Mohammad* and his mother Alia* live in Jabalia refugee camp, north Gaza
Mohammad* is 8 years old. He lost his brother, Wajdi*, in the military operation “Protective Edge”. Mohammad suffered from PTSD after what he has witnessed. The loss of his brother affected his psychological health and caused him some difficulties at school. His sleep causing him anxiety and nightmares. Mohammad used to achieve excellent results at school and to be social and outgoing. His mother turned to Save the Children’s partner in the north of the Gaza Strip, Hope and Life Association, to ask for support. Mohammed participated in several activities including private counseling, debriefing sessions and open days. His mother, Alia*, who is the main supporter for the family, took part in the activities too.
Mohammad told us,
“I am 8 years old and I am in the second grade. I go to school every day. Our shift is in the afternoon. I like studying because I want to become a doctor when I grow up because I want to treat sick people and give them medicine to become better. My favorite teacher is Wajdi*. He is kind with me. He teaches me Arabic and Math.
I didn’t like going to school after the offensive because my brother Wajdi was killed. My teacher’s name is also Wajdi and he reminds me of my dead brother. It was difficult at the beginning but Mr. Ahmed [his counselor] told me that my brother will be happy if I go to school.
I go to the Life and Hope Society to play. There are different activities there. I collect balls and put them in the basket. I played with balloons. It’s my favorite game. It will help me become a doctor in the future. We also painted some drawings. I drew a plane in the air like the Israeli ones in the sky.
In the summer holiday, I want to have fun and play games. I hope there would be a summer camp in which I can participate.”
Mohammad's mother then shared her story,
"I am married with 8 children, 6 boys [including Wajdi] and 2 girls. I lost my eldest son in the last offensive on Gaza. I still feel he’s with us and that’s why I counted him among the living ones. My husband used to work in Israel before 1998 but he’s no longer able to support us. Wajdi studied in the college and got an employment opportunity through a job creation program. He used to work as operations technician in Al-Shifa Hospital and he supported us ever since he got the job. Now that he’s gone, we have no source of income. Therefore, I learned how to make needlework [embroidery] and sell them to afford money for living.
My Wajdi was kind-hearted. He was like a father to him. He was concerned about his siblings’ future all the time. He did everything he could to make them happy. He wanted to help everyone in this family but he never mentioned that he wanted something for his own. He loved all people. I imagine if his love reached out to all people in this universe, there would be no hatred at all.
I go to the Life and Hope Society often and participate in some of their activities. When I first heard about this project, I wanted strongly to participate. Because Mohammad wasn’t able to overcome what happened especially that his teacher at class is named Wajdi, like his dead brother. He was afraid all the time and he clang to me. He refused to sleep alone. He wanted me to cuddle him all the night. He told his sister that he was afraid and that he had nightmares.
He didn’t want to go to class at the beginning of school year. He wanted to change the class too. However, the principal thought that we should give him a chance to digest what happened and keep him in the same class so that he can confront his fears. In the meantime, he was participating in the debriefing sessions with other children in the Society. I told his counselor about this situation at school and they were able to help him a lot. His conditions improved but didn’t completely overcome what he had witnessed.
I also participated in debriefing sessions with mothers. I was able to express myself and cry. I felt more relieved. We played some games like the balloon, it made me get rid of all the negative feelings and blow them away. I also participated in an open day activity which was very useful for me. I didn’t want to play games but they [mothers] insisted that I take part. I had to win. It was much fun. I also learned new things related to dealing with my children at home. I become calmer now. I used to be angry all the time and sometimes hit them.
This program has helped me and my son a lot. I requested to participate in more sessions as 3 sessions were not enough to surmount what has happened. There should be some additional sessions for other women who wanted to participate but didn’t have the chance this time."
*Names changed to protect identity