Everyone likes a good story.
My involvement with so many storytelling projects in Palestine over the last five years has taught me that Palestinian children, of course, are no different from any other children in this respect. But in Palestine stories can take on a heightened importance. They are a powerful way to make a connection in a place where freedom of movement is severely limited, and where feelings of isolation are common. They can enable Palestinian children to connect to themselves and their own rich culture, but also to the world outside – a world which it sometimes seems has abandoned them. Stories are also a very powerful and memorable way to contextualise the children’s learning of English. It was with these ideas in mind that the Hands Up Project came into being.
Three years ago, using very simple video conferencing tools, I started connecting online to a small group of children in a library in Beit Hanoun, Gaza for weekly storytelling sessions. From these humble beginnings, the Hands Up Project now works with over thirty different groups in Gaza, in the Occupied West Bank, and in Zaatari refugee camp for Syrian children in Jordan. As many as 500 kids a week now connect to volunteers around the world who work in collaboration with the local teacher to tell stories to each other, to play games and to do other activities to help them bring the English that the children are learning come to life.
And why ‘Hands Up’ ?
Well, anyone who’s ever taught kids will know that having a class of motivated and enthusiastic children with their hands in the air, wanting to put themselves forward, is something that can make our jobs as teachers feel very worthwhile. Despite all the difficulties that Palestinian and Syrian children face in their daily lives, those of us around the world who now volunteer with HUP are greeted with this sight on a regular basis. This is what The Hands Up Project is all about.
Nick Bilbrough, Founder and Coordinator of the Hands Up Project