This post is an appeal on behalf of a young Gaza intellectual leader who seeks support for his studies at the School for International Training in Vermont. Three authors are asking you to help Nijim: Lora Lucero, an Albuquerque lawyer; the co-editor of this site, Phil Weiss; and the intellectual whose future is at stake, Ayman Nijim.
I first met Ayman Nijim in March 2013 when I was teaching in the Gaza Strip. He invited me and a friend to attend a commencement ceremony at Afaq Jadeeda (New Horizons) in Nuseirat Refugee Camp. Ayman manages the programs at the center which are designed to help children and mothers heal from the trauma of decades of occupation, seven years of a brutal siege, and two recent violent Israeli military operations. When I arrived, the playground was full of very active children, while the mothers received their diplomas for successfully completing a training program that prepared them to identify and respond to childhood trauma.
Ayman has two children of his own, and his compassion for all of the children in the program was undeniable. After the brief ceremony, Ayman sat down with me to explain the importance of the work at Afaq Jadeeda and shared the play therapy, drawing therapy, and other programs available to the families in Nuseirat. When Ayman told me that “Palestinians and Israelis don’t need conflict resolution, they need conflict transformation,” I knew he had very special insights and talents. In addition to growing up in Gaza under the Israeli occupation, I learned that he had lived and studied in Baghdad during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He has experienced conflict up close and understands the depths of the trauma that can change the lives of so many caught up in it.
Ayman has a chance now to learn the peace-building skills and conflict transformation techniques that he will be able to share with the next generation of leaders in Gaza. He is trying to raise enough funding to study for a Master’s degree at the School for International Training in Vermont in the fall of 2014. I hope we can all help him reach this goal. Please go to the following website to make a secure donation. Time is of the essence since June 22 is the deadline for the School for International Training. All donations will be returned if insufficient funds are raised. Indiegogo campaign here.
We’re posting this appeal because I had the privilege of meeting Nijim the other day and was struck by his maturity, thoughtfulness, and idealism. They shine through his words and actions; just watch the video interview above. I felt that I was speaking with someone twice his age (30). He is living in the U.S. now far from his wife and children because a fine school in Vermont has enrolled him on a limited basis. I want to do everything I can to make sure he gets his Master’s; I sent my check directly to the School for International Training, at the address below.
Idealism and maturity: Nijim has experienced humiliation and trauma but he is dedicated to doing a curriculum of strategic planning so that he can go back to Gaza and organize nonprofits to serve traumatized youth in a culturally conscious way. Right now international organizations come in and say things like, We have to get people past the stigma of mental illness. Great, Nijim says, but 95 percent of the children in Gaza are traumatized by warfare. Or they talk about hypnosis. Hypnosis is taboo in our religion, he says. Nijim wants to devise Gazan approaches to therapy that adapt western techniques in a sensitive manner.
Nijim has come to love the United States for the compassion of the people here, but tells me he has been surprised by how apolitical people are, how disconnected from global politics, often how ignorant of Palestine. Let’s continue to demonstrate American hospitality to him, so that we can learn more from him about his culture, and help him bring Palestine to a place where politics is no longer necessarily the substance of everyone’s daily life.
From Ayman Nijim:
As a lifelong resident of Gaza, I’ve lived in constricted circumstances. I have never been to Jerusalem or anywhere in Palestine except in Gaza strip since the Israeli government will not allow us to travel to Jerusalem or the West Bank. I have experienced war, killing and displacement twice, in Gaza, and then as a student in Baghdad, Iraq from 2001 to 2005. I also worked as a journalist covering the atrocities on my people As a result of the fighting in Iraq I became homeless after the war. From these difficult life experiences I was inspired first to heal my own trauma and the trauma of people living under harsh circumstances.
In my work in Gaza with the Afaq Jadeeda Association, I created and managed projects that deal with trauma, human rights abuse, and social justice. I supervised “Let the Children Play and Heal,” a program providing psychosocial support for children through drama, song, laughter, and dance. I also managed classes for women to help traumatized children.
I have been accepted for graduate study at the School of International Training Graduate Institute in Vermont to further my study in psychosocial healing. I have a wife and two children living in Gaza and I don’t want them to live the life I experienced. I want to do something pioneering for my community and people in need; it is altruism born of suffering.
With your generous help, we can share humanity. We can encourage change and healing. Let’s build stones for change to a peaceful life.
To contribute to Ayman’s graduate study fund by June 22, please visit the following website.
Time is running fast! I only have until June 22, 2014 to come up with the balance of $14,780. Whatever you can afford will be appreciated. If I cannot make it to the university, donations will be returned back to donors and I will return home.
If you prefer to send your donation directly to the school, you may write a check marked “Ayman Nijim – Tuition” in the memo and mail it to:
SIT Graduate Institute
1 Kipling Rd.
PO Box 676
Brattleboro, VT 05302
Please allow me to share with you my achievements, and keep you in the loop.