Life hasn’t always been easy for the children of Auja, a small village located in the Palestinian Jordan Valley. Certainly a complicated subject underlined by unemployment, limited resources and few opportunities for leisure and play. When FoEME established our Auja Environmental Center(AEC) we aimed to advance environmental education and awareness on the Jordan Valley’s geology, flora, fauna as well as its water resources. Complementing this goal, FoEME seeks to create new opportunities for the community of Auja through ecotourism and the rehabilitation of the communities’ natural environment.
From the day the AEC was founded its expansive yard quickly became the place for the communities’ youth to meet, play football, explore the center’s ever-evolving outdoor learning stations and more. But this week the AEC‘s function as a center for youth and children reached a new high with the opening of a new children’s playground.
Smiles, joy and laughter echoed through Auja immediately as the children discovered something never before seen in their community. Some people will say I am exaggerating when I say that the children found their childhood on that playground, but believe me, I am not.
Speaking with some of the parents about the AEC and specifically about the playground it is easy to see they are thrilled to see their children enjoying themselves. The children got the chance to play in an exciting, colorful and safe environment and to be educated at the same time.
The parents told me that before the playground, the children were hanging out all over the village, at times causing damage, not because they are bad kids but because there was nothing they could do in their free time. Everyone in the entire village faced these problems with their children.
As the Director of the AEC, establishment of the new playground has made me very proud. Auja’s children have a place to have fun and play and the parent’s are happy because they know that the children are spending their time in a good and safe place.
Every day hundreds of children come to play and enjoy themselves at the AEC. When I ask them what they like best about the playground between the slides, merry-go-round, swing sets and playhouses, they say everything is great before running off towards the see-saw or monkey-bars.
While the children are playing, our staff has the opportunity to get to know the kids and their parents and talk to them about their community, what is happening at the center and how we can work together to build a more eco-friendly and sustainable community.
For me it is great to be a part of organization which managed to help a community establish a safe place for children to just have fun – with smiles on each face.
– Fadi Jueejat, Auja Environmental Center Director