Despite all odds, Hasna, a 67-year-old widow from al-Deheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem decided to challenge cancer and pursue her own dream project.

Hasna is one of the beneficiaries of the “Karama for Food Security and Economic Empowerment in the south West Bank refugee camps”. The project aims to promote the recuperation of unused spaces such as rooftops for developing new productive green space.

This project has inspired a change in her life as Hasna’s income has increased and her will to fight cancer has been strengthened. The photos below describe Hasna’s journey turning a barren rooftop to a lively edible garden.

1. I am Hasna al Amash, 67 years old. I am a refugee and live in Deheisheh camp. I have been a widow for 23 years. I have seven daughters and one son. I have been suffering from kidney cancer for four years. I had to undergo surgery to get my kidney removed. I discovered that accidentally, when I was doing routine medical exams. Many things in my life happened by chance. I was not scared. On the contrary, I took the appropriate treatment and used my willpower to live.

2. There are two organizations in our refugee camp. One of them is Karama Organization and the other organization provides health services. The vast majority of residents here suffer from poverty and, as you can notice, the houses are adjacent to each other. So, there is no privacy.

3. In the camp, many women are deprived of their rights, such as the right to inherit and self-determination. I got married when I was 23 years old, but I did not have the right to meet my husband until after our marriage. I live in a very difficult economic situation, with my son who studied accounting but works at construction sites. Karama is the only project I have joined after my husband passed away. There is no doubt that the project has helped me increase my income, as well as allowing my son to be able to get his house ready before getting married. Now, my son has his own apartment on the top floor of my house.

4. I learnt about the Karama project by coincidence. I saw an advertisement as I walked down the alley. One of the neighbors asked me: “Why do you not participate in this project and get a rooftop garden?” I told him I wanted to do so, but I thought the registration process was over. He encouraged me to try to register. The next day, a team of experts came to my house, to study the rooftop, and they told me to cut off my favorite grape tree, which holds many memories. I refused, at the beginning. But, eventually, my family convinced me to cut off part of it.

5. Luckily, many vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, mint and thyme grew in the greenhouse. I was selling the crop through Karama Organization. Last season, I had 120 kilos of very tasty cucumbers. Sometimes the weather affects the crop. In order to overcome this problem, we put fans in the summer and a heating system in the winter.

6. The European Union delegation visited me several times. They were very impressed and shocked at the same time. They were able to feel the difference in the taste between the cucumber planted in my garden and the Palestinian market.

7. I have always been keen to attend the workshops held by Karama Organization, in order to increase awareness about the methods of preserving greenhouses.

Karama Organization always encourages me to ask questions and, when needed, they come and help me directly.

8. This project provided not only knowledge on greenhouses, but we also learned how to can pickle and use non-chemical pesticides. We received valuable guidance on these methods from the Karama Organization. I encourage such developmental projects, and hope to expand the rooftop garden even further. I feel safe to eat these vegetables and fruits that are free of any chemicals.

9. I am passionate about my greenhouse. I check it regularly, more than once a day. Although I had pain in my feet to the point where I was not able to walk properly, now I am challenging myself and going up all these stairs to enjoy the view of my rooftop. I feel active and proud of this achievement.

10. There are many women who benefit from this project, in the camp, and the number is growing. Women are eager to have greenhouses, but sometimes they do not have enough space on the roof. There is acceptance of this project in my area and even men support their women in it. For me, I do everything on my own after my husband passed away.

11. I hope that the European Union will continue to provide good seedlings, organic fertilizer, and allow us to grow in other places, not just on the rooftops.

At the beginning of February, I will plant thyme because it grows quickly, smells beautiful, fight winter diseases, and expels insects.


(edited for the IMEMC by c h r i s @ i m e m c . o r g)

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