Tag Archives: children

Human Rights Are For Children

human rights are for children Human Rights Are For Children is a picture book of stories for children about children. I have the privilege to cross paths with many children and youth in the work that I do. My question is, how can I share with them some of the stories of children who have to cross a military checkpoint to get to school everyday? How can I talk about Israeli youth who don’t want to do military service even though it is obligatory for them? As I continue to do advocacy work on human rights issues and raise awareness about the situations in Israel/Palestine I notice my impatience working with adults who claim “it’s all too complicated” or “there will always be fighting and conflict over there.” I have found that a good entry point for people to understand the military occupation is to share some of the everyday realities for many Palestinian children. They live under abnormal circumstances and their testimonies can enable people to wake up to the unfairness of the occupation.

I have also learned in justice related work that it is important to be able to talk about complex topics in accessible ways. I remember one time when I was having dinner with a former colleague of mine and she asked if I would explain to her children (in middle school) what I was doing with EAPPI in the Westbank. It was a challenge. What is an age appropriate way to talk about some of these issues? Of course the most powerful narrative is a personal one – the stories of other children their same age and what they might have to go through on a typical day.  It is important to point out commonalities and our shared humanity with people who might seem so far away or different from us (i.e. children in Jayyous like to play soccer too). At the same time as uplifting the human side of the story, it is important to show how abnormal the military occupation is and what it does to Palestinian and Israeli young people.

I have become increasingly passionate about the issue of children’s rights after visiting with Palestinian families whose children were arrested and detained by Israeli military without any charges laid, without accompaniment of a parent, adult or lawyer. I have started to educate myself more on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I am realizing that all children everywhere need a human rights education. For children here who I hope to share this book with, the aim will be to get them interested in human rights and to encourage them to learn and ask questions. I want them to know that they have a lot of power to speak out and act for peace and justice!

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At the girl’s elementary school the students like to study lots of subjects. Here they are presenting a song. Sometimes the students get to study outside under the palm trees with their teacher.

Here some boys who are five and six years old walked to the separation barrier after school but the gate was locked. They didn’t know how to get back home. The bus driver came and took them home by driving a long way around on a different road.

These boys live in a Bedouin village called Arab ar Ramadin in the “seam zone.” The community was not allowed to build their own school. The parents did not want to send their children to the Habla school where they have to be checked by soldiers at the gate everyday. The children were scared.

The community decided to make classrooms out of tents for the children. The children love their new tent school!

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This boy lives in the “seam zone” and has to go through the checkpoint everyday to go to high school. Everyday the soldiers ask to look at his permit at the checkpoint when he goes back home.

This is his high school in Azzun Atma. In the 1980s a group of Israeli settlers decided to build houses and make a neighbourhood above the high school. This is something that they are not allowed to do outside of their country. Sometimes the settlers open the sewage pipes and all the water and waste from their toilets goes down to the schoolyard. When this happens, the students aren’t allowed to go outside or play basketball.

In Israel, some school children have problems too. In a town called Sderot, the people live beside Gaza. The people of Gaza are closed inside a small area by a very tall wall and are not allowed to leave unless they have a permit. The people in Gaza want to be free and some people fight by launching rockets into Israel. Sderot is a town that is affected by these rockets. They have many bomb shelters there including one at this Kindergarten. If the children and teachers hear the siren, it means they have to go to the shelter right away so they will be safe. Some people in Sderot are working with their neighbours in Gaza for peace.

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There are many young people in Israel who are working for peace. They want a good life and want Palestinian people to have a good life too. This girl came with her parents from Israel to visit her friend Naim and his family in Jayyous (Westbank). They helped during the olive harvest. Every young person in Israel has to join the military when they are finished high school. Many young Israelis don’t want to join the military.

You can view more of the book here (unfortunately the text is pretty small to be read in this format) http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=0AZOG7ho5ct2zuI

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For more information please refer to: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF, Defence for Children International, “Palestine Through My Eyes” exhibition of children’s photographs organized by Medecins du Monde, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, The Other Voice (Sderot), New Profile and Breaking The Silence. (photos by N.Maxson, J. Moller, K. Cargin)

The views contained herein are personal to me and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Church, my employer, EAPPI or the WCC. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact me for permission. Thank you.

