, and sadness. During the war we couldn’t do what we wanted. It was like being in a prison. We had no control of our day to day lives. These activities provide relief, little by little.”

The principal at Halima Alsadia School, Naheel Hashish, says, “After the war, the children weren’t active. They wanted to be alone. Now they are talking and playing and sharing. I hope the program can continue.”*

Help IOCC speed relief to families who have been caught in this conflict. Visit, call IOCC toll free at 1-877-803-4622, or mail a check or money order payable to “IOCC” and write “Middle East Relief” in the memo line to: IOCC, P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, Md. 21297-0429.

IOCC, founded in 1992 as the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), has implemented over $300 million in relief and development programs in more than 33 countries around the world.

*Excerpted from an article by Steve Weaver for Action by Churches Together (ACT) International. IOCC is a member of ACT, a global alliance of churches and related agencies responding to emergencies worldwide.