Physiosocial landscape interventions for the Holy Child Program, a school for children with behavioral difficulties in Beit Sahour, Palestine
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As we work to improve life for everyone on this earth, it is important to identify circumstances where societal ills reseed themselves. I am curious about finding ways to address destructive cyclical behavior, to productively interrupt those cycles, and to divert destructive energies toward actions that are life-giving, healthful, and peaceful. My studies in Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning have shown that our surroundings can powerfully influence our behavior, and so through this thesis I seek to bring about healthful behavioral change through interventions in the built environment. The site where I propose these environmental interventions is The Holy Child Program, a school in the West Bank, Palestine. It is a program that is aimed at educating young people while it addresses emotional and behavioral difficulties brought on by trauma and congenital disability. The challenges to this work are great. Resources are very scarce. The cultural environment is tense and there is violence within the West Bank and all around - in Syria, Gaza, and Israel. Palestinians are ever more disconnected from their land, and the land itself is in a state of severe degradation. With these challenges in mind, I propose a site design and implementation strategy that is holistic in a way that suits the gravity of life in this region. The framework is Permaculture, and it focuses efforts on collaboration with the land, pairing human ingenuity with existing resources to draw abundance from the land where it might otherwise be thought not to exist. My assertion is that active engagement with natural processes will help bring healing, respite, and delight to the Holy Child Program community, through the act of observing and working with natural cycles as they model healthful behavior. This healthful interaction will help interrupt unhealthful cycles as they now occur onsite, replacing them with healthful cycles that mimic those observed in the landscape. Holy Child Program children, staff, and families will be renewed by long-term interaction with the land and the abundance of life-giving resources available there. The anticipated result is a site that is site that is healing, educational, playful, and productive. This model of intervention is intended to be replicated across the region, to serve as an agent of change, to bring about both environmental and psychological health.