Rehabilitating Homes for Vulnerable Families in Gaza

By Rahma Ismael, Global Communities West Bank & Gaza

Global Communities: Ebtisam Al Hawary and family
Ebtisam Al Hawary's home was one of 300 rehabilitated through the Palestinian Community Assistance program. 

We are moving in the car, looking through the windows at everyday life in Gaza. The sea on one side, children running on the sidewalk, people going about their everyday lives despite the weight of their political reality. Finally we stop in front of the home of Ebtisam Al Hawary. Two little girls pop their head out from the front door, smile shyly and then run inside the house calling for their mother.

The mother, Ebtisam Al Hawary was married at the young age of 15 when girls in more fortunate countries go to school. She has been married for 20 years and is a mother to eight children; large family sizes are the norm in Gaza.

She welcomed us warmly into her home and offered us tea and sweets. The home was one of 300 rehabilitated by Global Communities/CHF International through the USAID-funded Palestinian Community Assistance program put together to alleviate the suffering and improve the quality of life of Gazans. The homes, before Global Communities rehabilitated them, could hardly be called homes. Some did not have walls while others had no flooring, ceiling, doors or windows.

“I lived in one room on the roof for 11 years with my children, then my father helped me by providing me a piece of land. We built two rooms with tin corrugated sheet. I lived in it for seven years. It was really a tough seven years. But then things got worse when my home was destroyed during the war,” said Ebtisam.

Ebtisam can barely manage to feed or provide for her family. Two members of her family are sick. “I have a 14 year old son who can’t walk because of an ankle disease and the medication is very expensive. He needs it every two days. Because of this disease he can’t go to the bathroom alone and as we did not have one in the house after the war I used to take him to the bathroom on the side of the street, which has no privacy. Most of the neighborhood children started to sneak up on him which hurt him a lot and stopped him from going out of the home,” she added.

Ebtisam finally managed to contact a non-governmental organization that could assist her son with some physiotherapy sessions. “When my son took his physiotherapy sessions I used to go to our neighbors house, as I felt shy and embarrassed of my home”, she said.

Limited medical facilities in the Gaza strip also compounds already existing health issues, leading to a lot of people being unable to work. “Neither me or my husband are working. My husband is the second sick member of my family. He has cancer,” she said.

The first time Global Communities visited their home it was in a severe state of disrepair with uncovered electricity wires in the same area where children were playing. There were also problems with the drainage and sewage. As a result of the dire need to repair the house, Global Communities supported Ebtisam and her family by making their shelter a home. Doors and windows were installed, along with other major rehabilitation works such as painting the walls, putting ceramic tiling on the floor, electrical work, alongwith the provision of proper kitchen facilities such as a kitchen sink and most importantly a bathroom. These simple actions undertaken protect the family from living on the street.

“Before our house was without windows or doors and the floor was unclean sand. We had no kitchen except a plastic shelf and the toilet was a hole, which we covered with sand after using it. It was miserable,” said Ebtisam, adding that she used to wash her clothes on the street as there was no running water in her house.

While their life is not perfect by any stretch, they are happier than they were before. “After receiving the support from Global Communities my life has changed. Even I have changed; I feel much better and optimistic...now I like my relatives and neighbors to visit us, compared to before when I used to find excuses for them not to come to our home.”

View more photos of homes rehabiliated in Gaza on Global Communities' Facebook page.