Bright Stars Summer Academy 2006

As the Israeli separation wall and movement restrictions continue to imprison Palestinians on a daily basis, the Bright Stars Summer Academy 2006 came to offer the children and youth of Bethlehem newer opportunities of training and hope. The program offered those children possibilities and visions to overcome the barriers and have the chance to learn, express, and enjoy.

As the summer of 2006 has particularly seen a lot of violence and bloodshed in the Middle East especially affecting children and youth, the Bright Stars Summer Academy 2006 focused on providing care and alternatives to the children and young people. 

In addition, in the past few months Palestinians have experienced bad economic conditions of not receiving salaries and high unemployment rates. Under such difficult conditions, the International Center of Bethlehem enabled underprivileged young people to take part in the program and gave priority of participation to children and young people of needy families and from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Bright Stars Summer Academy 2006 was known to be a unique program in Bethlehem and Palestine, offering Palestinian children and youth a wide range of educational, training, and entertainment activities throughout the 5-week summer program. The Bright Stars Summer Academy is the only program where children and youth are given the choice, as they can choose from 40 different activities based on their talents and interests, where they learn new skills, develop their talents and abilities, express their feelings and concerns, and produce their own work.

More than 500 children and youth wished to participate in the Bright Stars Summer Academy 2006. However and due to limited space, 350 children aged 6-16, Christians and Muslims, girls and boys, from all parts of the Bethlehem district including towns, villages, and refugee camps, participated in the program.  

 

The Bright Stars Summer Academy 2006 took place between June 26th and July 30th at Dar Al-Kalima Model School and Dar Al-Kalima Health & Wellness Center, with the participation of 350 young people, under the supervision of 7 organizers, 38 trainers, and 25 young volunteers.

 “Color your life, achieve your dreams” was the theme of the Summer Academy for this year. The theme was present throughout the different activities of the program, and was designed to:  

-          Encourage the participants and increase their self worth

-          Promote diversity as well as individualism

-          Encourage ambitions and thinking positively of the future, and provide hope

-          Introduce using color through arts and culture, as a sign of hope and achievement

-          Strengthen the sense of community and belonging through colors  

In addition, a Bright Stars song  was developed that expresses and communicates the theme and its meaning.

The summer academy 2006 offered the children and youth a number of recreational and educational activities, and focused on achieving the following:

 

  • Providing hope and alternatives to the children and youth

  • Raising awareness on pluralism and diversity in the Palestinian society

  • Raising awareness on expression of human rights and children's rights

  • Training in non-violent communication: providing young people with the training, tools, and opportunities to express and communicate their issues and concerns through non-violent means such as arts, media, and performance arts.  

  • Self expression: Encouraging and helping the children and youth to express their thoughts and feelings in various ways.

  • Critical and analytical thinking: among patriarchal Palestinian traditions, the program provides space and encourages children and young people to think critically and analytically, formulate and express their own opinions, and introduces them to self-based learning.

  • Promoting the young people’s self-confidence by acknowledging their work and developing their artistic, creative, aesthetic, and physical potentials.

  • Developing leadership capacities of the young people

  • Environmental and health education: Providing training on environmental and health issues, in addition to applications such as glass arts and recycling of different materials. Also, promoting hope through transforming destruction and waste into beautiful and usable art works. Additionally, providing educational and recreational activities through the programs of the Dar Al-Kalima Health & Wellness Center.

  • Democracy and participation: promoting and encouraging democracy and youth participation in the public life and in decision-making.

 

The theme and the aims were applied and achieved throughout the different elements of the program:  

 

Courses/ clubs: The training was designed to provide the children with the freedom of choice based on their interests and talents, and the opportunity to receive professional training in the fields of their choice and develop their skills and talents. In each club, the young people received professional training in the field and were given the tools, opportunities, and guidance to produce their own work and express the issues important to them. 40 different clubs took place at this year’s summer academy:

 

§         Arts & Crafts: Glass Mosaic, Glass fusing, Ceramics, Drawing & painting, Sculpture, arts, Bead jewelry-making, Scientific arts, and Recycling arts

 

 

 

§         IT & Communications: MS Office, Web Design, Internet & email, Graphic design, Photography, Video filming & editing, Clay Animation, Journalism, and Creative writing

 

 

§         Sports: Self Defense, Swimming, Volleyball, Football/ Soccer, Basketball, Table Tennis, and Sports games

 

 

 

 

§         Performance arts & music: Palestinian Folk dance (Dabke), Break Dance, Latin Dance, Vocal training, Theatre & Drama, Rap music, Music instruments, Hand bells, Story-telling, and Expression Arts

 

 

 

§         Other: Chess, Cooking, Games, Human Rights, and environment

 

 

Weekly activities: In addition to the training in courses, once a week outdoor activities and trips took place. Such activities are meant to provide awareness, training, and entertainment to the children. Children and youth in Bethlehem have limited opportunities to leave their towns or villages, and even more so with the Israeli restriction policies and segregation wall. Therefore, the weekly activities were designed to give the children and youth the chance of entertainment, joy, and going out of their everyday contexts. The weekly activities and trips that took place during the 5 weeks were: Trip to Mary Doty Playgrounds & Gardens, Trip to Fun Land in Ramalla, Movie Day, Trip to Golden Park swimming pools, Clowns show & Fun day, BBQ party, Trip to Olive Tree Water Park

 

 

 

Morning devotion: The morning devotion took place daily, where Christian values were highlighted and focused on, and the participants were encouraged to work together as a community and support each other. In addition, the young people were given the chance to celebrate their culture through singing, dance, music, and painting, share and appreciate their abilities and talents, and learn and share something new everyday.

 

Closing celebration: At the end of the summer academy, the participants and teachers helped organize a final closing and celebration ceremony the "Final Day" festival. The closing celebration day was an opportunity for the children to exhibit and perform the different works and products that they produced during the 5 weeks, making them realize their potentials and improve their confidence and self worth. For the children and youth, this was a chance to take pride in their work, and an opportunity to express their abilities and concerns and share their great potentials with the community.