An oPt Humanitarian Fund success story
Amira is an 11-year-old girl who writes poetry and likes drawing. She lives in Deir Al Balah Refugee Camp, in Gaza, sharing a tiny house with five siblings, her father and his wife. Until recently, Amira’s dad and stepmother regularly beat and abused her. She would be forcibly locked in the chicken coop and was even burnt once with a heated blade. Amira has not been allowed to see her birth mother since she was a toddler.
The girl sunk in severe depression and lost confidence in herself. “I cry and weep because I feel lonely,” Amira said. She is a talented, eloquent speaker. “It hurts so much when you need a hug, but you can’t find one. My heart is broken, and I feel that dying may be the only cure.” Amira isolated herself. Lacking confidence and not feeling like talking to anybody, she avoided people and spent long hours by herself in her bedroom. Her school performance significantly dropped, and her social relationships were ruined.
In May 2020, Amira was referred to the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP). With the support of the occupied Palestinian territory Humanitarian Fund (oPt HF), Amira and other girls, boys, men and women affected by violence, either at home or in conflict-related incidents, were provided with free counselling, alongside other interventions to protect them.
A specialist noted that Amira was emotionally fragile, lacked motivation and was reluctant to pursue her hobbies. The specialist also diagnosed her with enuresis, nail-biting, insomnia and nightmares. GCMHP’s clinical staff then prepared an individual treatment plan for Amira. It included play therapy, art therapy, and behavioural psychotherapy. Encouraging Amira to pursue her hobbies, her psychologist provided her with papers, a notebook and coloured pencils. The team also provided school staff counselling and met her family on multiple occasions to make sure that violence stops.
Amira was treated for over six months. She got better and returned to her normal life. She became more optimistic, and her mood significantly improved. Her school staff noticed that she had become more interactive: “I can see her smiling now,” said her school principal. “We did not see that smile for quite a long time. She’s playing with her schoolmates, and her teachers are seeing a good improvement in her performance.”
Talking to her therapist, Amira was thankful: “I had lost my hope,” she said, “but you brought it back to me.” Later on, she wrote sent her a thank-you letter: “This is maybe the first letter I have ever written to anyone,” she wrote, “but you really deserve it, because you brought hope back to me and made me feel like a human being.”
* Amira’s name has been changed for privacy.