The crowded, potholed, and often polluted streets of Gaza City, Palestine, are difficult to navigate—especially for children who want to go to school.
For those who live far away or are too young to walk — and also too poor to pay a bus ticket —Loay Abu Sahloul presents them with a safer, albeit slower, alternative: a cart pulled by a donkey.
Every morning, the 33-year-old Palestinian whistles three times to summon passengers, most of whom are preschoolers living in Khan Yunis refugee camp. Sometimes it even transports 15 children.
Profits are meager, but Abu Sahloul, who says driving a cart is the only job he can hold due to a neurological condition. In addition, it sees it as a social assistance service.
“These families live in difficult financial conditions. The population of Gaza is poor”, reveals the driver who charges five Israeli shekels (about 1.29 euros at current exchange rates) per month for each child. In contrast, school buses cost at least 40 shekels (ten euros) a month.
However, riding a wagon can be dangerous, as children are exposed to the elements and obstacles they encounter along the way. And there have even been some falls.
“I don’t have the money to send my son to a bus. My heart sinks every time I see him and the other children in the cart”, says Intissar Al-Araj, one of the mothers who used Abu Sahloul’s service.
“Once [um filho meu] fell off the wagon and hurt his leg. I pray to God that my children can go by bus,” she added.