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Knowing what the children have endured, I decided to carry out some activities before the new school year began. I worked on this with administrators and teachers — who themselves needed psychological rehabilitation.

We began the week with a thoughtful recreational and psychological activities program for more than 800 children from kindergarten until the tenth grade. It included drama, games, art sessions, dancing, singing, sport and debates. The students enjoyed it all. The teachers then led support sessions to encourage the children to talk about their experiences during the war.

Another activity involved showing movies with uplifting messages. The children especially enjoyed “The Butterfly Circus,” a short film about a young man without limbs who saw himself as an object of pity and ridicule, cursed from birth. Yet through the encouragement of others, the young man discovers inner strength and self-respect.

The last day of the week was an amazing one for all. The children wanted to have a water fight, and I accepted that challenge enthusiastically. I bought some squirt guns, balloons, buckets and hoses, and asked them to bring theirs, too, if they had any. The students, teachers, staff and even Sister Bertilla joined the match; it was by far the happiest day ever. They enjoyed filling the balloons with water and throwing them at each other in an atmosphere of safety and happiness, of laughter and joy.

This seemed to help them. I noticed during the weeks that followed that they seemed more relaxed and happier. They became eager to come to school and, from then on, little children rushed up to hug me whenever they saw me. I’m glad for this; it is truly touching.

I continue to pay great attention to carrying out extracurricular activities from kindergarten to tenth grade — from music and drama activities to events such as art exhibitions, holiday parties and sporting competitions that make the whole school very excited.

Despite these wonderful responses, the greatest impact on children may yet be found not in what they receive, but what they give.

Volunteer in-kind assistance events, with assistance from Islamic Relief, have created an opportunity for the children to connect and grow with their community by giving a helping hand to families in Gaza. Students collect for those most in need clothes, blankets, shoes, towels, toys and school bags. This encourages a sense of love and charity. I’m confident that instilling this spirit of generosity among young people is a critical matter of character building for a more kind and loving society.

The funniest of all events was our Environment Day, when we wanted to promote cleanliness. We started by cleaning all around outside the school, and all the students and teachers were enthusiastically committed to the task. After returning to the school and having a recess period, the schoolyard was the dirtiest it had ever been. It was a good opportunity for them to learn that being clean is about both external and internal.

“Beautiful is what you make beautiful.” I told them, at the end of the day.

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