With the support of our partner Penny Appeal, Karama has been able to reach more vulnerable families in Bethlehem region. As we entered the last 10 days of Ramadan - and the 75th day of Coronavirus lockdown, too many people are struggling economically. We are thankful to be able to stand next to them and show them this sign of global solidarity!
Want to support these efforts? GlobalGiving has included Karama in their global Coronavirus Relief Fund and you can donate through the link below!.
Palestinians in the refugee camps have been very worried about their safety, because of the weak infrastructure in the camps and the high population density. It is very hard to isolate or keep physical distance when you are grouped with over 15,000 people on less than half square km for example! Moreover, economic life has been greatly impacted, leading to many families losing their source of income. Know that many refugee families live on a day-to-day or month-to-month basis, with unstable incomes and no savings to count on. Many day workers such as restaurant workers, taxi drivers, small shop owners or other local service providers saw their businesses closed or very much reduced in the last 2,5 months. Losing 90 days of salary is huge for our communities.
Karama Organization has stepped up and advocated with its international donors, partners, and supporters to send assistance for the most vulnerable families. With the help of many, lots of activities have been undertaken! So far this Ramadan, Karama alone has distributed over 800 household food packages, 600-kilo chicken, 600 bags of hand sanitizer, and 3700 bags of milk and medication to vulnerable households in all refugee camps and surrounding areas. In cooperation with other local actors, we managed to add another 1300 food packages and 12000 hygiene kits. In our work, we naturally hope to increase the people's resilience and not stay limited to hand-outs, so we have been designing cash-for-work programs and (women-led) business-rehabilitation programs in order to kick-start economic activities in our communities as soon as this is safely possible. Soon Karama hopes to implement an emergency (one-time) cash transfer to the most vulnerable households in the Bethlehem area - to support families through the last days of Ramadan and the festival of Eid lFitr after the holy month.
Due to the mobility restrictions and physical distancing rules, we can not organize any other activities such as community iftars or children's activities, like we are used to in other years. However this Ramadan together we keep the spirit of solidarity and generousity high in our communities. Karama team is thankful for the flexible and generous support of all our (local and international) partners and supporters.
How many journalists can fit in one greenhouse..? Karama was on a mission to find out! :)
Naturally, Karama is interested to further spread the word about the achievements in the Rooftop Greenhouses project through the different media channels locally and internationally. Many journalists have already visited Karama and since the early beginning of the greenhouse initiatives a list of (inter)national media have covered the benefits of the local production. In October however, Karama and Wattan TV undertook combined efforts to connect with the many local news networks active in Palestine to spread the message of Karama: empowerment of women through local initiatives in the refugee camps. For this event, Karama welcomed18 journalists from different local news networks in the West Bank for a press tour for its rooftop greenhouse project.
The project team accompanied the journalists on a tour to some of our greenhouses in Al-Deheisheh camp to introduce them to the project and its beneficiaries. When visiting Ms. Amina's rooftop garden, she led the journalists on a tour in her greenhouse that is planted with tomatoes (which is her third planting season). Ms. Amina talked about her love for agriculture and her eagerness for the success of each planting season.
The group then returned to Karama Center, where the journalists filmed press interviews with the team and some beneficiaries. Here, Ms. Fayza, a greenhouse owner since 2017, talked about the social and economic impact of the project. She said that her seasonal production is usually around 120 kilograms. Ms. Hasna who has a greenhouse planted with Thyme talked about how now she dries the Thyme and sells it to Karama.
Finally, the project manager Mr. Luay Abdel Ghaffar talked about the significance of empowerment projects like this in the camps to create an opportunity for women to have their own source of income and help her family. He shared why this project is necessary in terms of creating a green environment in the camp and maintaining the connection between Palestinian refugees and their land. All in all it was a great event, with delicious hospitality from Karama's bakery.
Karama team spreading the word on national radio! Luay Al Haj and dear khalti Hasna joined Wattan TV to talk about the success of the rooftop greenhouses in the refugee camps in the southern West Bank.
Our bakery is located in Deheisha refugee camp. It looks like just another normal house in the camp, but inside are stories of hope and empowerment for 6 Palestinian refugee women. Here we believe that women are the leaders in their homes and communities. This bakery is an opportunity for the women to transform their lives and their family's lives. This Community Bakery is a “Thank-you” gift from Karama to the women, who are working hard in the rooftop greenhouse project. It is part of the organization’s efforts for the social and economic empowerment of refugee women, as a way to give them the appreciation and opportunities they deserve.
