PACES was founded nine years ago for the almost exclusive aim of developing and funding much-needed sports programs for Palestinian children: for boys who would otherwise be on the streets with nothing to do and therefore exposed to potential extremism, violence and radicalization, and for girls who would be stuck at home feeling marginalized and not empowered. Their initial sets of programs were for 400 children at 6 locations around the Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Ramallah areas. The aim was to add 200-300 children per year but thanks to the generous support of many friends, and institutions, they will have over 6,000 children in their 2016 program cycle, which Cycling4Gaza is supporting.
Though PACES coach the children football, basketball and volleyball as a means of getting them into their programs, PACES emphasize the importance of education covering topics such as personal hygiene, work-ethic, and community service. The PACES model provides for regular and ongoing coaching for the children in groups of 20-25 at least twice a week. Incredibly, 50% of the children in the programs are girls.
In September of 2010 two health programs were launched:
– A vision-screening and treatment project with a hospital in Jerusalem through which the eyes of all the children in Palestine were tested and treated. In addition, this program has a general hygiene component through which children are taught many aspects of personal health to which they generally do not have any access.
– An intense anti-smoking and anti-drug campaign that exposes the children to the perils and dangers of drugs and smoking that are very common and easily purchased in Palestine.
Last year PACES enhanced their health and safety programs by expanding the personal hygiene aspect of the awareness campaign and now have a program that certifies all the coaches in up-to-date first aid techniques.
As for vocational training, PACES have a program that encourages their “graduates” to return as trainee coaches. They provide them with training and encourage them to be mentors and leaders to the younger boys and girls in the core program. Furthermore, PACES take teams to Europe to participate in tournaments and are proud of the incredible achievements and performance of the children. They recruit their children whose attendance record and behavior stand out. PACES stress the importance of conveying a good image about Palestine through sportsmanship and exemplary behavior.
PACES are also happy to announce that in 2016 the program cycle will create essential employment for over 600 coaches in Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon. These jobs are for young men and women who would otherwise have very few opportunities of work.
A total of 3,700 out of 4,370 children benefited from the support of Cycling4Gaza. The 3,700 children were coached by 190 young male and female coaches in Gaza, West Bank and Lebanon. In addition, 138 young male and female volunteer assistant coaches were engaged in Palestine, 28 of which were based in Gaza.
Overall the following objectives were successfully met:
– Enhancing children’s life skills through sports programs and education activities and empower them to become active citizens within their communities.
– Improving the employ-ability skills for young female and male coaches.
– Developing the capacity of local partners to become part of the development of sustainable communities.
– Providing equal opportunities for both genders in sports.
“Practicing football in an organized manner within a group helped me technically. I also benefited from the other activities and awareness sessions”
Ezzedine Fehmi (15) Gaza
“I consider PACES a humanitarian organization, because they have helped me over the past 8 years, and helped other coaches and children in many ways despite all the challenges we live in”
Solafa Kassimm (32) Jenin
“PACES children come from difficult backgrounds, and managing them together can be difficult and challenging at times. But with proper guidance we were able to overcome this obstacle and create harmonized groups”
Zaher Badawieh (24) Beirut
”Many activities and sessions helped me develop my personality, and helped me physically as well”
Khaled Sawftah (10)Toubas