Tell a Child in Gaza’s Tale: An Invitation
Haneen Jadallah is an English language teacher, a teacher trainer and a remote theatre specialist. She has an MA degree in Drama and English Language Teaching at the University of Warwick, UK. She is also a Sahin Family Award winner for exceptional progress at Warwick university. She has a special interest and expertise in drama and language learning and intercultural remote theatre. She has developed her own framework for students to create their own plays and to perform them remotely to the outer world. She is passionate about connecting young people in Palestine with their peers around the world through intercultural link-ups and online theatre.
David Heathfield is a world storyteller, teacher trainer and writer from Exeter, UK. He has authored Storytelling With Our Students and Spontaneous Speaking (both DELTA) and numerous articles and book chapters. He provides Creative and Engaging Storytelling for Teachers (CrEST) courses for worldwide participants on Zoom. He and his wife Tammy Heathfield are also Heathfield Creative English Coaching.
Humanising Palestinian learners of English through storytelling was the idea behind our project which was spontaneously conceived on New Year’s Eve. We asked ourselves what we could invite teachers of English, learners of English and storytellers of all heritages, ages and profiles to do which would give them the opportunity to take positive action and amplify the voices of Palestinian children, who are going through the worst imaginable horrors in Gaza.
Back in 2020 during Covid lockdowns globally the World Storytelling Café https://worldstorytellingcafe.com/, a free global online storytelling space (mostly but not exclusively in the English language) hosted in Marrakech, started a regular weekly Tuesday event ‘Young International Storytellers’. Together with John Row, the UK-based curator and main host, I promoted the weekly event and, in the early days, often co-hosted or hosted it. I had the good fortune to know teachers in Gaza because I had just started running my CrEST (Creative and Engaging Storytelling for Teachers) courses and was able to offer two teachers fully funded places on each of my courses. These wonderfully creative teachers invited their students to participate and coached them in preparation for telling stories on Tuesdays. Children from many parts of the world have come together on Tuesdays with regulars from India, Nigeria, Italy and the UK among other parts of the world. The stories, chosen by the children in Gaza, are mostly short and simple fables and folk tales from the oral tradition. Some are specifically Palestinian, many can be called Middle-Eastern tales and many more are universal tales such as Aesop fables. Others are historical stories, songs and fairy tales originating in Europe. Literally hundreds of stories have been told by children in Gaza at the World Storytelling Cafe since 2020. The children’s desire to communicate with people outside Gaza has a lot to do with living under blockade. They want to share their lives, experiences and dreams with other young people around the world.
Shortly after the current critical situation in Gaza began, Haneen Jadallah and I co-hosted a very successful Medical Aid for Palestinians fundraiser ‘A Call for Peace’ at the World Storytelling Café on 26 October 2023 – here is the recording https://www.youtube.com/live/hExuCtrvZ_w?si=zGZ3RngFpNk9zPPK.
Starting on 10 November 2023 I shared a link on my Facebook page every day to a video recording of a child from Gaza telling a story to camera. Nearly all of these recordings are from World Storytelling Café archive recordings on YouTube and Facebook from 2020 to 2022. People around the world, many of them teachers of English who love oral storytelling, have followed and commented, expressing admiration for and solidarity with the children and their teachers whose circumstances we can only imagine. This continued until 13 January when I shared the 65th daily story.