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As-Safir, Askar al Jadid Camp


The As-Safir centre in the refugee camp of Askar al Jadid (New Askar) is a centre for child support and development. It first opened in 2005 following individual initiatives by the camp’s inhabitants with the aim of compensating for the lack of an infrastructure for children.  In the words of Issa Al Hindi one of the founders of the centre, “Today’s children are our future and tomorrow’s leaders.” The centre supporters’ main aim is to give the children the tools they need to face up to life with the specific problems arising from the occupation and the blockade which face each Palestinian child.  There is an emphasis placed on personal and cultural development in the framework of respect for traditional religion.

Thus the As-Safir centre plans to welcome all the inhabitants of Askar al-Jadid under thirteen years old and to provide a range of activities. To start with it proposes classes of educational support which are necessary because the children are educated in the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) schools whose classes are often overcrowded.  The centre also provides classes in languages which are not part of the Palestinian school curriculum (including French). Expressive art is taught there through classes in drama and fine art.  Nevertheless, the centre is better known for its Dabka group (a traditional Palestinian dance) and its choir. Finally the scout troop should be mentioned among the weekly activities proposed for the children.
As-Safir plans, moreover, to participate in the cultural life of Nablus. Through this it offers the children the chance to discover other areas of Palestinian society as well as the international community present in the form of numerous NGOs. 

Finally, As-Safir organises many workshops on children’s health and rights to which both parents and children are invited.  In this way specialists in health and social problems try to lessen the problems linked to the specific situation of this camp.  Created in 1964 as an extension of Askar al-Qadim (Old Askar), Askar al Jadid suffers in particular from infrastructures which are often old and worn out (notably the water and electricity systems, the medical centres and open spaces for children) which have harmful consequences  on health.

Since the United Nations does not recognise Askar al Jadid as an independent refugee camp but only as an extension of the Askar al Qadim camp, UNWRA, the organisation which runs the Palestinian refugee camps, is slow to develop new infrastructures. In 2007 however, UNWRA opened a school in Askar al Jadid thus allowing 350 pupils to avoid the journey to Askar al-Qadim to pursue their education.  This is all the more important when one knows that the road that links the two camps is also used by the army and Israeli settlers living nearby.
Today as-Safir, is thinking of developing new, more spacious, centres which can provide outside areas in which the centre’s directors already planning to grow trees.  We wish them every success.

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