Supporting older people's rights in Hebron
Last week, I met with our partner PCCDS, the Palestinian Centre for Communications and Development Strategies, based in Hebron in the West Bank.
PCCDS work on various issues, but their work overlaps with ours when it comes to supporting older people.
A grandparents' house in Hebron
PCCDS and HelpAge have worked together to set up a day centre for older people in Hebron, or a grandparents' house. It is an age-friendly place specifically designed for older people. They can go there to meet each other, talk, get information and advice and basic healthcare.
The house only opened about three weeks ago but it is already a great success. PCCDS staff said that the older people who have been to the centre are over the moon that someone is doing something for them. They have been made to feel that they don't have a role to play in society anymore, but that is changing. Each activity they have planned so far has had double the expected turn out - not a bad start!
The older people who visit the centre are varied. Some are retired and finding it difficult without a source of income and something to do. Others have health problems - diabetes, high blood pressure - or need advice on financial issues, such as how to pay for heating in the winter.
The grandparents' house tries to help with all these issues. It offers a doctor once a week, some medication and mobility aids. Plans for the future also include a trained counsellor and a legal advisor to support older people and help them to access their rights.
Older people have a wealth of experience
Mr Jamil, one of the founders of PCCDS, set it up after years of working for other NGOs. His aim is to change people's attitude towards older people and show the importance of their contributions, experiences and traditional knowledge and stories. He told us that no one cares for older people in Palestine and the few who are aware of older people's issues treat them as inactive and a burden.
He also said it was important to have something for older people as he hopes to be part of the programme one day!
Spreading the message of older people's rights
There seems to be an amazing network of civil societies organisations throughout the West Bank that support each other too. Through word of mouth, workshops and meetings they are letting older people know that there is support for them and are finding even the most isolated older people.
This became apparent when we met Fatima Mohammed Ahmad Hroub, a volunteer from a women's organisation in Taffouh (a village near Hebron) at the grandparents' house. Fatima is 50. She is strong, friendly and talkative and by the end of our chat, I wanted her to adopt me!
Really enthusiastic about the grandparents' house too, Fatima said: "PCCDS are a special organisation. Others promise to help, to support you but they don't. PCCDS have always kept their promises to me and older people. The older people are so happy to have the centre. One woman said that she loves it so much, she wants to come by and eat her lunch here every day!"
We joked with Fatima that she is strongest woman in Hebron. She laughed and said: "I've always been like this, I have my problems, I'm putting six children through school and university and have high medical costs, but when I'm here, I'm happy!"
Stength of the HelpAge Network
It is after seeing the PCCDS project activities that I have realised the full force of the HelpAge Network through which we work in over 60 countries.
My interaction with the staff and older people they support, has left me feeling optimistic about the fight for older people's rights and issues of ageing. A lot remains to be done, but it is positive to know that there are groups like PCCDS working directly with older people to support them and ensure that they are able to access their rights.
Read more about our work with partners in the occupied Palestinian territories.
To keep up to date with Sarah's visit to oPt follow her on Twitter @sarahmarzouk