Making a Difference… Plans Coming to Fruition 2012
This was my 5th trip to Gaza, but this time it was different. We, ‘The Friends of Gaza’ Committee, had a plan.
I now had contacts there and so it was just a case of implementing them and getting the wheels in motion.
Most people are under the impression that the siege of Gaza is over and that all necessary materials can pass freely in and out of the Strip; if only that were true. Actually, not much has changed since I first visited the area a few years a go. The Electricity problems are much worse than ever before, when I was there last year I said how they have very little electricity on a daily basis. I was told before leaving that, by the time you get home to the UK, the whole of Gaza would be blacked out because the only power plant in the Gaza Strip would stop generating electricity due to lack of fuel. As you can imagine this has caused serious difficulties for the Palestinian people of the area. They only having about six hours of electricity at a time, this has caused a big problem for the running of hospitals and schools, also within the homes as this winter has been the coldest for over 30 years so the locals tell me; the only way of keeping warm was to make a fire in the house with whatever you could find to burn. Can you imagine cooking and then trying to eat your food in the dark or having no hot water to have a shower maybe for days or even to do the washing?. People here in the west wouldn’t live like this, but these people have no choice – it’s been forced upon them and no-one is doing a thing to help them.
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Since the Egyptian Revolution last year it’s become a little easier to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing, although goods are still not allowed in through official channels. I thank the Egyptian Embassy here in London and the Egyptian Government for all their help getting me permission to enter the Gaza Strip,
I would like to thank Mr Issa Saba,Canaan Institute of New Pedagogy (LTD Non Profit) in Gaza,for all the time, help and advice he had given to me with my time in Gaza. I was very impressed with the work that Mr Saba does at the Institute of Pedagogy; and wish him every success in the future with valuable and important work.
Also I would like to thank my local MP Fiona Mactaggart who has given me her full support and backing me getting into Gaza.
In July of last year 2011, I spent three weeks visiting children’s centres to see how we could help, and getting our plans ready for action. Now we are ready for our project in helping some of the children to have improved experiences in their young and traumatised lives, something a little closer to what we would want for our own youngsters.
One of the centres I visited is in Deir al-Balah Refugee Camp, the smallest camp in Gaza with around 20,000 people. Here in the Hekr El James’a Youth Centre, children spend time daily playing, not with laptops, remote-controlled cars, or any toys that our children take for granted. Instead, these children had the ‘luxury’ of paper and a few colouring pencils, or ‘toys’ they had made from recycled materials such as empty tins, bottles and cardboard – things that we would throw away as rubbish.
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The “Friends of Gaza” committee have agreed to support this centre, supplying things that are mostly needed such as tables, chairs, cupboards, footballs, pencils, pens, paper, paints, skipping ropes, tennis balls, hula-hoops, Lego bricks and so on. It is also hoped that we will be able to buy some children English reading books to help them with their English studies at school; nearly every child I came across could speak some English, far better than my Arabic!
I am also pleased that I visited a small centre in northern Gaza called the ‘Family Development Association; an organization working with the local families who live in a place called Beit Hanoun. These people have lost everything since the 2009 war. We will also support this centre by helping them to build a new playground – built on the land next to the centre – where around 3000 children will be able to play. To see these plans come to fruition, we need as much money as possible. We are trying to raise $20,000 to help these two centers and the children.
The centre is run by the local people of Beit Hanoun, a town that was badly bombed and in which many of the population were killed 3 years ago. The centre was opened just over a year ago by a donor from France, but like all such establishments there, they need much more help.
The children in Beit Hanoun have nowhere really safe to play,some of the children pass their time on bomb sites and in No-Go Areas, where 22 of them have been shot and killed by Israeli forces within what they (the Israelis) call the buffer zone. This is a piece of land between the concrete wall with a double fence and watchtowers and what Israel calls a No-Go Area that stretches one mile into the Gaza Strip and with a 300-metre restricted zone all the way around the rest of the Strip. Up to 250 Palestinians live inside this area in the As-Siafa community.
The “Friends of Gaza” Committee agreed to send as part payment of $2500.00 to get the project up and running, as soon as Beit Hanoun Center received the money they wast no time getting it ready for children play ground.
Meeting with the team center of Beit Hanoun
Today: Saturday Date 02/06/2012 Location: Center of Beit Hanoun Attendance: Ahmed Ramadan SaidZa’anin Slemyazaaanin AnasSha’ban
• discussthe implementation phases ofthe parkproject
•Planthe implementation of thegarden project
• the lengthofthe parkproject
•purchase ofmaterials for thegardenproject
• Developthe first stage of the implementation of the park project
Project Goals and Objectives:
1- Providing suitable and safe play area for children in Beit Hanoun. 2- Decreasing the psychological pressures that affect the children because of the conflict circumstances. 3- Providing a suitable place to execute other activities for children like ceremonies and open days. 4- Reducing the impact of ongoing hostilities on children in Gaza’s north area.
Family Development Association
Project Concept Paper:
Building Safe Play Area For Children In Beit Hanoun
FDA is a non-profit and independent Palestinian NGO aims to develop and empower Palestinian families through capacity building, family awareness and counselling, child development and family economic development programs. FDA is guided by human rights based approaches including rule of law, transparency, tolerance, equity, equality, participation, empowerment and focus on vulnerable families.
Poverty has ravaged too many families in the northern rural areas of the Gaza strip. After the operation cast lead and because of the siege many of the families lost their assets and lost all the sources of income. This situation affected the normal life of children because the poor families can’t afford the costs of buying toys or transporting the kids to play in safe gardens. This ongoing crisis made the children subject to violence and many of them suffered from trauma.
