CNEWA

90 Years, 90 Heroes:
Sister Nabila Saleh

Sister Nabila Saleh has been working on behalf of young people for whom war, tragically, is just another way of life: the children of Gaza. The world they are living in was thrown into turmoil during the summer of 2014, when a seven-week-long war left much of the area devastated:

A report published in 2012 by the United Nations notes the Gaza Strip has “one of the youngest populations worldwide,” with about 51 percent of the population under 18 years of age.That same report predicted the Gaza Strip could become virtually unlivable by 2020, according to available trend data for access to food, drinking water, electricity, sanitation infrastructure, health care and schooling. A shortage of clean water alone could create a crisis as early as 2016, due to the accelerating depletion of groundwater wells and inadequate sewage systems. Additionally, the Palestinian Ministry of Education lists hundreds of schools as damaged, and dozens destroyed entirely. The scope of the devastation is vast.

Against this backdrop, we visited Sister Nabila in 2014:

According to a UNICEF report, about 373,000 Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip — or 35 percent of the children there — require psychological intervention after the summer’s war.

…At one of the institutions CNEWA supports, the Rosary Sisters School, the scene looks markedly different than other places. The students are playing, drawing and dancing, expressing and discussing their summer.

Sister Nabila Saleh, the school’s principal, noticed a difference in the students’ behavior when they returned to school. The children were tense, and became more violent with one another on the playground.

“It was obvious the war had a bad impact on the children, and for that reason we decided to dedicate the first week to stress release by playing, drawing, dancing and writing — in cooperation with specialists,” Sister Nabila says.

“Most of the children responded positively during the social activities. Some students profoundly need additional treatment — especially those who lost loved ones, or those whose homes were completely demolished.”

Bit by bit, child by child, Sister Nabila is working to rebuild shattered young lives. Some deep wounds do not heal easily. But as she put it last year:

“I have hope; as long as there is life there is hope, hope to build. This hope fills the hearts of our students. They want to be doctors, lawyers … All this means that they can build our country.”

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