‘In Balata camp, every single child suffers from psychological problems’

Yafa Cultural Center is one of the few places left for Palestinian children from Balata refugee camp to cope with the violence they witness on a daily basis.With funding running low, the center is at risk of closing.

A young Palestinian boy and girl stand near a painted mural in the Balata Refugee Camp near the West Bank city of Nablus.

Rami Younis writes in +972,  February 11, 2019

When the door opens, I am surprised to see a six or seven-year-old boy on the other side. “Can I sign up for karate classes, uncle?”

“Yes, come on Saturday, there will be an instructor,” answers Ibrahim Jammal. The boy asks if he needs to bring anything. “As always, habibi, you don’t need to bring a thing.”

Although he tries to appear optimistic, my meeting with with Jammal, 34, one of the main organizers at the Yafa Cultural Center at Balata refugee camp near Nablus, takes place at a difficult moment.

The community center, one of the largest in the camp, is under threat of closing. At its peak, it served as a home for over a thousand children and teenagers, providing them with a range of activities and programs. With the start of the new year, the number of workers decreased from 25 to 17. By May, when the center’s main source of funding is expected to cut off, the number might fall to eight. All the employees are Balata residents. The center is planning on maintaining a small number of staff members to operate Yafa’s mental health unit.

Yafa Cultural Center was established by a number of local organizers in 1996 as part of a local initiative Jammal said was meant to “protect the right of return.” Funding comes primarily from a German political foundation, the Danish parliament, and the European Union. Now the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ), which supports international development and education initiatives, has announced it can no longer support the center. Its bylaws, subject to German law, prevent it from supporting any project for more than nine years.

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