We believe that providing women with the opportunity to work in this bakery will increase their income, allowing them to contribute in providing for their families. It will also allow them to develop their skills and personality, meeting every person’s need for self-development and following their dreams.
The selected women received different training to work in the bakery, starting with workshops from a professional chef who trained them to master the right ways of preparing delicious bread and pastries. They also received some business and time management training to help them manage their time and run their social enterprise.
For our fresh pastries, we use freshly picked organic vegetables from our rooftop greenhouses as well as for the pizza toppings. This bakery only use fresh and healthy products for all our pastries, promoting one of our main goals that is to provide healthy food snacks for the local community.
Walking by our bakery you won't resist the smell of freshly baked Palestinian pastries, but what you definitely won't resist is seeing our women feeling empowered by running their community bakery. Bet you, you will love to try the pastries these women make.
2018 was the second year of our Rooftop Greenhouse project. This year, Karama worked endlessly to further our goals of empowering Palestinian refugee women, and help them become leaders of their own lives and their families’ lives. As we do believe that these women can be the change leaders!
This year we have learned a lot; Palestinian refugee women have taught us and shown us that even amid critical social and economic situations there remains hope for change and it makes us proud to say that Karama is contributing to these feelings of hope and accomplishment.
In 2018 we reached our goal of building more greenhouse units and started working in Al-Arroub refugee camp, reaching now a total of more than 100 greenhouse units spread in four refugee camps. We also have learned a lot about working in the greenhouse; in 2018 we tried to implement new ideas and agricultural experiences in the greenhouses. Some of which were suggested by the women themselves who with practice became much more knowledgeable in running their greenhouses. Together we harvested tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, peppers, green onions, garlic, and thyme.
After two years of work and cooperation we wanted to thank the women, for their determination and teamwork. As part of this initiative, Karama team also started a new step and opened a Community Bakery. We have chosen a group of the most active women, gave them a professional training in bread and pastries making and management, so they can start running the bakery and together become social entrepreneurs of change.
As we are excited for a new year starting, we would like to thank all our beneficiaries for the work they helped us accomplish and hopefully 2019 will be filled with more cooperation, hope and determination.
Every day, Hasna al Ammash climbs the small stair to the rooftop from her concrete apartment. What previously was an empty space with only the water tank in the corner, hosts now an iron structure with a plastic cover over a wealth of green goods. “I take care of these plants like my children” jokes khalti Hasna, “from the moment I receive them as a small seedling till they are giving their final fruit, I feel for them like my children”. This 62-year old lady from Deheishe refugee camp in Bethlehem area is lovingly called khalti Hasna (aunt Hasna) by all who know her. Seeing her generous smile and energetic gestures, one would not believe a short time ago this lady barely left the two rooms of her home and her spirits were very down. The simple greenhouse changed her life in many ways.
Karama Organization’s project brings food security and economic empowerment to 220 women and their families in the refugee camps of the West Bank. With agriculture still planted in the hearts of these first and second generation refugees, planting and growing is close to everybody’s heart but unemployment and financial hardships are common in the camps. Food insecurity is increasing only among the refugee population, pointing to the extra layers of disempowerment constraining their lives. However, through this initiative, that is the first of its kind in Palestine and possibly the Arab world; rooftops become fertile places where women grow organic vegetables and herbs for the local market. This improves the food availability in the area but also has countless physical and social benefits for the participants and community, creating green spots all over the concrete houses.
Khalti Hasna was selected into the project for both economic and social reasons. Her family’s income is low and the UNRWA service office recommended her because of her difficult financial situation. But after Karama staff visited Hasna for the application interview, it quickly became clear khalti Hasna would need a social intervention too; she was suffering from depression and social isolation. A main reason was her situation was her fight against cancer; it drained her body from energy and closed her mind off from others. She lives in her apartment with only her adult son, who leads a busy life working around the clock to support the other family members. Her body experienced many pains and became weak and stiff and she was not active in the community anymore.
The project in its first year invited Hasna and 59 other women from refugee camps in the Southern West Bank to take part in this innovative idea. The women should attend weekly meetings in a local community center, where they receive training and guidance in both taking care of the garden and plants, as well as social topics that are important to them. The training resulted into confident gardeners who know how to deal with diseases and the specific needs of the vegetables. It also made a strong social connection between the women, who became a support group for each other. Karama Organization made sure to include home visits in the project, so the women would be supported closely and not feel lost. Through these home visits, the social worker from the project developed a special program of social and health interventions for Hasna, to improve her health and overall wellbeing.
