Osama Finds His Voice
Ms. Ahlam, a 36-year-old woman, know very well the children of her community near Jenin in the West Bank. As a community volunteer, she often participates in activities with them at the local school. It was during these visits that she noticed Osama, an 11-year-old boy registered with World Vision. Something immediately struck her about him. "Children in the community are almost always in groups. Even when they go to school or return home, they are in groups, playing and arguing. But Osama was different. He was always alone, at school or walking home," Ahlam says. She could see that he was a very shy child who did not participate in any activities with other children and seemed to have no friends.
Concerned about the child, she began inquiring about him. Due to his shyness, he had been frequently bullied by other children at school. But it was a particular incident that truly broke her heart. One day, she heard that his classmates had locked him in the school toilets, where he remained for hours until the school cleaner finally found him. "It is heartbreaking to think that he was there, alone, for hours, and nobody noticed his absence," Ahlam says.
Shocked by what she had just learned, she knew what she had to do. She had recently received training and certification from World Vision to facilitate a new initiative called the Makani Club. Launched in 138 villages in the West Bank, these after-school clubs for children aged six to fourteen support the education of young children and encourage their development, all with the goal of improving their well-being. Additionally, these clubs provide psycho-social support to help children deal with stress and trauma, and include sessions on child rights, protection against abuse, and more. "The clubs follow an international curriculum called 'Lions Quest,' which helps children build confidence. It also aims to help them develop empathy and respect for others. Through the club, children work together to learn and put these values into practice. This is exactly what was needed here" Ahlam says.
She visited Osama and his family as soon as she could to introduce the local club. At first, he was reluctant to join, but encouraged by Ahlam, he agreed to give it a chance. The following month, along with 2,600 children from his village, he attended his first session of the Makani club.
The initial sessions were challenging for Osama, who was still very shy and vulnerable. However, he persevered, and with Ahlam's support, he continued attending the club. Finally, after a couple of months, she began noticing some changes. Osama became more confident and started making new friends. "Nothing make me happier than seeing Osama playing with other children during the breaks when I visit the school. He has also become an active participant in the Makani club." With increased confidence, children stopped picking on him at school, and he was able to assert himself both at school and with his family. "Now you can hear Osama's voice at home!" says Shrouq, his 13-year-old sister.