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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

IR Convoy in Gaza

Islamic Relief USA staff member, Anwar Khan, is part of an international delegation visiting Gaza and some of Islamic Relief's projects there. He arrived on November 1, and will be sending his reflections from the field. Below you will find an excerpt from his writings so far.

November 1- We left Cairo at 4 a.m. to escape the desert heat and arrived at the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian/Palestinian border just before 10 a.m.. We were expecting to pass the border in an hour. It took seven hours. We were very lucky - for some it takes days, if they cross at all. As I put my foot on the Palestinian side I felt I was in a special place. After eleven years I had stepped back into the holy land. Christian, Muslims and Jews all believe this land is special.

The sixteen hour journey had come after years of trying. Since the crisis happened earlier this year I have been longing to come and see the situation for myself and I wanted to see the people of Gaza, whom we saw suffering on television news every night in January. I had so many questions, including; how they were and what kind of people were they who stayed during and after the bombardment?

As we traveled from the border to our residence we saw some destruction, but not on the scale I had seen in the media. That was to come tomorrow.

November 2- Today, we visited one of the psychosocial centers Islamic Relief is running in Gaza, to help children affected by trauma. One of the children there, Mahmood, lost his mother and is still suffering from severe trauma. Through play, animation, role playing and other forms of therapy, therapists are slowly seeing improvement in his condition. After his session, we had to drop him off at a camp he is staying in since his home was destroyed earlier this year.

We then visited a clinic which had been converted to a hospital due to the conflict earlier this year. It is in northern Gaza, which took the brunt of the destruction. The hospital was waiting for funds for radiology equipment. They are not able to function properly without working equipment.

Next stop was a visit to the agricultural wells that help the local farmers. Islamic Relief Palestine had rebuilt five wells this year.

At the only artificial limbs center in Gaza, which Islamic Relief operates, we saw a patient who had lost his leg in the conflict and was now learning to walk on a prosthetic limb. Because it is the only center of its kind in Gaza, it was flooded with requests this year. In the past, some of the patients may have gone overseas for treatment, now they have no choice. They are not able to leave. The staff is working tirelessly with smiles on their faces and can see the positive side to any tragedy.

Islamic Relief's center for the hearing impaired was next and we visited kindergarten children who were learning through play. I and my colleague do not know Arabic and these children cannot speak English, but as my colleague was rolling on the floor with the children I saw them speaking through the language of laughter and smiles. I realized then that I was not watching Palestinian, or Gazan children, I was watching beautiful children playing and laughing. No labels. I thought of my own daughter in kindergarten in Dallas, Texas. Maybe one day these children will be able to go home and drink clean water from the faucet, maybe one day their parents can afford to feed them regularly, at least now we can help them with hearing aids. One act of compassion is not enough, but every act of compassion makes a difference. To these children it may make a world of a difference.

There was then a visit to another hospital where Islamic Relief had provided medical equipment. Before the improvements, the paint was peeling and you could smell the mold. The emergency department looked new and the equipment was new and was saving lives.

We then went upstairs to the neonatal unit to see tiny babies in incubators that were not working properly. The hospital was not able to get all the spare parts and was making do with what they could. The neonatal ward had mold and the paint was peeling. The building was forty years old and it is extremely difficult to pay salaries and get equipment, let alone maintain the whole building. No matter what we do, there are always more needs. As I looked at the sick patients, I felt some relief in that at least we've made a difference with these children. We need to help one child at a time.

We then visited another pediatric hospital and a school that had been devastated. This day had broken my heart several times after witnessing so much pain and destruction. In the evening I met a local man who explained how he was recycling some of the olive trees that were destroyed earlier this year. Instead of burning them he was constructing jewelry cases and tissue boxes. Broken glass was being recycled into plates. Nothing was to be wasted and the item would come back in a different form. This is also true for Gaza. It is so different from eleven years ago and the courage of the people in adversity is amazing.

9 comments:

  1. Asim Khan - MichiganNovember 5, 2009 at 6:14 AM

    Jazak Allah Khair Br. Anwar,

    Keep up the good work. May Allah(SWT) reward you and help all the Muslimeen from around the world through these testing times.

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  2. Jazak Allah Khair Br. Anwar,
    While you are in Gaza, don't forget to mention the positive values associated with Peace. Trying to find common values between the Palestinian people and the Jews is important. Anything to help stop the cycle of distruction and poverty that it brings.
    DBOWES@optonline.net

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  3. Subhan'Allah, I am in tears right now. Keep up the good work brothers and sisters. It's heart-breaking. May Allah subhanahu wa tala reward every hand that extends to help. Ameen.

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  4. Jazakallah khair for sharing this wonderful heart warming message. May Allah reward you and others for the good deeds you for his sake.

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  5. It brings tears to my eyes, but makes me appreciate the work that I do at IRUSA - everyday. Alhamdulilah.

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  6. Salaams BJ - keep up the good work! My Allah all of you for your efforts.. AAmeen. Sam

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  7. This is amazing. JZK for bringing this to us and making it our reality. You do AMAZING work- may God keep you strong and safe to continue helping those in need. We really appreciate the work you do.

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  8. Salams Br. Anwar,
    May Allah reward you and all of the other workers who selflessly work towards helping the those who are in less fortunate conditions than us. May Allah grant you success and bring peace and hapiness to the lives of those whom you encounter. Ameen.

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  9. Trying to find common values between the Palestinian people and the Jews is important. Anything to help stop the cycle of distruction and poverty that it brings

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