Building Resilient Communities in Gaza

Funded by: Atlantic Philanthropies, Irene Meister-Armington Trust, O.L. Pathy Foundation, Sam Ben-Avraham
Partners: United Nations Relief and Works Agency, Ministries of Health, Education, and Social Welfare
Young students meditate in the queue before school in Gaza

With parallel programs in Gaza and Israel, we are helping communities address the population-wide trauma that comes with war and violence. Since 2005, we’ve partnered with more than 200 organizations to train over 1,500 Palestinian clinicians, educators, and community leaders to bring healing tools to 240,000 Gazan children and adults. Through our current initiative, Hope and Healing for Gaza Schools, we are training educators to integrate our mind-body approach into curricula and daily routines. Our aim is to make self-care and mutual support an essential part of the educational experience of all 250,000 children in Gaza’s public school system.

The challenge

With 5,936 residents per kilometer, Gaza is considered to be one of the densely populated areas in the world. Unemployment has reached 47% with 56% of residents living in poverty, and 64% experiencing food insecurity. The housing inventory in Gaza is insufficient to meet the needs of the current population, and is periodically destroyed by ongoing war and conflict in the region. The power outage crisis continues to plague Gaza with most residents living without electricity for up to 12 hours per day. Living in Gaza is a daily challenge. Thriving requires unimaginable fortitude and resilience.

Partnering to co-create solutions

Since 2005, The Center for Mind-Body Medicine has trained more than 1500 Palestinian clinicians, educators, and community leaders in its model of psychological self-care and group support. These trainees have brought the CMBM approach to more than 240,000 children and adults. Some 70,000 have participated in 10-week Mind-Body Skills Groups. Children and adults are regaining a sense of calm in the midst of chaos, and learning to transform their despair into hope.

Under the direction of Country Director, Dr. Jamil Atti, CMBM’s Gaza program is actively engaged in building population-wide systems of support in partnership with the Ministries of Health, Education and Social Welfare as well as 200 local and international NGOs.

CMBM’s model emphasizes ongoing self-care and mutual help in a safe and supportive small group environment. We begin by teaching clinicians, educators, and community leaders to use the techniques of mind-body medicine (several kinds of meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback and Autogenics) and self-expression in words, drawings, and movement in a small group setting. They learn to deal with their own stress, trauma and burnout. We then teach them to use the CMBM model with the populations they serve. We provide ongoing support and supervision as they successfully integrate our model into their work with children and adults. The model is rooted in hope and has been a reliable and sustainable force for healing in Gaza for over 17 years.

Most recently, CMBM completed a pilot program in Gaza, fully integrating mind-body skills into ten local schools. Teachers, school staff and children of all ages learned to draw their emotions, pause to take a few deep breaths when feelings become overwhelming, and use meditation and guided imagery to calm the physiological response to stress, manage difficult emotions and improve focus and concentration.

Testimonies and qualitative evaluations of students, teachers and school administrators reflect remarkable transformations including improved exam scores, decreased physical aggression between students, and improved teacher-student relationships. Additionally, CMBM worked with the United Nations Office for Program Services (UNOPS) providing trauma-relief services for families living in homes that were damaged or destroyed during recent hostilities.

Healing and Hope 3

I benefited from the mind-body skills a lot. I’m no longer afraid nor nervous during exams. I get stressed and unable to focus, but now I practice the breathing exercises and am able to focus…

– NOUR, CMBM AMBASSADOR

With a robust team of 25 faculty living in Gaza, CMBM has been a nimble and pro-active partner in addressing both historical and present trauma. Our deep roots and sustained presence in the region has earned the trust and support of local residents, government sectors, and the NGO community. In the midst of ongoing chaos, thousands of children and adults are regaining a sense of calm and learning to transform their despair into hope.

240,000

children and adults served

1500+

clinicians, educators, and community leaders trained

25

gifted and committed local faculty members

39,000

children and their parents served living in UN shelters during the 2014 war

Learn more about our work in Gaza