By Faten Taweel, Edited by Pierre McAllister
After the devastating conflict subsided in the Gaza Strip, Walaa Sa'da knew sport and play could help the children in her community cope with the stress and anxiety of war.
"We were determined to bring joy to our children after the terrible days they went through."
Through a "You Lead" project led by Right To Play and War Child, the 24-year-old Palestinian learned leadership skills by applying play-based teaching methods to her sessions at Fursan Al-Ghad Association. She now believes play is a powerful way to communicate information and encourage children to speak freely, express their opinions and develop positive behaviours.
"I think play has a unique power to attract, mobilize and inspire youth. It's all about participation, inclusion and citizenship."
During the Gaza war in 2014, Walaa and her family fled their home, experiencing dreadful and terrible days while their neighborhood was under attack. After a ceasefire was announced, they went back only to find their home completely destroyed, and the organization where she worked absolutely shattered.
Despite the suffering, Walaa wanted to support children and youth. Using sport and play activities provided children with psychosocial support by helping them cope with their distress and reduce their anxiety, while creating a feeling of hope, optimism and creativity. Walaa helped implement Play Days, and more than 300 children in Gaza participated.
"Through Right To Play, we were able to engage children in sport and play activities and provide recreational amusement after the war," she says.
Aya, a 10-year-old child that participated in Walaa's sessions, agrees: "The various games we played with Ms. Walaa' were very exciting and interesting. We learned several things; I learned how to help other people while learning new games."