Partner of The Week: Unlimited Friends Association, Palestine

The Unlimited Friends Association (UFA) was founded in 2003 and operates in Gaza, Palestine. UFA focuses on creating positive and sustainable changes in the lives of vulnerable groups by implementing community-based developmental programmes and projects that are designed through participatory and rights-based approaches to meet the needs of the local community.  

As a non-profit organisation it operates by accentuating the importance of various social causes ranging from education, to child protection, to combating gender-based violence (GBV), to providing psychological and social support to GBV victims including counselling, therapy and other forms of social support to ultimately allow victims to recover from post-conflict or post-violence exposure.  

UFA also entrusts part of its social cause initiatives to economic and youth empowerment.  

Regarding education, the association works on improving the quality of teaching in schools and provides stimulating learning environments for children by improving access to services such as supplementary education, early childhood education, educational sponsorships and capacity building for the facilitators. Additionally, child protection is assured by raising awareness among families, teachers and the community regarding sexual harassment, abuse, neglect and how to respond in conflict afflicted scenarios to ensure necessary support for the children, by providing psychological support, advice and guidance.  

Moreover, combatting gender-based violence is addressed by providing education and awareness raising services to change negative behaviours and misconceptions, as well as advocating for laws and regulation that prohibit all forms of gender-based violence. In light of this cause, UFA also believes in strengthening additional efforts to empower women economically, socially and politically, and encourage their active participation in public life.  

Under UFA’s economic and youth empowerment, the association engages in income-generating projects to promote economic development in marginalised areas. It also provided education and training services for individuals and communities to enable them to acquire skills and expertise to make them able to integrate in the job market. In addition, the youth are stimulated via quality education and life skills training to succeed in their prospective careers, supporting small businesses, and encouraging entrepreneurship by establishing opportunities for all.  

Our Partnership 

UFA partnered with Aflatoun International in 2018. Currently, the association implements our Aflatoun, AflaYouth, and Aflatot programmes, which are being contextualised and implemented. Together, we work in empowering children and the youth with the knowledge and skills they need to create positive change in their lives and their communities.  

In the words of local NGO member, “social and financial education helps people understand the importance of managing money, budgeting, saving and investing. It helps individuals make better financial decisions, achieve their financial goals, and helps individuals develop entrepreneurial skills, such as identifying businesses opportunities, managing resources and marketing products or services.” This UFA member also mentions how Social and Financial Education works to break the cycle of poverty and helps promoting social justice, as well as allowing communities to develop sustainable economic practices to enable long term growth.  

Local Environmental Projects 

UFA is proud of many of its local initiatives but highlights two projects: The “Beautiful Environment Initiative” became a project aimed to improve the quality of the environment, reduce pollution resulting from waste emissions, and work on mitigating the effects of climate change on the environment. The initiative included the installation of recycling waste containers made of environmentally friendly and biodegradable materials in public places such as streets and the university. Means of waste segregation were also provided to convert them into recyclable materials in cooperation with waste recycling entities. Another sustainable project was the “Green Response” initiative, which involved planting more than 100 fruit trees in several areas inside the Gaza Strip, with the aim of preserving the natural environment to combat climate change and enhance national efforts to protect the environment. 

Audai: the 13-year-old local painter  

Audai Al-Taban is a 13-year-old boy who lives in the remote village of Al-Zawayda, where not all the social services available in other camps and cities are provided. Audai attends the United Nations Relief Works Agency’s education programme, and he receives remedial education services at the Friends Without Borders educational centre because he struggles academically with his school work. After the implementation of the Aflatoun programme, Audai became interested in the lessons provided and decided to join the programme’s activities. He was impressed by his classmates’ stories about the knowledge they received and the positive changes that happened to them.  

Audai began learning basic social and financial skills and gained confidence in himself and his abilities. Before joining the programme, Audai did not have enough experience with his skills and capabilities, and he spent his free time playing in the street. Now, Audai discovered a talent for drawing, and he began to nourish his skills alongside the Aflatoun programme. As a result, Audi plans to turn his talent into a source of income. He will draw paintings on pieces of cloth and then display them to his classmates at school, at the centre, or online to earn some money and save for the future.