AVSI has been active in Palestine since 1993 carrying out various projects with qualified Palestinian partners in several sectors (small businesses and artisans, and disability, schools and educational centers, women’s and children’s rights) in Jerusalem and areas of the West Bank including Bethlehem, Jericho, and Birzeit. Since 2008, AVSI’s operating office is located in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The history of AVSI in recent years is characterized by the shift from an approach of pointed responses to mitigate recurrent incidents of emergency need to a longer-term perspective using strategic investments to reinforce the service capacity of institutions and their personnel in a sustainable way, primarily with institutions in the sectors of education and child and youth development. AVSI’s goals in Palestine also include developing projects the areas of access to water and energy.
In the education sector, AVSI carried forward smaller projects with a growing number of partners including the schools of the Custody of the Holy Land and several institutions serving people with disabilities. The effectiveness of these efforts pushed AVSI and its partners to strive for a more strategic and comprehensive approach to provide long lasting capacity building. In 2008, work began to build upon and consolidate the various partnerships under the umbrella of one project in order to maximize resources and knowledge sharing. This vision became reality in 2010, through a co-financing grant from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a 3-year project, currently linking 12 institutions in cities between which one cannot move freely without passing through security check-points, to address the educational emergency. The participants include 5 middle and high schools of the Custody of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, Jericho, and Bethlehem; Magnificat Music School; Our Lady of Pilar; De La Salle School; Franciscan School; some teachers from the Public Palestinian Schools; and 3 Bethlehem institutes specializing in persons with disabilities: Ephpheta Institute for those who are hearing disabled, Life Gate for Rehabilitation which provides vocational training, and Hogar Nino Dios center which serves those with severe disabilities.
The educational project favors openness and an emphasis on promoting understanding among people of various religions and ethnic groups, demonstrated by Christian and Muslim children sharing the same classrooms, by the participation of teachers from the Palestinian public school in formation courses, and in dialogue with Israeli educational institutions and universities. It also has a strong component for inclusion of people with disabilities, working with local associations to create an curriculum adapted to accomodate learners with disabilities which will then be presented for approval from the Palestinian Ministry of Education. The goal is to open the possibility for schools in which children with disabilities can be integrated into general education classrooms where all students study together and receive recognized diplomas. This model could be used at Life Gate, Ephpheta and Hogar Nino Dios schools. An additional component is the development of a group of teacher representatives from all the partner schools to become points of reference to create inclusive classrooms where no disability will become a reason to exclude a child. Further, bi-annual international conferences will be held to raise awareness among students and families about accepting those with disabilities as peers.
Closely connected to its education projects, AVSI supports a peace education and awareness media project, which involves teachers, high school students and 14 professional TV/radio broadcasters to create guidelines for journalism that is sensitive to different peoples throughout the conflict-ridden area of Israel and Palestine, and to produce radio and TV programming broadcast in Israel, Palestine and in Italy.
In 2009, to respond to shortages of water, food and electricity resulting from the conflicts between Israel and Hamas, AVSI assisted with a special campaign to support emergency relief programs in the Gaza Strip for around 3,000 individuals.
AVSI is also directing its attention to find solutions to the problem of water scarcity, focusing on water use and environmental protection, particularly in the Palestinian city of Birzeit and the surrounding rarea, where a number of feasibility studies have been performed. AVSI is a member of the Education and Water & Sanitation Clusters in order to coordinate with other international and local agencies and develop common criteria and integrated actions to address the needs.
Other partners in implementing projects include the YWCA, Mosaic Centre of Jericho, Madad in Bethlehem, and teachers from Bethlehem University and the University of Birzeit.
Support the educational emergency in the Palestinian Territory
Location: Bethlehem, Jericho, Jerusalem
Description: Improve the quality of education from primary to secondary level to benefit 3160 children aged 4 to 17 years through an integrated intervention. Small renovations to 5 school buildings, provision of didactic equipment, extracurricular activities, training for 22 social workers and 220 teachers from the Custody of the Holy Land schools and 55 outside teachers. Provide scholarships for the children of 550 families to attend primary or secondary school, and need-based scholarships to help 240 high-school graduates attend colleges.
