People in Hastings and beyond heard about a unique project last week when local man Adrian Underhill spoke about an initiative which links children in Gaza with their peers around the world.
The Hands Up project enables children in Gaza to connect, through the internet, with youngsters of their age group in other countries.
Last weeks talk, originally intended to be a public meeting, took place through Zoom as a result of the current Covid-19 restrictions.
At the heart of Hands Up are mini plays, each of which is no more than five minutes long, contains no more than five characters and is written by school-kids with teachers’ help.
The plays have to be filmed in one take with one camera. Palestinian children have risen to the challenge of this demanding format and have now produced hundreds of the mini plays. Some of the films were screened in the Zoom event and showed young Gazans tackling such weighty subjects as their profound isolation in the world, global warming, and the problems girls face trying to pursue their dreams in the face of tradition
Given the situation Gazan children find themselves in Hands Up offers an important opportunity to engage with the wider world, Adrian said: “The project gives the children the chance to talk about their lives, tell stories, find out about others and do it in English which they see as a valuable entry to the international community.”
Last year Adrian helped to take a group of 15 nine to 11-year-old school-kids from Gaza to the West Bank, where they performed their award-winning plays to audiences in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Jenin. It was the first time they had ventured beyond the confines of their blockaded city.
Thirteen years ago Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the tiny Middle Eastern coastal strip in response to the militant group Hamas taking control of the territory. The impact of this on the people of Gaza has been huge with unemployment rising sharply and health standards declining. Goods, food, and construction materials are all affected by the blockade.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has described the blockade as ‘collective punishment’, a policy illegal under article 33 of the 4th Geneva Convention.
Last weeks meeting was the latest in a series of annual joint meetings between the Hastings and District Interfaith Forum and Hastings Against War. After the meeting local resident John Lynes, a member of both groups, said: “Participants in the Zoom call were enthusiastic, several are contacting the Hands Up project hoping to link Hastings children with children in Gaza.”
Anyone wishing to get involved in the project, including schools, can find out more through the Hastings Against War website hastingsagainstwar.org. There are links to many of the mini plays on the website.