People who have gone through crisis and have experienced hardships often turn to help others in similar situations and circumstances. They have first-hand knowledge and experience of what it means to be in this crisis or perpetual context of stress and trauma and are therefore familiar to the shared struggle. This familiarity offers contextualized help and support as well as understanding to underlying circumstances that outside support efforts may not be well aware of.
Hiyam Alyan is the executive Director of Al Saraya Centre, a community centre in the Old City of Jerusalem. She works with communities struggling under military occupation who live in very constrained spaces and lack economic and social opportunity. In this video, Hiyam talks about an initiative where local women offered support to women in their community, all of whom share experiences of the same context.
Hiyam: Jerusalem was closed, so we located in the middle of the city we couldn’t reach so. The idea was to work on groups inside the country to support each other, because organisations might not be present, so the same community can support each other. We worked with a group of women, we worked with them for a long time, they were strong, but they were local, so they weren’t different from the locals, they had many women that support women. They’d go into homes, hospitals, go to mothers, mothers that came from Gaza with their children, no one visits them, because they came to Jerusalem and Jerusalem Arab hospitals, they used to give them children books, toys, tell them stories, many things, tell them traditional stories. It was very lovely, they would support each other, a woman can’t go somewhere because her husband doesn’t allow her or her family doesn’t allow her, another woman would visit her who comes from the same community and support her. The same thing with men and children. This way, building communities that support each other from the same fabric, the same community, the same area, and this is a very good thing.
Is it a good story?
Off camera man: Yeah it is a very good story, yes. I do my PhD in women studies so that’s why when I listen to stories about [inaudible].
Hiyam: It’s very important when you hear the woman those woman who are marginalized, a lot of stories, a lot of woman they were beaten by their parents, they were obliged to got married, then they, when they become with their husband, they were obliged to do a lot of things, and now they realized that, oh my god, how could I, but they are helping other women in different way. I mean they not, they are not, telling them you leave your house, your family, your children, you don’t have to live this situation, they make each other strong, support each other in a way, that they want these women to be strong enough to know how to deal with these situation, and to take their rights without destroying the family, without bringing a conflict that may be isolate them in a way.
In this video, Aisha talks about how the individualistic mentality affects the community as a whole and the circumstances surrounding it that had allowed this shift from the communal to the individual. As well, Aisha talks about the challenges of pushing the community to return back to traditional communal work.
Of course, there are many problems in such marginalized areas for the executors because they can’t find a land because all the land is tied to the imperialists and to the capital who bought the land, so the people cannot find a land to use for public park, that was the first problem. Secondly, the people of the community couldn’t get their own people to do something, the effect of imperialism is that people stopped thinking in a communal way because everyone just wants to look for their own benefit because everyone is struggling and barely able to just provide basic needs for their home and basic salary, so the situation is very difficult.
So we saw that those who got the grant from Dalia had a problem with execution, so we organized volunteer days and we brought other youth who got grants from us from other areas such as Ramallah and Al-Quds, our own employees, and we went there and helped the people there create this public park, we had two volunteer days. First, people from other areas were introduced to Aghwar because many people from other areas don’t know about the situation on Aghwar and second, the people of Aghwar saw that they are not alone, that there are Palestinian people who care and came in their time off to help us, so this was an example of how we gathered people to support a social initiative.