Donor Partners: Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (70% of total cost)
Implementing Partners: 5 Custody of Holy land Schools (TSS), Franciscan School of Jericho, Franciscan House of the Child in Bethlehem, De La Salle co-ed School, Magnificat Music School, Pilar, the Public Palestinian School: Ephpheta Institute for Hearing-Impaired Children, Life Gate School for Persons with Physical Disabilities, and Hogar Nino Dios in Bethlehem; Catholic University of Milan / CESI
Peace education through media
Location: Israel and Palestine
Description: Enhance the role of media and communication to promote tolerance and mutual understanding between communities in conflict, supporting regional integration among Palestinians and Israelis. Organize seminars and training sessions in critical media use and peace journalism for 60 teachers in 4 selected schools in Palestine and Israel. Train 120 students, involving some in the development and airing of radio and TV broadcasts in Palestine, Israel and Italy. Elaborate guidelines on principles of Peace Journalism detailing how independent media should deal with conflict and with the groups within civil society that are affected by the way the conflict is reported (especially young people). Organize of a round table and a workshop among media professionals coming from Italy, Israel and Palestine, working with 14 Media professional operators.
Donor Partners: European Union; Veneto Region, Italy
Implementing Partners: Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture; Netanya Academic College
Emergency educational support in the Palestinian Territories
Description: Improve living conditions and access to public education for 1000 high school students in Bethlehem. Renovate 27 classrooms, purchase technology for training, textbooks and readers for 120 children from vulnerable families. Provide courses for 51 teachers on vocational education and teaching methods. Hold training and refresher courses on family involvement in education for 50 parents. Provide extracurricular and supplementary educational activities including scientific experiments and research and guided educational trips.
Donor Partners: Emilia-Romagna Region, Italy
Implementing Partners: Custody of Holy Land School of Bethlehem
Improving assistance to disabled people of the casa "Hogar Nino Dios" of Bethlehem
Description: Improve the care for the 17 children with disabilities hosted at Casa Hogar Nino Dios through internal and external building renovation including furnishing kitchen and bedrooms, addiction of central sewage system and warehouse. Ensure specialized assistance to the disabled through training and support of 7 ordinary and qualified personnel. Help meet residents’ educational needs and facilitate transportation to and from the Center.
Donor Partners: Humana and Puglia Region of Italy
Implementing Partners: Hogar Nino Dios
Education and training in response to the emergency situation of the population living in the Palestinian territories
Description: Renovate and equip 8 computer rooms with special software for hearing impaired children and youth. Provide trainings and seminars for 37 assistants, teachers and social workers from 9 schools and institutions on methods to approach disabled children. Training for 95 families of children with hearing impairment and sensitization reaching 1,000 parents. Provide direct scholarships for 64 females and 81 males for a total of 145 vulnerable children. Knowledge raising through television as well as print and social media.
Donor Partners: Italian cooperation emergency funds
Implementing Partners: Custody of Holy Land School of Bethlehem and Jericho, Ephpheta School of Bethlehem and other educational institutions
Emergency campaign for Gaza people
Location: Gaza strip
Description: Provision of basic food and non-food items to 2500 of the most vulnerable residents, working with the Latin Parish in Gaza city, the centre for persons with disabilities and elderly people operated by the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the students of the school of the Rosary Sisters, and the Little Sisters of Charles de Foucault.
Beneficiaries: 2500 people
Donor Partners: Private donors
Implementing Partners: Latin Patriarchate Church and other Charitable Institutions
Integrated program of support for Institutions of higher and tertiary education and for Bethlehem business development
Description: Strengthening of Palestinian Institutions by training young people in public administration and promotion of local business development. Offer Master in Public Administration in collaboration with the Catholic University of Milan, International research projects, direct support for Palestinian students. Technical support to the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce that provides job placement, incentives for micro-enterprises, technical education sector, developing business opportunities. Benefits 2100 students of Bethlehem University, 70 young adults placed in created jobs with onsite training, and 10 artisan enterprises supported.
Donor Partners: Lombardy Region, Italy
Implementing Partners: Custody of the Holy Land; Parish of Bethlehem; Bethlehem University
Distance Support Program
Description: Long-term support to disadvantaged or vulnerable children with a particular focus on education and school attendance, while strengthening the children’s families with complementary activities for parents and/or caretakers. Typically support for the children is integrated into larger development projects to allow for cost-benefits efficiency and synergy. Currently supporting around 675 children, and indirectly benefiting another 4,050 people. It is jointly designed, managed and periodically evaluated by AVSI and the various Partners.
Donor Partners: Private Donors
Implementing Partners: Custody of the Holy Land Schools in East Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho, Ephphetà School in Bethlehem, Lazarus Home for girls in Bethany.
Video presentation of AVSI's work in the Palestinian Territories (3 min.)
April 2010 Field update on situation in Gaza Strip
December 2009 Learning to educate with the family