Palestine (BGR/MNN) –Many of the 266 elementary-aged students at the Lighthouse School in Gaza City, Palestine, understand the very real gnaw of hunger.
“Most of the children are from very poor families and all have been touched by the violence [in Gaza],” says Philip Lewiston,* a project director for Baptist Global Response.
The K-6 grade school, founded in 2004 by a number of Christian organizations including Southern Baptists, offers an educational alternative to needy families in Gaza City, Lewiston explains. Two-thirds of the school’s students receive tuition assistance through a child sponsorship program.
Of the 1.7 million people living in Gaza — a 139 square-mile strip bordering the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Egypt to the south and Israel to the north and east — government sources estimate that two-thirds are Palestinian refugees, and 44 percent are under age 15.
Violence, endemic poverty and massive unemployment, in addition to hunger, are just a few of the issues families face in this volatile and over-crowded region.
“With the change of government in Egypt, the unstable situation in Gaza seems to be getting worse,” says Lewiston. “By all indications, this coming year will be very difficult economically and politically for the people of Gaza.”
Fortunately, Lighthouse school has become a place of refuge for its students, and Southern Baptists are helping alleviate their hunger. Recently, BGR funded school lunches for all 266 Lighthouse students using donations from Southern Baptists to Global Hunger Relief (formerly the World Hunger Fund).
The $25,000 project for the 2013-2014 school year provides daily lunches to all students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Lewiston is grateful that gifts to Global Hunger Relief are providing practical help and ultimate hope to Lighthouse students — students like Aaqil Habib,* who graduated from Lighthouse and is now a seventh-grader in another school in the city.
Two years ago, Habib’s father passed away. Sometime later, Habib’s mother saw the boy, who hopes to become a doctor, standing in front of his father’s photo, holding one of his test papers.
Habib was saying, “Look, Daddy, how well I did.”
Stories like this encourage Lewiston and lead him to pray that the children of Lighthouse will come to understand God’s love in spite of their difficult circumstances. He is also grateful that Lighthouse continues to guide children away from hatred and violence toward a message of God’s love.
“There is a difference in the school that the children can feel,” Lewiston says. “It is a beacon of hope for a brighter future.”
* – Name changed for security purposes