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Palestinian Scout Association members volunteer to assist the displaced in war-ravaged Gaza

BEIRUT: Over 150 scout members of the Palestinian Scout Association have been risking their own lives and volunteering to aid and support children, women and displaced families in war-ravaged Gaza.

Basic life necessities such as food, water, homes, electricity, healthcare, education and others have vanished since Israel launched its unprecedented war against Gaza following the Hamas Oct. 7 attacks.

As nearly 2 million Gazans were displaced and took refuge at shelters and makeshift tents not being able to eat, drink, wash, sleep and live normally, that was when the Palestinian Scout Association stepped in and commissioned tens of its members as volunteers to support and assist people cope with life in the wild nature and makeshift shelters.

One of those PSA members is scout group leader Sahar Jamal Abu-Zaid who along tens of her fellow scout-mates put their own lives at risk and rush to ‘help and support displaced people and traumatized kids because it is our duty and obligation to do so’.

Palestinian Scout Association leader Sahar Abu-Zaid during a group session activity with women of Gaza inside a classroom at one of the shelters. (Supplied)

Describing the situation from Gaza as ‘difficult, disastrous and extremely dangerous’ she told Arab News on Saturday: “We as PSA members have a duty and obligation towards the people of Gaza … our people! We are committed to supporting them as much as possible, despite the deep wounds and scars that the war has inflicted on them.”

A scout is an expert in wildlife and knows, according to Abu-Zaid, how to survive in outside nature while dealing with tents, wood, fireplaces, ropes and cooking.

“We have been helping the displaced people through applying our scouting skills by teaching them how to use ropes to make laundry lines, setting up tents for sleeping, making fireplaces to stay warm and building makeshift ovens to cook as well,” she elaborated.

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They have also been volunteering with Sharek Youth Forum (SYF), an NGO that operates in Gaza and the West Bank, through providing psychological support to disturbed children and troubled adults who were displaced from their homes and took refuge at different shelters.

She also revealed that scout volunteers are managing a major kitchen in cooperation with World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit NGO devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters.

“Scout members are cooking huge meals, as they used to do in camps. We package the food meals and distribute them. We also have a bread project, whereby we bake bread on woodfire and distribute them along with the meals. So far we have been able to provide over 10,000 meals,” Abu-Zaid told the newspaper.

As part of the efforts of Qatar’s Education Above All Foundation and the United Nations Population Fund in responding to the Gaza crisis, scout members have also been volunteering in different support activities and programs provided to assist the refugees, especially children.

Palestinian Scout Association volunteers during a clean up campaign in a Gaza makeshift camp for refugees. (Supplied)

There are more than 150 PSA members volunteering, working nonstop and exerting ‘extraordinarily tremendous efforts’ [amid a life-threatening and hazardous situation] to assist refugees, the displaced, women, children and elderlies across all parts of Gaza, she said.

The 31-year-old accounting graduate said she and all her fellow scout-mates participate in a campaign titled ‘Participate with your People’ that was launched by SYF and aims at organising individual and group activities for children and supporting women and parents in how to identify and manage children’s trauma symptoms.

Driven by the curiosity to learn about scouting life and the aim to develop new life-skills and enjoying wildlife and outside activities, Abu-Zaid joined PSA in 2017 at the age of 25.

“Today, we are living minute by minute, and we are at risk of getting killed by an Israeli airstrike at any moment. Yet, we have to keep moving forward … we are committed to drawing smiles on the faces of traumatized children by involving them in different fun activities and games that we learnt at scouts. We are also involving grownups, mainly women, in group discussions and other activities that could help them learn how to survive amid this warzone,” she said.

alestinian Scout Association volunteers teaching refugees how to build up laundry lines at a makeshift camp in Gaza. (Supplied)

An accounting graduate, Abu-Zaid called on for an immediate ceasefire saying: “It is only an immediate ceasefire that would save our lives. We are surrounded by nonstop massacres … the latest was that of Al-Rasheed streets when 10s were killed by Israeli fire while waiting to collect aid materials and food support. People die every minute and this has got to stop instantly with an instant ceasefire.”  

In a news report published in the Guardian earlier this week, Mai al-Afifi, a volunteer herself displaced from Gaza City to Deir al-Balah, was quoted as saying: “We do see the games and singing make a difference … for just a little while, the children can relieve their psychological stress.”

Nader al-Raqab, PSA’s leader in Khan Younis, was apprehended by Israelis a few weeks back and has not been heard from since.

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