Kamelia: « No longer having an income forced us to cut down on meals. »
‘So where is Kamelia’s house?’, I ask the driver while I climb out of the car carefully not to get my shoes muddy. As I am trying to locate the beautiful house that people have talked to me about, I notice a small villa with a well maintained front yard. Only a few minutes later I realize there is no furniture inside the house. No one would ever consider this family has suffered from having so little.
‘We used to live in a room at my husband’s family house with our seven children, before building this house’, says Kamelia as if she is reading my mind. Unlike what you would intuitively expect in a place hit by recurrent wars and massive damage to infrastructure, Kamelia is one of the many women in Gaza who believe owning a house is a safety net. ‘We put all our savings into building this house, but walls do not feed children’, she sighs. Little did she know about the future political changes that would turn her life upside down.
In the early days of the blockade on Gaza, Kamelia’s husband lost his job. He had been working for many years in a Palestinian construction factory that was fully dependent on imported materials from Israel. In return for food, her husband started helping out his sister at her little supermarket. ‘No longer having an income, forced us to cut down on meals and count on support from my family’, Kamelia explains. ‘My neighbors kept telling me that I should sell the house. I refused and even after being displaced twice during both the 2008 and 2014 wars, we always went back to our house.’
After many fruitless attempts to find a job, despite having a Bachelor degree in teaching Arabic, Kamelia eventually came across Action Against Hunger’s income generating program and her application was accepted. ‘It was such a relief to have a social worker considering my case beyond the first look at my house.’
Kamelia’s family members are all closely involved in the sheep breeding business she established with Action Against Hunger’s cash assistance. Her son, an engineering student, built the sheep shed and her husband helps her with the daily chores. ‘My community was very skeptical about me starting a sheep breeding business, but I gained confidence during the training courses. I was taught how to manage my commerce; I also learnt how to plan ahead and save money for future investments.’
Kamelia explains that she considers her small business as a first step towards a more sustainable income. She smilingly adds: ‘The sheep are just like my children now. I check on them constantly!’