Shoruq Organization Hosts 6th Annual Summer Camp

Shoruq Organization yesterday wrapped up their five-day intensive summer camp, affectionately named Farah o Marah, Joy and Fun. From June 24 to June 28, ninety children aged six to Twelve from across Dheisheh refugee camp participated in the summer camp’s fun, active, and educational programming. 

The summer camp kicked off with a series of cultural and educational activities. Nine-year-old Amer Hajajra says this first day was the most educational, wherein “we learned about our own towns and how to find them on a map.” The children of Dheisheh, whose families became refugees during the 1948 Nakba exodus, were taught about their original towns and villages. Through activities, the kids learned the names, geography, and history of the places they come from. While often programming directed at refugees seeks to erase their past and accustom them to their current living situation, Shoruq’s vision is of Palestinian refugees striving to attain and exercise their full range of rights, including the right of return. In educating young people about their family histories, the movement for the right of return remains alive in the next generation. 

The second day was the first of three field trips, this time to Murad Resort in Beit Sahour, where the ninety children had an opportunity to swim in outdoor pools surrounded by the area’s rolling hills and pine, olive, and palm trees. There are no pools in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, where over 13,000 people live on less than one square kilometre of land. Though many of Dheisheh’s inhabitants originate from the Mediterranean coastal regions that were occupied in 1948, for many of the participating kids, this was their first swimming experience. Cousins Yara and Ismaa Odeh, aged eleven and fourteen respectively, agreed that swimming was their favourite part of the summer camp. But when asked what they were taking away at the end of the five days, Yara said, “we learned how to treat each other respectfully and how to get along with each other” adding, “and we made a lot of new friends!” 

On the third day of the camp, Shoruq took the ninety children to Burak Suleiman, also known as Solomon Pools. These three ancient reservoirs, just southwest of Bethlehem, are from the Roman and Othman periods and are located in a midst of a natural heritage forest. The camp held a series of physically-active games and competitions with the participating children in this remarkable outdoor park. An arts facilitator also joined the group to lead a music workshop that included body percussion and rap lessons. Seventeen-year-old Fatoom Shahin was one of the volunteers helping make "Farah Wa Marah" possible. She says that going to Solomon Pools was the happiest she’s ever seen the kids. “I volunteer because when I see that the kids are happy, I’m happy. And the activities are nice not just for children, but for anyone. I also used to attend Shoruq’s summer camps when I was younger, and now I get the chance to give back.” 

The fourth day of activities marked the final field trip and the second day of swimming. The ninety summer camp participants were packed onto busses that headed to the picturesque village of Battir, just west of Bethlehem. At Battir Swimming Resort, the kids rushed the large outdoor swimming pool overlooking Battir’s lush valleys. Nine-year-old Nitaj Isghary confirmed that the day was a success. “We had a lot of fun and swimming was my favourite activity. I came everyday with my siblings, I hope every year of the summer camp will be as good as this year.” 

On the fifth and final day, Khalid Masou, the famous children’s entertainer from Inad Theatre joined Shoruq to put on a play for a crowded room of excited kids. His musical plays, designed with his decades of experience, combined humour and song with educational messages about healthy eating, safety, and respecting one another. A volunteer also joined to give the camp participants a lesson in healthy eating and lifestyle habits. The camp wrapped up with the screening of a short video produced by Shoruq that covered the summer camp that year. Put together in time to be watched by the full group on the final day of the summer camp, the video showed clips of the activity-packed four days preceding, and the kids got a chance to see themselves on screen. 

Overall, kids and facilitators alike agree that the summer camp was a major success. Each year, registration fills up almost immediately, as the demand for accessible children’s activities is high. Today, more than 40% of Dheisheh Refugee Camp’s population are under 18 years old. The children have no playground, sports fields, or other open spaces to play safely within the camp. Programs like Shoruq’s Farah o Marah Summer Camp provide an essential opportunity for Dheisheh’s children.

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