Beit Hanoun area, the place where FDA is located, suffers from the lack of gardens and safe play areas which makes the children play in the streets or in any unqualified places. Most of these places are dangerous because of the closeness to the border and the conflict waves that occurs suddenly and frequently near the northern boarders. Many of the children had lost their lives because of the bombing while playing in open and unsafe places
2. Project Description
FDA has an empty 1500 m2 area of land that can be built as a play area for kids in Beit Hanoun. This project aims to provide the children there with modern playing garden which makes their playing safe and keeps the danger away. The garden will be in a middle point between Beit Hanoun city and Beit Hanoun Manor area which will serve more than 15000 children. The garden preparation and installation will pass through the following phases:
1- Scanning the land for unexploded bombs
2- Cutting the land to remove the dirty and unsuitable soil.
3- Filling the land with clean sand.
4- Building two bathrooms for the children
5- Preparing the passageways to be tiled.
6- Tiling the passageways of the garden.
7- Shades areas from the sun
8- Installing the garden wooden chairs.
9- Installing play area, slides,swings, and others playground-equipment Small~ football pitch.
10- Planting trees and flowers.
11- Planting the grass.
12- Finishing and decoration.
Since 2009 fishing has also been reduced to a limit just 3 nautical miles imposed by the IDF (Israeli Defence Force)
I was there for four weeks this time, the first 7 days were quiet. I thought things had got better for the people but I was wrong as, for the rest of my stay, Israeli air raids targeted the whole area from the north to the south. They carried out five air strikes and attacked for two days in a row while at the same time maintaining a land, air and sea blockade on the coastal enclave. Israel also denies about 1.6 million people in Gaza their basic rights, including the freedom of movement and their rights to appropriate living conditions, work, health and education.
On Wednesday, at least two Palestinians were killed and three others injured in an airstrike in Beit Hanoun where I visited. Israel regularly targets the coastal area, killing and injuring the locals; most of the victims are women and children. The Palestinians of the Gaza Strip are living in what is called the ‘world’s largest open-air prison’ as Israel retains full control of the airspace, territorial waters, and border crossings of the territory.
Another Israeli air raid killed an elderly man and injured three others. The fresh surge in attacks has prompted fears of more Israeli aggressions among the shell-shocked residents there who are still recovering from a devastating 22-day onslaught at the turn of 2009. The Israeli air force claimed that its warplanes targeted ‘an arms factory’ in the centre of Gaza and also three tunnels allegedly used for smuggling livestock and other goods in the south of the blockaded Gaza Strip. In addition to frequent Israeli attacks, Palestinians in Gaza continue to live with the fact that the International world does nothing for them at all. You wouldn’t hear any of this on the main TV News channels or read this in your daily newspapers. Since coming back home Lack of medication I heard that hospitals have run out of most drugs and needed medication urgently, and the British charity Medical Aid to Palestinians had to deliver medicine to Gaza after the health authorities there ran out of drugs.
Let us not forget what the Palestinian people have gone through, so much suffering over 65 years,not forgetting the 22 days war in 2008/2009 and still nothing has change for them, its about time they had the freedom to live a normal life just like you and me.
Here you can see what Baroness Tonge had to say about Gaza
Baroness Tonge: My Lords, before I speak about recent developments in Palestine, I want to put on record two personal statements. The first is that I am not anti-Semitic but I am anti-injustice, and the treatment of the Palestinians over the last six decades, by Israel and the international community, has been a gross injustice which has eaten away at peace in the Middle East and served to fuel extreme Islamism and terrorism. The second statement is that I believe that Israel has a right to exist within the 1967 borders; of course I do. Hamas leaders, who I have met in Damascus and Gaza, also accept the existence of Israel within the 1967 borders laid down by the United Nations. Sadly, of course, this has not happened and the actions of the state of Israel are becoming more and more dangerous for Israel itself, the Middle East and the wider world.
The Arab citizens of Israel are marginalised and discriminated against in every way. New laws are being passed all the time to make life more and more difficult for them-on marriage and property rights, for example. Money spent on Arab-Israeli schools, water supplies and infrastructure is a fraction of that spent on Jewish citizens and, as we know, the state of Israel has now been declared the Jewish state of Israel, which has wider implications even for us in how we relate to that country.
It is difficult to see how what is left of the West Bank, for example, will ever form the basis of a secure and prosperous state of Palestine. The security barrier and the settlements, linked by settler-only roads, have gobbled up huge amounts of Palestinian land and the land left to the Palestinians is being made unusable. The whole settler enterprise was referred to as “vandalism” by my party leader, but it is not mindless. It is the deliberate humiliation of the Palestinians since the Oslo agreement-a carefully thought-out strategy, designed to make life for Palestinians impossible.
In Gaza, as many noble Lords who have visited have pointed out in this House, conditions are much worse and no one has dared to say that the real purpose of the blockade is to deliberately ruin the fishing, agricultural and manufacturing industries of Gaza in order to reduce those very talented, hard-working and extremely cheerful people to unemployment and grinding poverty. Our Government deal with these violations of international law by “urging restraint” and “expressing concern”. Those are worthy sentiments, but they do not stop the relentless ethnic cleansing, land grab and what many people would describe as terrorism by the Israeli Air Force, with its targeted assassinations. Because of the pro-Israel lobby’s bullying tactics against anyone who speaks the truth, Israel is allowed to act with impunity.
The Arab spring will not favour Israel. Israel is losing its friends rapidly. Egypt and Turkey are already alienated and others will follow. Even the US Defense Secretary, Mr Panetta, has recently warned Israel to, “get to the damned table” and “reach out and mend fences” In America, the tide is beginning to turn against Israel. In the nearly 700 letters I have received.
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