CAIRO: It is a sad reality that only four months after the 22-day Gaza onslaught, it has already been put on the back burner. The wreckage of hospitals and schools, the loss of more than 1,300 people and the displacement of 90,000 no longer stirs people’s thoughts or the media.
Yet some have not forgotten, and in that spirit, came together to raise money for the people of Gaza. Friends Tamara Ben Halim, Misha Vaswani, Lulu Sakka, Seif Sammakieh and Thamir Kutbi – all currently based in London – are passionate about the Palestinian cause.
Ben Halim and Sakka are Palestinians, yet this team of five have equally committed themselves to the physical and emotional challenge of raising £100,000 to donate medical aid to Gaza.
They’ve set a challenging mission: Cycling 300 km from London to Paris from July 3-5. The money raised pledging donors will be donated to Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), specifically to projects in Gaza that target children’s health.
MAP is a UK-based charity which, as Sammakieh explained, has been quite successful in humanitarian work in Gaza. “The difference between MAP and countries’ donations is that the latter takes a long time in trickling down from the Palestinian Authority to Gaza’s people.
“One reason we chose MAP is that it has doctors in Gaza, so the money goes directly to the people. In addition, they coordinate with a wide network of international NGO’s already established in Gaza.
He is also quick to point out that MAP is an NGO which is “purely humanitarian, purely medical.
The Cycling for Gaza challenge was an idea formed in early February by Sakka, whose father is from Gaza, which makes the cause for her that much more personal.
Today, the team is recruiting cycling enthusiasts and those seeking a challenge to join the journey. Before they start, they will undergo a grueling physical training to prepare them to cycle 100 km a day.
Sammakieh is not new to such challenges; in 2006 he was part of a team that climbed Kilimanjaro to raise money for schools in Lebanon, helping to raise £160,000 with his team.
“What makes us unique is we’re trying to make a difference, and trying as young people to take a stance. Whoever is supporting this cause is supporting a dual cause of trying to raise money for Gaza and promoting [youth activism], said Sammakieh.
Speaking to Daily News Egypt along with his wife and team member Sakka, the couple talked about the mental and physical challenge facing them. “There’s the [task] of getting a group of five people to work together, said Sakka, explaining how her idea for the challenge had to be refined and organized by the team.
She also highlighted the mental preparations required for the cycle. “There’s a mental aspect to it, trying your [personal] mental threshold to maintain your motivation knowing every pedal makes a difference, said Sammakieh. “We have no fears regarding the challenge save for the failure of working as a team.
But it seems that their team dynamics are good as gold. So far, the team has already raised £13,000 with a considerable contribution from people and companies around the world, including AYTB contracting company from Saudi Arabia.
People are donating in other ways too. The team has set up a website made by a donor to promote and explain the challenge, recruit cyclists and volunteers who wish to help in various ways.
Sakka and Sammakieh are encouraging donors, cyclists and those with a passion for the Palestinian cause to band together. The money raised will go to MAP, whose work in the region for the past 20 years has helped train local health care practitioners, establish medical infrastructure and address the requirements of medical aid for those displaced, injured and disabled.
If that’s not enticement enough, how does the sound of cycling through some of France’s most bucolic scenes in the name of a good cause sound?
For more information, visit www.cycling4gaza.com.