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Evaluation Report; Operation Palestinian Children and Youth (OPCY) 2008-2011

Background: Operation Palestinian Children and Youth (OPCY) is a project operated by the Palestinian Bible Society (PBS) that provides educational programs to children and youth and their families in Palestine, and training of trainers to adults working with children and youth.The initial project period ran from 2005 through 2008. Its main focus is the well being and healthy development of Palestinian families, children, youth and their parents. The project was evaluated in February 2008. One of the recommendations was that the next phase of the project should focus more on activities that will ensure long-term impact and sustainability. Now the focus is on the family as a unit. This means that the target group has been narrowed in order to achieve a deeper impact.Purpose/objective:• To evaluate if working with the family as a unit is essential for children’s development, wellbeing, and for raising them to become responsible members of society.• To assess the impact and the potential of including the media component (2010) in the project.• To assess the cost effectiveness of the project.Methodology:The evaluators used different methodologies in conducting the evaluation, these included:• Semi-structured interviews• Observations (various camp activities, puppet shows)• Content analysis (puppet show scripts, DVDs of camp activities)• Focus Groups (with participants and parents)Overall, evaluating this project was difficult due to the lack of utility of the baseline measure. It would have been useful to have indicators for the family situation (e.g. family relations, modes of communication, conflict) prior to the launch of the project in order to evaluate if the project goals were accomplished due to the intervention. The OPCY team administered a baseline questionnaire that the families answered during the visit that was done before the program started. Key findings:• Based on the assessment findings, the evaluation team concludes that the program has a very positive impact on the families they work with.• The program gave families an opportunity for self expression and respect of different viewpoints.• The OPCY provides positive extra-curricular activities, and provides training to parents and their children.• Due to the social and political instability of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, it may be unreasonable to expect the Palestinian Authority or other governmental organizations to fulfil all the needs of the people, including social-emotional health.  This necessitates the role of projects like OPCY.Recommendations:For the next phase of the project, OPCY must focus more on activities that will ensure long-term impact and sustainability. Hence, we recommend the following:• Continue supporting activities for working with families as a unit, and continue conducting workshops and camps.• We recommend working with families in the rural and marginalized villages and communities.• In order to ensure follow-up and sustainability of parents, we recommend developing a plan for increasing the number of workshops/seminars/training/camps offered to families and youth leaders and potentially extending them over a longer period of time.• Focusing on Social Emotional Training or other related trainings aimed at helping parents in supporting children and youth during difficult circumstances because they represent the foundation of the Palestinian society.• Increasing the advocacy role through increased efforts to cooperate with curriculum developers, teacher training colleges, teacher education department of the Ministry of Education, head masters at schools, teachers unions, youth union (whichever organizations are relevant) to promote the interest of children/young people (showing in practice that unconventional methods are valid and positive).• Consider partnering with the Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA), who can help access target populations.• Families need follow-up and encouragement. We recommend organizing occasional seminars for all those who have participated in the workshops and camps. This can be one way of bringing people together and allowing them to learn from each other’s experiences.• Establish a baseline against which results of this project or the next project period can be measured. OPCY should build an evaluation tool that directly measures the main indictors/goals of the project.• OPCY should continue to work towards integrating Muslim and Christian families by raising awareness and challenging some of the reservations regarding mixing the groups.• Integrating more local volunteers because volunteers are essential in serving the community through learning and employing their experiences in camps or workshops. Additionally, having volunteers may help children and youth indirectly realize the value of teamwork, which may encourage them to adopt volunteer work in their daily lives. Volunteers can also reduce the budget spent on certain activities and allow flexibility for budget redistribution.