Impounded American Aid on Gaza Freedom Flotilla Now Set for Delivery to Gaza

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Rebuilding Alliance, NGO's in Gaza, Free Gaza Movement Urge Open Trade and Aid

Nearly a month and a half after the Irish ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, was forceably rerouted and impounded by the Israeli Navy, the office of the United Nations Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East (UNSCO) has promised to deliver the full humanitarian aid cargo to U.N. agencies in Gaza. The Rebuilding Alliance, one of the only U.S. organizations to place humanitarian relief cargo on the “Freedom Flotilla” to Gaza, is hopeful that the backpacks, sports equipment, and building materials donated by hundreds of Americans will soon reach the Gaza non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) for which they were intended.

“When we first learned of the Freedom Flotilla, we asked our partner NGO’s in Gaza what we could send that would matter most to them, given the 3 year-long blockade,” said Donna Baranski-Walker, Executive Director of the Rebuidling Alliance, a San Mateo CA-based nonprofit. “They asked Americans to send messages to children, along with backpacks, sports equipment, and cement to build a kindergarten.”

In February, the Rebuilding Alliance partnered with the Al Basma Club for the Disabled in Gaza and offered Americans a way to help via a project description on GlobalGiving.com, which resulted in winning a matching grant. Over 100 people donated! The Rebuilding Alliance then worked with the Free Gaza Movement – Ireland to make purchases and load the cargo aboard the ship the MV Rachel Corrie. An American donor in Ireland stepped forward to donate 300 bags of cement to help the Ybnah Community Charity build a kindergarten in Rafah, Gaza!

“The MV Rachel Corrie was bringing soccer balls, footballs, sports uniforms, sports equipment, and school supplies to the Al Basma Club,” said Eid Shaqura, Executive Director of the Al Basma Club for the Disabled. “The three exercise machines on the flotilla would double the number of exercise machines Al Basma Club has – and dramatically increase training for our all-deaf soccer team.”

Just days after the May 31st flotilla tragedy, in which 9 passengers aboard the Turkish ship, the Mavi Mamara, were killed by Israeli commandos, UNSCO began negotiations with Israel to allow UN agencies to deliver all the flotilla goods to the needy people of Gaza. The Rebuilding Alliance sent a volunteer to Gaza to visit its NGO partners who then met with John Ging, director of UNRWA Gaza to confirm plans for cargo delivery and explore ways to assure future cargo.

“The cargo that is being processed for delivery this week includes wheelchairs, soccer balls, ambulance stretchers, prosthetic limbs, and cement, paper, and even prefab homes that the blockade has made nearly or entirely impossible to import to Gaza over the last three years,” said Niamh Moloughney, coordinator of Free Gaza Movement – Ireland, the group that owns the MV Rachel Corrie. “Everyone hopes the cargo will reach its destination at last, as we ask people throughout the world to press their governments to open Gaza not just to aid but to trade as well.”

The Rebuilding Alliance is a U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to rebuilding war-torn communities and making them safe. Their vision is a just and enduring peace in Israel and Palestine founded upon equal value, security, and opportunity for all. Founded as a nonprofit organization in 2003, the Rebuilding Alliance performs a unique role in the peace and justice community: they help Israelis and Palestinians overcome injustice and violence through rebuilding projects that are symbols of hope and do direct-contact grassroots organizing, broad-based citizen education, and mobilization to bring about American policy change based on human rights and international law. The Rebuilding Alliance has been working to rebuild Palestinian homes and schools in Gaza since 2003, in close partnership with Non-governmental organizations in Gaza through their partnership with the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. Donna Baranski-Walker, the founder and Executive Director of the Rebuilding Alliance, is an MIT engineer who believes in the importance of connecting good neighbors worldwide to build peace. For more info: http://www.RebuildingAlliance.org

Al Basma Club for the Disabled (ABCD) is a non-governmental organization in Gaza that was established in early 2005 by a group of qualified disabled and non-disabled people. ABCD’s mission is to provide a wide variety of quality sport and recreational activities in a safe and secure environment which enhance the social, cultural and physical well-being of the entire sport community for people with disabilities in the Gaza Strip. Eid Shaqura and Abeer Jaber co-founded the club in 2005 when deaf kids were playing soccer in the street and tried unsuccessfully to enter a club for able-bodied persons. Eid was called and asked to solve the problem. Both Eid and Abeer previously worked for the Palestinian Sports Federation for the Disabled. Disabled by polio in her youth, Abeer has been involved in the disabled community for most of her life. Eid has worked with disabled people from childhood as well, beginning with caring for his uncle who was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. For more info: http://www.basmaclub.ps/en/index.php

The Free Gaza Movement (FGM) is a human rights group that in August 2008 sent the first international boats to land in the port of Gaza in 41 years. The FGM seeks to break the siege of Gaza and to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation. The Free Gaza Movement is registered in Cyprus as a nongovernmental charitable organization. Niamh Moloughney of Free Gaza Movement – Ireland coordinated the purchase of the MV Rachel Corrie and purchase, packing, and loading of all cargo aboard the ship that was to be the flagship of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. For more info: http://www.freegaza.org

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DONNA BARANSKI-WALKER
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