The Yafa Cultural Center is a community-based project located in Balata Refugee Camp. Founded in 1996 through an initiative of the Committee for the Defence of Refugee Rights, the center offers a range of educational and creative programs to address the needs of camp residents. Balata residents face a wide range of challenges, including domestic violence, drug abuse, unemployment, poverty, and inadequate healthcare. The camp’s schools suffer from overcrowding, and the illiteracy rate is 45%. Among the programs created and run by Yafa’s dedicated volunteers, the center has coordinated youth dabke dance troupes, theatrical performance, and workshops in documentary film production. Yafa Cultural Center also runs a children’s library that serves hundreds of Balata’s children and youth. In April 2014, the center participated in National Reading Week, hosting book exhibitions, workshops and discussions, village visits, and a literary festival. For National Reading Week 2015, the center organized a trip for women of the camp to Jericho and Bethlehem, where they participated in reading promotion activities in coordination with other centers and communities.
To read more about Balata Refugee Camp and the Yafa Cultural Center [whose website is under construction], see Alice Rothchild’s, “In Balata, the Occupation is Not Just of Body, But of Mind” (Mondoweiss, June 21, 2013).