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The diving lesson

It was Saturday afternoon and I was doing laps in the pool. There weren’t many people around. It was calm and I was selfishly glad to have the “slow” lane all to myself.

clip_image001(1)“Excuse me?” said a voice.

I looked up and saw a boy leaning towards me from the edge of the pool at the end of my lane.

“Yes,” I said.

“Do you know how to do a back flip off the diving board?” the boy asked.

“No,” I said almost laughing.

Then I recognized him. He had been with a group of other boys five minutes earlier who were all doing tricks, flips and fancy dives off one of the regular sized diving boards.

“Um, but you’re a professional swimmer right?” he said absolutely sure of himself.

I had to chuckle. I am the last thing that comes to my mind when I think of a professional swimmer. I don’t wear a swimming cap, goggles or a particularly sporty looking bathing suit. And I was swimming with a flutter board for goodness sakes!

“No, I’m just a hobbyist,” I explained.

Then I realized he might not know what “hobbyist” means. He looked about nine years old.

“Oh, so swimming is just your hobby?” he queried.

I said, “That’s right” (clever, he understood what “hobbyist” means).

“Well do you know how to do dives?” he continued.

“Um, well actually, no.” I had to think for a while. When was the last time I dove into water? Probably when I was a kid. I wasn’t sure I remembered how.

“Oh, well I can teach you if you want,” he persisted.

I hesitated. I didn’t really want to get out of the water. I was on a roll with the laps. I came here to get fit not really to have fun. Though there was that one time I went down the waterslide. I felt kind of silly – a grown woman at the pool on her own going down the slide. And I never go into the shallow pool (which looks like a lot of fun) except that one time my youngest sister was in town (and she threw a ball in my face). There seems to be an unspoken rule, or maybe it’s just in my mind, that the shallow pool is only for children or adults with children.

“Okay,” I said finally, pulling myself out of the water.

He taught me how to do a regular dive, a sideways dive and a squat-down-like-a-duck-dive. He explained how each one was done step by step and then demonstrated them for me.

“Okay, now I’ll try and you let me know how it looks afterwards,” I said hoping I wasn’t about to break my neck or fall flat on my belly.

Arms pointed, aim, lean, I’m leaning, I’m falling, falling, FALLING, no… I’m diving, toes together. SPLASH!

When I resurfaced, I heard my personal coach cheering me on:

“Wow that was really good. Doesn’t it feel good to learn something new?”

“Yes, it does,” I said smiling.

“Now what about this, just hop up a bit when you leave the ground and dive in,” he said encouragingly.

I started to try and do it but it felt awkward and scary. Like the first time ever trying to do a cartwheel.

“I can’t do it. I feel scared,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I won’t make fun of you.”

“I think I’ll just work on my regular dive,” I said decidedly.

I dove in again and asked him how it looked as I pulled myself out of the water. It felt more like a belly flop.

“It looked good. Eight out of ten!” he said enthusiastically.

“Well, I need to get going,” I said realizing twenty minutes had already passed since the diving lesson began.

“Are you sure? I have a lot more to teach you,” he sounded disappointed.

He seemed kind of lonely and just wanted someone to hang out with. I felt bad and also empathized with his loneliness.

“I’m sure you do. I really do need to go though. I have an appointment in half an hour. But thanks for everything.”

“My name is Ethan,” he said while extending his hand towards me.

“Nice to meet you Ethan. I’m Natalie. Thanks for teaching me how to dive today,” I said while shaking his hand pruned up from the water.

I left the pool quite amazed. Did that really just happen. Did a young boy just randomly teach me how to dive? I am someone who feels claustrophobic when I attempt to do the forward crawl and am too shy to practice it in the public pool. Diving…I feel like I conquered a small fear I didn’t even know I had until invited to try something new and go beyond my regular routine and comfort zone. I was reminded that no one is too young to be a teacher and or too old to learn.

