Thank you again for your support for this important program. Rebuilding Alliance recently transferred a grant made up of the donations from these past two months, helping to pay the staff of the Al Haj Kindergarten: 4 teachers, 2 bus drivers, principal, part-time accountant and the librarian. To give even more people the opportunity to help, we've now put together a concise $3K proposal and are sending it to foundations and places of worship. Please let me know if you would like a copy.
I want to tell you that our long-time visiting teacher, John from Estonia, will be leaving Al Aqaba soon because his Israeli visa extention is ending. John hopes to return to complete his college at a Palestinian university. While in Al Aqaba he taught English as well as assisting Mayor Haj Sami with his correspondence including grantwriting. Through his efforts, the Government of Estonia will be sending a teacher to join the Al Haq Kindergarten staff through all of next year!
In closing, I ask you to mark your calendar for Wednesday June 12th. Starting at 9am Eastern time, GlobalGiving.org is matching donations with a 40% bonus! Please give -- small or large -- for Teaching in a Village Under Demolition Orders. That kindergarten keeps all Al Aqaba standing despite demolition order -- and these teachers are the heart of that wonderful school. Your donation, your support, your good giving — that makes the Al Haq Kindergarten thrive!
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the participants involved.
In an earlier report, I mentioned that Abir's Garden Playground in Al Aqaba is receiving a matching grant from Playgrounds for Palestine. In the past two weeks their team visited Al Aqaba to determine the site for the playground and discuss the earth-friendly goals for the design.
And that's where things get interesting! Al Aqaba Village has launched a remarkable tea factory (funded by the Japanese government) that is doing very well. Now the French will be funding a tea house and an upgrade to the Al Aqaba guesthouse too. Even the UNDP is interested in funding a community center project!
Our Abir's Garden playground design will put the children at the center of all of this, in the warm and watchful eye of their parents and the visitors who will keep this Area C village standing despite demolition orders. Next step: find the right landscape architect! I'll send you the designs as soon as I receive them.
Meanwhile, a remarkable fundraising project has been launched by John, Gethin and Jon in Britain. They are planning to swim from Europe to Asia on August 30th to raise funds for Abir's Garden. More specifically, they'll be swimming the Hellespont River: "Situated in Turkey, The Hellespont is undoubtedly one of the most significant open water swims in the world. In 1810, Lord Byron the English Poet became the first known person to swim across the Hellespont from Europe to Asia. He swam it in honour of Leander, who in Greek Mythology, would swim nightly across this stretch of water to his lover Hero." We're focusing on the 4th Abir's garden for that project, in the West Bank Village of Ein Yanoun where Combatants for Peace regularly meets. I'll have pictures available soon!
Thank you again for making all this possible! Your contribution in memory of a little girl, Abir Aramin, is a way to give Palestinian children a safe place to grow. We've got a long way to go to keep this tragedy from ever happening again but through the safe playgrounds, through Combatants for Peace, and through your commitment this dream is held in the light.
I am delighted to send photos of the first three Rebuilding to Remain homes, funded through your wonderful donation! This past week, when architect Stephen Coyle spoke at a Rebuilding Alliance benefit dinner in Palo Alto California, he reminded me of the incredible work we did with the villagers, designing the affordable, expandable homes that would help them move back to Al Aqaba Village — and now those homes are taking shape (see photos below).
In my last email, I may have explained that Al Aqaba Village received a commitment from the Palestinian Authority to pay for the finishing of each home ($13,000 per unit). That was before all salaries were frozen when Israel stopped forwarding tax revenues to the P.A. and the U.S. stopped all development funding too. It seems funds may be flowing once again ... I hope our homes will receive their finishing grants soon.
Thank you for your patience.
P.S. There've been no demolition threats in Al Aqaba itself in the last 9 months. The village continues to move forward in its rebuilding efforts with the brick factory, an exciting new Women's Building, big sales for the "Herbal Infusion" factory (herbal teas) and more. Meanwhile the UN is reporting an increase in demolitions in Area C, East Jerusalem and the E-1 corridor, so we are developing the U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages drawing deeply on the Al Aqaba model. Your support has made this all possible.