Challenges Faced by an Organization in Palestine to Keep Children Engaged in Play

Tamara Awartani mentioned to me that everything her organization, Palestine Sports for Life (PSFL), had established in Gaza for young children through afterschool programs is completely gone. These programs, especially designed for young girls who had no access to football or physical education, had been thriving. Awartani says that before the violence erupted on October 7, 2023, PSFL had programs in 60 schools in Gaza, each with 50 girls participating in activities and learning football. The highly beneficial programs, filled with stories, experiences, testimonials, and videos, have been obliterated with no hope or perspective remaining, only the will to survive.

Opportunities for young women to play sports in Palestine were limited, even in the best of times. Awartani shared her personal struggles to participate in sports as a girl in the West Bank, expressing the importance of sports as an escape from the harsh realities of life. She spent time playing for the Palestinian national swimming and basketball teams. However, political obstacles such as the Israeli occupation served as a barrier for her to attend competitions and practice. Even getting through Palestinian checkpoints was challenging, and at times the checkpoints were unpredictable, making travel difficult for children. Palestinian boys recently died in Tulkarm, where the PSFL program operates for young girls living in a refugee camp. Deadly raids in the camp occur almost nightly, leaving residents further distressed.

Children in Gaza have not been spared from the violence, with over 10,000 children killed in bombings and more than 24,000 children losing one or both parents, according to the non-profit human rights organization Euro-Med. The devastating effects of the conflict have left Gaza with nothing, no schools, no grass, and no hope. Everyday survival is difficult, leaving those like Awartani and her organization with the goal to provide young girls with the same opportunity for sports despite the challenging circumstances.