104,000 Palestinians were made homeless in Gaza this summer and even though governments around the world just pledged $5.4 Billion USD to rebuild Gaza, they will still be homeless this winter. Why? Two reasons: the Government of Israel has yet to allow-in cement and steel and, even if you start today, construction won’t finish before the rains begin. So what happens to homeless families, homeless children when the cold comes?
They will need warm clothes and shoes and blankets — so that’s where we start.
Our goal is to open the blockade with compassion. This past month, Rebuilding Alliance’s office in San Mateo filled with thousands of bags of gently-used clothes, shoes, and bedding for those in Gaza who lost everything. A hundred volunteers — all faiths and backgrounds — sorted and packed over 600 boxes. Albayk Restaurant donated lunch each day and Home Depot discounted tape and boxes.
The United Nations is helping Rebuilding Alliance get this first shipping container into Gaza for delivery to the Al Basma Club for the Disabled (ABCD). ABCD is the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organization in Gaza City who will distribute to the families who need it most.
Of course, because this is Gaza we have to wonder will the containers get in. I’m one of a handful of people who successfully negotiated the entry of cement into Gaza — that counts for something. In 2010, Rebuilding Alliance launched ‘More than Chocolates for Gaza’ on GlobalGiving.org and sent backpacks, school supplies, and sports equipment to ABCD and cement to help a kindergarten in Rafah, Gaza build a new room. We were the only American NGO to send cargo on theMV Rachel Corrie, one of the ships in the Freedom Flotilla that included the Mavi Marmara. Nine were killed on that Turkish ship and all flotilla ships were diverted to the Israeli port of Askelon. Later, with the help of the U.N. and the U.S. Embassy, I successfully negotiated the entry of our supplies into Gaza.
This approach, collecting clothes and school supplies, is much more direct and fits within the humanitarian framework of the truce agreement. We’ll use what I know to seek help at all levels starting with the diverse constituents who donate clothes, through them to their Senators and Representatives, next to the State Department and worldwide diplomatic corps, and all the while, with proper accuracy and detail, working to clear Israeli Customs in accordance with standard shipping procedures. The boxes will be x-rayed by U.S. Customs before they leave port in Oakland California. Once they’re cleared in the Israeli port, the U.N. Logistics Cluster will take our boxes from Ashkelon into Gaza, to ABCD for distribution.
If we can raise more funds, we will invite six universities and youth groups to gather clothes and backpacks and fill containers on their campuses, nationwide, this time entirely focused on the needs of children. We call it, Clothe Gaza’s Children, a first step, a personal, tangible way to overcome the illegal blockade, protect civilians, empower local resources and provide accountability. This non-governmental project engages everyone who seeks a tangible way to help, along with their elected representatives as we press for clear entry of warm clothing and school supplies through the siege, to children in need in Gaza.
You can help. This Wednesday, Oct. 15th, “Clothe Gaza’s Children” is competing for a matching grant in the GlobalGiving Bonus Day, starting at 9am Eastern time. Please go to RebuildingAlliance.org and click GiveNow to receive a 30% match for your donation, while funds last.