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Published on Jan 20, 2011
For four consecutive years, UNRWA has run the Summer Games to give the children in Gaza psychological relief and a sense of childhood and happiness. With broad encouragement and support from the community, the Games feature activities such as sports, arts and crafts, traditional dance, song and theatre.
Eight weeks of fun
This year, as was the case in 2009, some 250,000 children took part in eight weeks of fun offered in 144 locations across the Gaza Strip, including 38 purpose-built beach locations, orphanages and children's wards.
This year's Games opened through a moving torch festival held on 13 June. Some 50 children were involved in a relay over 17km from Deir al Balah to the UNRWA Field Office in Gaza City, where an UNRWA student lit the Summer Games flame. Pleased with both local and international support for the Games, John Ging, director of UNRWA operations in Gaza, reminded the audience of the responsibility we all have in helping to change the circumstances of Gaza's children to a more positive environment in tune with their wonderful spirit and potential.
A unique opportunity to prove that potential to the entire world arose in early July, when the children were involved in a record-breaking attempt for the Guinness Book of World Records. Building on last year's success, Gaza's children set out to smash their won record for kites flown simultaneously. Not nearly satisfied by a single-record breaking event, the children posed to break the record for the number of basketballs bounced simultaneously later in the month, on 22 July.
With world records as the true highlights, the UNRWA Summer Games constitute the largest youth recreation initiative in the region, providing a rare chance for children in Gaza to explore artistic talent, develop new skills and take part in team-oriented activities. For children, traumatised by conflict and violence, this tranquil, yet creative space for respite, learning and companionship is critical in their development.
The Games therefore build on and complement the ongoing work by UNRWA to teach openness, respect and tolerance in its schools - all based on the universal values of human rights. What better than to learn these values on the Gaza beach?
On 28 June, a Summer Games recreation facility on the beach in Nuseirat was vandalised. UNRWA immediately rebuilt the camp and children were back having fun less than a day after the attack.