October 1, 2004
NEW IOCC PROJECT TO IMPROVE WEST BANK SCHOOLS
Jerusalem (IOCC) - A new project by International Orthodox Christian
Charities (IOCC) in the West Bank will expand educational opportunities for
thousands of underprivileged Palestinian young people. The $3 million
project, funded in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID), will result in the construction or renovation of school
classrooms, bathrooms, libraries, labs, playgrounds and other youth
facilities in 24 villages in the Ramallah region.
IOCC, a humanitarian aid agency of Orthodox Christians, is responding to
the challenge of a growing student population (3.9 percent annual growth
rate) combined with a widespread shortage of classroom space in the West
Bank. "Many rural areas do not have any schools or enough classrooms, and
children are compelled to go to neighboring villages," said Nora Kort, head
of IOCC-Jerusalem. "This presents great challenges and obstacles,
especially for girls: Tradition does not allow them to travel outside their
own villages in search of education."
In addition to educational concerns, the IOCC-USAID project will address
problems of unemployment in the West Bank. With unemployment at over 60
percent, the project will create short-term, labor-intensive jobs in the
construction trades, Ms. Kort said. "Unemployment affects two-thirds of
the adult Palestinian population," she said, "because the people's freedom
of movement is severely restricted by military closures and checkpoints."
For 30 months, IOCC will employ more than 2,000 people to do the
construction and renovation work. The result will be an improved
educational infrastructure network serving more than 26,000 children ages
5-19, Ms. Kort said. The new project builds on IOCC's success over the
past two years in training women, creating jobs, renovating public
buildings (including schools) and revitalizing agriculture in rural areas
of the West Bank. IOCC implemented that project, also funded by USAID, by
partnering with village leadership and organizing the participating
villages into "clusters."
Ms. Kort said IOCC will use the same system with the new initiative.
Clusters of 13 villages near the town of Ni'lin and 11 villages near the
town of Beit Liqya will be involved, potentially benefiting a population of
more than 68,000 residents. "Children who live in rural areas of the West
Bank are suffering from a lack of safe educational and recreational
facilities," said IOCC Director of Operations Samir Ishak. "Their parents
suffer from a lack of employment. This project addresses both concerns ?
the short-term and the long-term." IOCC's partners in the project include
USAID, local village councils, and the Palestinian Ministry of Education
and Higher Education.
IOCC has been active in the Middle East since 1997, when it began
humanitarian programs in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Founded in 1992, IOCC is
the official humanitarian agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical
Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). To learn more about IOCC's
relief and development programs in the Holy Land and around the world,
please visit www.iocc.org
For media inquiries, please contact IOCC Communications Associate Stephen
Huba at 1-877-803-4622 or firstname.lastname@example.org