"I wanted to give children in Palestine with physical disabilities the opportunity my parents gave me"

Interview mit Maysoon Zayid

Reading and Writing in Arabic, Mathematics, English and Science/Social Studies – being taught in these subjects is at least special for seven children in Palestine. The alternative for them would be absolutely no education at all. If the program Maysoon’s Kids doesn’t teach them no one will.


Photo: Maysoon Zayid

Maysoon Zayid; © Zayid

Maysoon Zayid is a comedian, a writer and has Cerebral Palsy. REHACARE.de talked to her about the importance of education and getting chances.

In April 2002 you founded Maysoon’s Kids. What is the purpose of Maysoon’s Kids?

Maysoon Zayid: My desire was to work with kids who had survived being shot by the Israeli Army. I wanted to do arts with them because I felt it would be a great way for them to deal with the trauma. I ended up only doing arts for one year because I realized disabled and wounded children in Palestine needed something far more important.

What did they need instead?

Zayid: They needed education. When I started public school in the United States my parents had to sue the school system in order to mainstream me. I believe that if I had been sent to a school for children with special needs that I would not have achieved what I have today. I wanted to give children in Palestine with physical disabilities the opportunity my parents gave me. So I decided to start the Maysoon’s Kids Class. I have worked with many rehab centers throughout Palestine and the one thing that was missing was education. They were treating the kids’ bodies and neglecting their minds. We launched our first class room in September of 2014 in Beit Fajjar, Palestine.

The village falls between Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank and they offered us a free space with electricity and bathrooms for which we are very grateful. All of the desks and chairs that we bought for the classroom are made in Palestine. We do our best to support the local economy and we currently are employing a team of four, so we are creating jobs, too.

How can I imagine Maysoon's Kids Class?

Zayid: We have a teacher, a social worker, a teacher’s assistant and a speech therapist. We also have many volunteers who have come to volunteer their time, teach dance, or arts, or to help us build our Indiegogo Campaign page. We currently have seven students and they have excelled far beyond our greatest expectations. We hope to integrate two of the students into the public school system in the fall of 2015.
Photo: Maysoon Zayid with children

Maysoon's Kids wants to build classrooms for children with disabilities who have been rejected by the mainstream school system; © Maysoon's Kids

How is all your work funded?

Zayid: When I started Maysoon’s Kids, most of the funding came out of my pocket, but as it grew and I grew up, that was no longer sustainable. 100 percent of our funding now comes from donations online to our Indiegogo campaign called "Feed a Mind". I publicize it on my social media so the people donating are friends, family and fans. We have a YouTube channel showing the student’s progress and are very conscious of avoiding pity and instead highlighting their success.

What made you decide to commit yourself in such campaigns?

Zayid: My mom and dad fought for me, and I fight for these kids because I know that when you’re living in chaos it is hard for parents to do the right thing for their children. So if I can help in any way I want to. I partner with other organizations whose work I respect and who I trust. Playgrounds for Palestine is one of them. They built the playground outside of the center that houses the Maysoon’s Kids class in Beit Fajjar and we partnered with them to build a playground outside of another rehab center in Silwad, outside of Ramallah. The tastiest way you can support Playgrounds for Palestine is by buying their olive oil which is imported from Palestine. The more you buy, the more they can build and they are committed to building accessible play spaces. We also partner with PCRF who have provided medical supplies for multiple Maysoon’s Kids students.

Do you have the feeling that your work really helps and changes something for the children?

Zayid: I often feel overwhelmed because I am only helping seven out of a million kids and I can’t protect them from the violence and discrimination they are subjected to by the occupation every day. But I do know I changed these kids’ lives. Before this class, they were denied an education. Now they are reading sentences, adding numbers, and doing yoga. That has to be good. The parents have been so supportive, so that helps, too.
More about Maysoon Zayid at: www.maysoon.com
Photo: Nadine Lormis; Copyright: B. Frommann

© B. Frommann

Nadine Lormis