A place of belonging: A story of love and loss at YMCA Gaza

Date: 17 June 2024

By Dina Aman, member of YMCA Gaza

My name is Dina, and I work as a safeguarding officer in an international humanitarian organisation. To my family and me, the YMCA is not just a place with facilities – it’s where we truly belong.

A childhood filled with YMCA adventures

I vividly remember the first day I joined the YMCA. I was 7 years old, and my mother took me, along with my brothers and sisters, to register for summer camp. From the first day, I was captivated by all the camp activities.

Year after year, I eagerly participated in the summer camps, enjoying every activity they offered: drawing, handcrafts, swings, dabka dancing, and sports like basketball, volleyball, football, and hockey. Dabka, a traditional Palestinian dance, became my favourite hobby. I remember all the dance exercises taught by the skilled YMCA coaches, and to this day, I still practice them with my daughter, who also loves dabka.

During my time at the YMCA, I also honed my volleyball skills. Thanks to the training I received there, I often participated in school competitions. Even now, I enjoy playing volleyball with my friends during outdoor activities. 

YMCA: Safe haven and lifelong community

To me, the YMCA was more than just a place. It was a safe and inclusive community where everyone was treated with respect and appreciation without any discrimination based on religion, age, gender, or background. My family and I felt like we were part of the YMCA family. We made lifelong friends, and our bonds remain strong and trusted.

As a mother of two children, Sara and Wahib, I was eager for them to join the YMCA and experience the same joy and security I did. I ensured they became members, and we looked forward to Thursdays when we would head to YMCA Gaza after a long week. It was a place where my kids could have fun with their friends, play sports, and feel secure, even if I wasn’t always with them. Sometimes, I would join them in their activities, creating cherished family memories.

Sadly, the war in Gaza destroyed the YMCA and all the beautiful experiences we once had. We had to leave Gaza for Egypt to rebuild our lives, but our hearts remain connected to the YMCA. I can still smell the trees, hear the noise of the swings, and feel the vibrant energy of the social activities. The happiness and joy on everyone’s faces are memories that will never fade.

Finding a place as wonderful and safe as the YMCA, with its equipped facilities and unique activities, is very hard. While we have moved on physically, emotionally we are still tied to our YMCA, cherishing the memories and holding on to the hope of one day finding a place that can offer the same sense of belonging and security.