East Jerusalem Community Empowerment
Grassroots Community Development Project for the Arab Population of Jerusalem
The Need: There are more than 300,000 Arab residents in east Jerusalem. According to most recent statistics, all Arab neighbourhoods were classified as having a low socio-economic status, and 77% of the general population lives beneath the poverty line. Most do not receive high-quality education, equal access to health care and adequate physical infrastructure.
The Jerusalem Foundation’s mission is to shape a modern and vibrant city by creating opportunities for all of Jerusalem’s populations. These include economic and community growth. The East Jerusalem Grassroots Community Development Project – including the MiniActive and Emergency Readiness Network programs – is a critical step in working toward that ideal.
Impact on Jerusalem: Basic health, educational and religious services and infrastructure must be provided to all residents of Jerusalem under international law. However, the reality is not so. Asymmetrical power relations, compounded by immense cultural differences, have left the needs of Arab residents of east Jerusalem unfulfilled. If these trends continue, chances are that east Jerusalem will become an area with severe health and educational crises.
Together with the Jerusalem Intercultural Center (JICC), the Jerusalem Foundation’s approach is hands-on, working to assist Arab residents in accessing rights and services, thereby improving their everyday lives. It also creates networks of grassroots community leadership that are civic-minded, building a sustainable civil society. Examples of programs include MiniActive and the East JerusalemEmergency Readiness Networks (ERNs).
The MiniActive grassroots empowerment program has redefined the community’s advocacy work to receive vital rights and services. MiniActive utilizes small groups of 4-5 people, mostly but not exclusively women, to fix problems, mostly physical infrastructure in nature. Begun in May 2012, MiniActive quickly grew to a network of 1,000 volunteers, from every corner of the city. Thus far, they have solved thousands of problems and improved everyday lives of tens of thousands of residents via continual communication with service hotlines (telephone, electricity, water, municipality, etc.), fixing street lamps and potholes, replacing traffic signs that had been damaged, improving bus stops, ensuring garbage was picked up and garbage were receptacles in place, re-paving bad roads, repairing electricity and telephone problems, and more. MiniActive has become the one of the largest networks of Arab volunteers working in east Jerusalem to improve everyday life. As a result, methodology has been developed to successfully work with service providers despite asymmetrical power relations and cultural, social and political gaps. Women have been empowered with the skills to effect change in their neighborhoods, building the human infrastructure for a peaceful future in any political configuration. The program has also developed partnerships with other organizations.
The East Jerusalem Emergency Readiness Networks (ERNs) are operated by a local organization, supervised by and in coordination with the JICC, local service providers and other organizations. They enable responses to begin within neighborhoods with the use of local manpower, significantly cutting down emergency response time. They also facilitate cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian aid providers. This program relies on local expertise and facilities – doctors, nurses, paramedics, social workers, engineers, operators of tractors and other heavy machinery, local schools and community institutions – and the use of local resources. The network also minimizes obstacles that can slow Israeli and Palestinian response time. In addition, this system also empowers and galvanizes local residents. The ERNs were born out of a realization that community preparedness is critical in the case of an emergency (such as a natural disaster, earthquake, fire, flooding, automobile accidents, terrorist attack, war). Having a network of local residents and professionals means that individuals are able to get the help they require quickly and efficiently. In addition, the program strengthens and empowers Arab communities. The program fosters community solidarity and cultivates communication within the neighborhoods. And it improves skills of leaders and community professionals, which will have a ripple effect throughout the city. Initiated in 2012, the Network now operates eight ERNs throughout the city, engaging hundreds of volunteers and being on call to help tens of thousands of residents. There has been a very positive response, and many other local Arab organizations have requested to join the project.
Websites: MiniActive: http://jicc.org.il/effective-activism-and-miniactive/
Emergency Readiness Networks: http://jicc.org.il/emergency-readiness-networks/
Funding Needed: NIS 160,000 per program per year