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“We have the right to learn” – Palestinian school under demolition order

During the lunch break at the school in Izbat at Tabib a young boy approached me to offer a fistful of salty pretzelsamidst the noise and activity of students at play in the schoolyard.

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Hospitality and warmth like this is something I experienced a lot but is surprising considering Palestinians subsist on so little in this area of the occupied Palestinian territories. My teammates and I, with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAAPI), had stopped by the school to introduce a television crew from Germany to this small community of less than three hundred people. The community consists of refugees, many Bedouins, who resettled on their family’s land east of Qalqiliya in the northern West Bank when they were displaced in 1948 at the time the State of Israel was created.

Over the last ten years, the World Council of Churches has coordinated the presence of international Ecumenical Accompaniers who are sent by their local churches and provide a protective presence to communities facing hardship because of the conflict. We commit to work on human rights advocacy and towards a just and peaceful end to the occupation. I was sent by the United Church of Canada, a member church of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), and served in Jayyous from September to November 2012. During the three months we did many tasks, including accompanying farmers to their land during the olive harvest where there was risk of violence from Israeli settlers, monitoring Israeli military check points where civilians pass to get to work and to school, documenting arrests of Palestinian children and adults by Israeli military, and offering support to Israeli and Palestinian groups working for peace.

The village of Izbat at Tabib is situated in a zone known on United Nation’s maps as Area C , which was supposed to be a temporary arrangement under the 1995 Oslo accords. But like many Palestinians communities in Area C throughout the West Bank, they are still living under Israeli control. This means that in Area C it is next to impossible to secure a building permit. As a result 33 out of the 45 houses in Izbat at Tabib built without permits have demolition orders from the Israeli Civil Administration.

School Izbat at Tabib_Kate Cargin

School Izbat at Tabib, photo: K. Cargin

The community did not always have a school of their own. It was built in 2005 after one child was killed and another seriously injured in traffic accidents while walking to school on a busy highway to the neighbouring town of Azzun. The school serves 48 children from grades one to seven. The building also has a meeting hall for the village council and a health clinic for a visiting mobile health team. Given administrative difficulties due to being located in Area C, the school was built without a permit. In August 2012 the Israeli Civil Administration issued an administrative demolition order and ordered that the building be vacated in 21 days.

The teachers told the television crew how the pending demolition order has created anxiety amongst the children. One student proposed to come to class on top of the rubble if the school is destroyed. In the schoolyard I met a boy named Othman whose English is outstanding for someone in grade five. I asked him how he felt about everything going on here with the demolition order. “We want to stay in our school,” he told me.

Othman’s favourite subject is math but on that day he was getting ready for an English quiz. He told me he scored 10 out of 10 on his last test. I wished him good luck and wondered about the fate of this bright, young boy if his education is interrupted by a demolition or if he is forced to walk along the dangerous road to the overcrowded school in Azzun. The village council is engaged in a difficult legal process in an attempt to protect their school. Unfortunately this process is not a guarantee that the school will be saved. Groups and individuals, both Palestinian and Israeli, continue to show their support for the school in Izbat at Tabib during the community’s ongoing, non-violent demonstrations bringing attention to the importance and right of access to education for the children.

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Published in World Communion of Reformed Churches, Reformed Communiqué: http://www.wcrc.ch/node/941

Full edition of March 2013 Reformed Communiqué:  http://www.wcrc.ch/sites/default/files/WCRC_Communique-201301-EN-lowFINAL.pdf

Version français: http://www.wcrc.ch/sites/default/files/WCRC_Communique-201301-FR-low.pdf

UN OCHA fact sheet on Area C:  http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_Area_C_Fact_Sheet_July_2011.pdf

About the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: http://www.unicef.ca/en/policy-advocacy-for-children/about-the-convention-on-the-rights-of-the-child

The views contained herein are personal to me and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Church, EAPPI or the WCC. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact me for permission. Thank you.

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