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Five percent of the profit from items sold by Folk Art Mavens will be contributed to American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA). ANERA is the leading American Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) focused on providing humanitarian aid to the Middle East. Since 1968, ANERA has been a leader in creating innovative job, health and education opportunities in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon and providing emergency relief during periods of difficulty.

Janice Hayden, founder of Folk Art Mavens, traveled to Gaza in May of 2012 to visit two of ANERA's ongoing programs in Gaza, Right Start! and In Kind Donations. Rania Elhilou, the media relations officer, organized her tour.

Mona Zakout Abu Share'ah, ANERA's Right Start! program manager, shows Janice Hayden an ANERA-funded preschool reading corner at the Bissan preschool. ANERA is working with thirty community based, non profit pre-schools in Gaza, providing pre-school reconstruction and Early Childhood Development assistance. At these schools, ANERA builds reading corners and supplies them with books. They provide training for the teachers, curtains, paintings and teacher guides. The children have daily time in these reading corners. Teachers proudly report that the children have become addicted to reading. ANERA also supplies reading packs for the children, to encourage reading in the home. Outside of the classroom, ANERA's Early Childhood Development program provides guidance to parents in reading, nutrition, child protection, writing, and appropriate play.

When we visited the classroom, 17 children were engrossed in the reading of The Lion King. In Gaza 70% of children aged 3-5 go to preschool. ANERA's hope is to raise this to 85%. These community-based non-profit preschools charge parents approximately 20 shekels/year for school fees. But, in an area where the majority of people live under the poverty line and require food assistance, paying school fees and providing shoes for their children to attend school can be barriers. Tom's Shoes has provided in-kind relief of 18,000 shoes to ANERA, which ANERA distributed to children in Gaza.

Today, ANERA is one of a small number of humanitarian organizations allowed to deliver crucial supplies into Gaza. Every year, with the help of partner organizations, ANERA delivers many millions dollars worth of medicine and health care supplies to non-profit clinics in Gaza. This past fiscal year, their donations totaled approx. $25 million. On the left is Mostafa Al Ghosain, who manages the delivery of these supplies in Gaza. Here he is visiting the Al Huda benevolent health center, which receives 30-40% of their medicine from ANERA. This clinic accepts people even if they are unable to pay. ANERA targets clinics that need the help the most, the NGO providers. Government and UNRWA clinics have their own sources of aid, which are not available to NGO providers. NGO clinics service all of the population without regard to their refugee status.

The medicines and supplies that ANERA distributes in Gaza are donations given by various non-profits to ANERA's In Kind Donation Program. Among the donors are AmeriCares, Direct Relief International, Catholic Medical Mission, Medical Teams International, Globus, and Genzyme. These donors are dependent on ANERA to get these medical donations into Gaza. ANERA supplies a list of its needs to its medical supply donors. When their donors respond with their list of available donations, ANERA must then get to work securing governmental approval, arranging transport, and dealing with customs. Years of experience and relationship-building with government officials and health care facility administrators translate into getting the right supplies to the right places for distribution. Rania Elhilou, the media relations officer, is holding a bottle of biaxin here, a respiratory antibiotic. This antibiotic costs 90 shekels outside of the clinic, but is distributed free of charge at the clinic.

This lab technician is standing next to an autoclave which was donated from Direct Relief International for distribution in Gaza. Direct Relief International is a non-profit based in Santa Barbara, California. Matt from Direct Relief International visited ANERA in 2011 and said: "No matter what the challenge, ANERA has proved they can import ocean containers of medical supplies through customs; get shipment from the ports to their warehouses; carefully inventory every item - ranging from a bottle of medicine to a wheelchair; get it delivered and track it once it gets there; follow up with every recipient to ensure that the supples arrived and that they are being utilized correctly and charitably. This careful logistical tracking offers donor organizations like Direct Relief significant comfort. It is one of many reasons we plan to increase our donations to ANERA in the future."

Janice Hayden, founder of Folk Art Mavens, visited the ANERA office in Gaza in May 2011 to hear about the new efforts on the ground to improve life for the people of Gaza. She spoke with Rania Elhilou about their new Home Gardens project, which will help families feed themselves. Today 80% of Gazan families are dependent on food aid.

Early in 2011, ANERA began implementing the Home Gardens project that is helping 35 families in the region pool their expertise and benefit from vacant land to build their Home Gardens. The project provides a green house, an irrigation system in addition to water tank, fertilizers and other farming materials.

ANERA started implementation of their Home Gardens program with 35 families. The families have been growing eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, pepper, parsley, and mint - these are all foods found in traditional Palestinian dishes. The farming is purely organic, the family is able to eat their produce and sell the surplus to the local market. They are also able to barter and exchange some local vegetables.

Gazan children show off fresh tomatoes they have harvested from their new Home Garden.

Janice Hayden, founder of Folk Art Mavens, toured ANERA projects in Gaza in October 2009. ANERA's Public Relations Officer for Gaza, Rania El Namarah showed Janice four of the projects in the north of Gaza, the Psycho-Social Project, The Chicken Project, Milk and Biscuits for Preschoolers Project and, Water and Sewage System Projects.

ANERA funds a psycho-social project in Beitouna to help children dealing with stress and trauma after the 22 day war (December 2008-January 2009). Many children in Gaza are experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety. During her visit, Janice Hayden observed children participating in structured play that aimed to teach them how to deal with conflict in a non-violent manner, and how to help and trust others.

ANERA provides chickens, cages and feed to 450 families in Gaza. Janice was able to visit with a 10 member family in Beit Lahiya living in three rooms who received chickens from ANERA. The chickens can lay up to eight eggs a day, providing basic food for the family.

ANERA's Milk and Biscuit for Preschoolers Program combats malnutrition among four and five year olds in Gaza for over 25,000 children. Folk Art Mavens profits help to fund this and ANERA's other projects. The daily fortified snack ensures that preschoolers get at least one source of nutritious food each day.

ANERA provides sponsorship for several deaf children in Gaza from the time they are three until they are 18 years old. This sponsorship allows them to attend Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children and provides each of them a uniform, food, educational material, and tuition. These costs average more than $100 per month per child.

ANERA's work is made possible through the support of thousands of private donors, in the US and abroad, and grants from numerous public and private institutions.

To find out more about ANERA's work, check their website at

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