|© UNICEF OPT/2008/ Halawani|
|Children wait to release colourful balloons which carry letters for other children all over the world, during the 2008 Global Peace Games for Children and Youth.|
By Monica Awad
WEST BANK, Occupied Palestinian Territory, 5 December 2008 – Hundreds of Palestinian children from various cities, villages and refugee camps came to Ramallah to celebrate their 'right to play' at the 2008 Global Peace Games for Children and Youth, held last month at Majed Al Asad stadium.
“Through today’s activities, I would like to send a message of peace to the world,” said Qussai Al Shalaf, a 15-year-old boy from Ramallah.
The stadium filled with laughter as children enjoyed a day of peaceful play. Some children painted or made kites, while others participated in athletic activities such as football.
'Right to Play'
The activities were organized by the ‘Right to Play’ organization in cooperation with Ministries of Youth and Sports, Education, UNICEF, UNRWA, Pontifical Mission and the Yalla Ya Zhgar organization.
“Today we are marking Global Peace Day 2008, because we believe that children have a very important and unique power, they are ones who can change the world,” said Right to Play Country Manager Ghada Rabah.
Every child’s right
For children, the ability to exercise and play should be a commonplace, ordinary right. However, since the beginning of the year, more than 80 Palestinian children lost their lives and many more were injured. For Palestinian children, having a safe area for recreation helps them return to a sense of normalcy.
“In our country, there are no places for us to play,” said 10-year-old Yumnah Nujoom, from Jericho.
At playgrounds and youth centres in Gaza and across the West Bank, UNICEF and its partners have worked to create safe, child-friendly spaces.
“For many of these children, these spaces represent a refuge from the harsh reality that surrounds them,” said UNICEF Adolescent and Development Project Officer Lara Abu Shilbayeh.
Yumnah, who says her favourite sports are gym and karate, said she was very excited to have the opportunity for a safe place to enjoy herself. Her dreams are the same as all children's. She said, simply: “I want to play and have fun."