Thursday, November 26, 2020

The poet crowd-funding to raise the voices of gifted young Gazans

By Matt Matthews - October 04, 2016
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Gaza] [Gaza Blockade] [Operation Protective Edge] [Education]

Voice of Gaza, a “tuition-fee free educational centre for gifted young writers” in the besieged Strip, is crowdsourcing donations to expand its 18-month old operation.

The volunteer-staffed project aims to provide a “safe and positive environment” for male and female students to hone their English-language skills, so they can “explore and nourish their creative and artistic side through music, poetry, and the arts”.

Spearheaded by poet and teacher Abedalrahman Elderawi, Voice of Gaza (VoG) has been running on a shoestring since its launch.

Through a crowdfunding campaign on the website LaunchGood, VoG is now seeking $5000 to kit out new premises in Gaza City.

With laptops, projector screens and proper furniture, Abdelarahman says VoG will be able to accommodate many more pupils.

The project was instigated to help local youth traumatised by Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in 2014. in which 551 Gazan children were killed and around 3500 injured.

“They are suffering but they can’t speak,” Abdelarahman told Palestine Monitor. “I can see this in the eyes of the children I teach: they don’t have the chance to show their ability, or achieve psychological release.” Up till now, VoG has focused solely on English-language tuition. But the organization is now expanding, developing programmes across the arts and equipping children to carry out voluntary work in the community.

One student who has already benefited from VoG tuition is Dina. Writing in support of the campaign, the teenager explained how VoG teachers had helped her make the leap from basic, conversational English to creative expression.

She said: “The best thing is that I learned how to write stories, where I am able to express myself fluently and freely without any problems.”

In the past year, VoG students have written creatively on subjects such as the biographies of iconic feminists, the selfie and their hopes for the future.

But there are many talented young writers whose voices are still being silenced by the occupation.

“The siege of Gaza stops children being heard,” Abdelarahman said. With unemployment rampant in the Strip, he explained, parents cannot afford to educate their children. Similarly, Israeli restrictions on Gazan bank accounts have made fundraising prohibitively difficult for VoG.

And with most Gazan children unable to leave the besieged Strip, it is difficult for them to communicate their suffering to the wider world. VoG has “many talented students who dream of seeing the world,” Abdelarahman said, “but there is no way for them to leave.”

“But you know,” he continued, “the pressure always makes people show the beautiful side of their lives. Despite their pain, they’re very gifted.”

Abdelarahman himself started writing poetry after graduating as an English teacher from the Islamic University, and describes the act of artistic creation as a compulsion.

“I found myself taking a pen and writing about Gaza and the people suffering here – and also about hope,” he said. “I was writing for people to see and feel and taste the pain we are under.”

“I also write romantic poetry,” he added with a laugh, “not just about war.”

Abdelarahaman hopes his crowd-funding campaign will enable many more students to experience the same thrill, bringing seldom-heard Palestinian voices to the world while achieving cathartic release.

In his poem Gaza Mystery, he challenges the reader to “touch my wreckage/live under my rubble/imbibe my air.” Though most international sympathizers are unable to physically visit the Strip, through VoG’s campaign they can support young writers who breathe its air every day.

The Voice of Gaza crowd-funding campaign, which runs until October 19, can be found here.



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