After getting a basic understanding of the greenhouses, the iron construction was delivered on the roofs of all women. The plastic cover results in a good atmosphere for the plants to grow year round, while the 7-inch tubes where the seedlings are planted, limit the use of water and soil. All women are required to work in the garden themselves; they prepare the soil, mix the natural fertilizers and plant the small seedlings with their own hands. All the neighbors were surprised to see khalti Hasna actively take part in all these steps. While the organization offered to send extra assistance for Hasna to help in her garden, she quickly took up every step of the greenhouse herself. Watering the plants, tying the robes, adding the fertilizer, she suddenly felt the energy for it. She told everybody to not be surprised; “This greenhouse connected me with my past and with my inner strength. Seeing the plants growing and producing in front of my eyes, while I’m watching is a beautiful thing”. The physical movement does not tire her, the opposite, it helped her body to get regular movement and she experiences less pain than before.
The women learn how to keep their gardens free from chemicals and use organic “home remedies” to fight diseases and increase productivity. The harvest from the greenhouses is sold collectively by the project to restaurants and stores that value the organic production of the women. The team distributes profits fairly between the women who have brought in their harvest. From the look, it is clear the cucumbers, beans and herbs are organic and their taste is much stronger. So far, the women went on learning visits to Hebron area and Tubas, seeing other women developing businesses from scratch, by planting and growing themselves. This inspired the refugee women to work hard on their own project and they have good hopes for the future.
With the first project year already working towards its end, the positive change in the beneficiaries and society is clearly visible. The participants have a high spirit and are proud of their hard work and harvest; they also feel more powerful since they have contributed to the community’s wellbeing and know to value themselves more. In several cases, the project helped women overcome depression and social isolation through the workshops and activities that brought the communities together.
The inhabitants of the camp seem to long for tools in their hands to work for their own betterment. Uncertainty of the future and the insecurity of everyday life makes hopeless and passive. However, this initiative makes people hopeful and active. Khalti Hasna whole-heartily confirms this: “my little greenhouse made me get up and grow, even at this age I feel I’m contributing again and I feel we are building together something big”.
Karama rooftop greenhouses team during the last week held basic training sessions for the targeted women as the following;
- 4 basic training sessions were implemented for the Deheisha Camp groups with the two engineers Mr. Islam Asafra, and Ms. Shuruk Jawabreh, the session discussed ( the tomatoes diseases, and planting cucumber inside the rooftop greenhouses.
- 4 basic training sessions were implemented for the Deheisha Camp groups with the social worker Mrs. Maryam Hamdan. the sessions discussed (How do I see myself, and how others see me?, how to deal with an overactive child? and 40 different ways to get rid of stress in 5 minutes).
- 3 basic training sessions were implemented for the Aida and Al-Azza Camps with the two engineers about (the protected agriculture, planting tomatoes inside the rooftop greenhouses, and the tomatoes diseases and its control methods).
- 3 basic training session were implemented for the Aida and Al-Azza Camps with the social worker about (Building relationship, understanding, expectations and confidence building, how to deal with an overactive child? and 40 different ways to get rid of stress in 5 minutes).
Karama Organization held on the morning of the 25th of March its first meeting with participating women in the new project (Rooftop Greenhouses) in which Karama will build greenhouses on the rooftops of their homes in the Palestinian refugee camps.
At the beginning, Mr. Luay Al-haj welcomed the participants, and explained about the project which is implemented with the support of the #European_Union. Mr Alhaj also made clear that the implementation will be carried out in multiple stages that will benefit the family and the Palestinian community as a whole by creating green spaces in an area where there is no space, and is overcrowded and congested. Mrs. Hala Kanan, continued the meeting by talking about the establishment of #Karama which was, and still, a window to achieve the interests of the Palestinian society through the empowerment of women and children and the implementation of projects that reflect the real needs of the society.
The new project took off on the first of February, 2017 with the long list of preparations to be done! Both physically in the Karama office as well as in the administrative and financial management of the activities a lot has been done in the past weeks. Meetings, field visits, journalist tours, buying, building and designing were all part of the team's tasks. We look forward to keep you updated and more progress will follow soon inshaAllah!