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Friday, March 25, 2011

New projects on the West Bank

Three new Islamic Relief projects have reached momentous stages in Palestine’s West Bank: A new school opened in February, a kidney dialysis center is preparing to open and a land rehabilitation project is getting under way.


The Askar Camp School is a modern campus for 550 students in grades 1-9. Before the school opened, children traveled all the way to other end of the refugee camp, across the main highway, to go to class – about two to three miles each way.

This school will serve boys. Another new school recently opened nearby for the local girls.

Local officials and a representative of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) attended the grand opening on Feb. 20, 2011.

The school, which cost $1.3 million to build, features high-tech amenities appropriate for a world-class education to help children in the refugee camp break the cycle of poverty.

“The Askar School is a great example of quality work,” said Yousef Abdallah, an Islamic Relief USA regional operational manager who attended the grand opening. “It’s state of the art -- it has a computer lab, science lab, meeting rooms, 18 classrooms … It’s going to have a huge impact.”

Kidney dialysis center

In the West Bank, health care is often a long and difficult journey away. A new kidney dialysis center will make it easier for many in the southern West Bank to receive vital treatments.

The center is almost ready to open in Abu Al Qasem Hospital in Yatta. The room and infrastructure are ready, and the six kidney dialysis units should be up and running in a month or so, Abdallah said.

About 700 patients in Yatta and surrounding areas will benefit from the center. For these patients, regular dialysis treatment is essential for their health, and now the journey will be much less burdensome.

Land rehabilitation

Islamic Relief is also rehabilitating a section of land just inside the wall partitioning off the West Bank.

This land used to be planted with olive trees, Abdallah said. Then the partition wall was built on it, and the trees were uprooted. The wall was later moved back about 2.5 miles. A section of land about 50-60 feet by 7 or 8 miles long was left destroyed.

“Now people are trying to reuse this land,” Abdallah said. “The first phase is to make roads across the agricultural land to enable people to reach their land.”

During Abdallah’s visit in late February and early March, machinery was clearing land of rocks and other debris to make way for the roads. This land is mountainous, so after the roads are built, terraced steps will be carved to create fields that can be farmed more efficiently. Farmers will most likely replant olive trees, as that is the best crop in the area, Abdallah said. Unlike before, however, the farmers will be able to carry in their harvest via car rather than on animals.

“In developing countries,” Abdallah said, “the land is priceless for people. It’s something in their blood, it’s their roots. To help them fix their land and utilize it – you’re really helping them with something that is so dear to their hearts. They recognize that and appreciate what Islamic Relief is doing.”

Building up communities and individuals

Islamic Relief also has several other projects in the area.

Orphan sponsorships and food distributions are ongoing, and a $1.4 million family sponsorship project started less than a year ago. The program ensures that 1,500 of the most affected families are provided with basic nutrition and services needed for survival. It also enables families to cover part or all costs of medication and supplies children with school bags, uniforms and stationery items for an educational year.

“We’re helping on different levels – the individual and communities,” Abdallah said. “We’re helping individuals when we do projects like the Askar School, and we’re helping the community when we do things like the dialysis center.

“Education is key. They have no wealth, they have no natural resources in Palestine -- all they have is the human being. Taking care of the human being is something they value a lot. Education is going to be a key for the future.”

You can help Islamic Relief keep these and other projects going. Please donate today.

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