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.
Thank you again for your support. Your donation makes it possible for Rebuilding Alliance to bring together a remarkable team to do something that no one could do alone: install a birthing center that will serve a population of 50,000 people in the northern part of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley. I am writing to say that our birthing center implementation plans are stalled as we resolve two hurdles. Please know that our team is usually quite good at resolving big and small hurdles. Ok, here's what's happening:
1. The "refurbished equipment" challenge: The equipment that Assist International is sending for the Birthing Center is refurbished equipment and whether it arrives first through the Amman airport or first through the Ben Gurion Airport, it must go through Israeli customs before entry is allowed into the West Bank. From what we are hearing, Israeli Customs does not allow entry of any refurbished medical equipment. The NGO with lots of experience whom we asked for help declined to assist us, saying that it is a BIG challenge to get special approval.
Now for the hopeful next steps:
A. About 8 years ago, Assist International has brought and installed refurbished equipment in the Daniel Pearl Hospital in Israel. They are exploring customs approval via their connections; and
B. There is a shipping approval group affiliated with the King of Jordan who has asked to help facilitate;
2. The personnel challenge: Our birthing center program includes equipment and training but does not include personnel. At the time we wrote the proposal in 2008 (yes, that long ago. A lot of work has gone into this project), Al Aqaba Village anticipated it would be easy for the Ministry of Health to ramp-up personnel at their Al Amal Clinic. Now lack of funds to the Palestinian government (the U.S. Congress stopped U.S. funding as punnishment for their vote for recognition before the U.N., and the Israeli government stopped transfer of taxes collected) means that they have not met payroll for over 4 months. Even the Ministry of Health itself has contracted to working only 1 day per week.
Birthing Centers are usually 24/7 so we must find a grant to fund staff at the Al Amal Clinic. We're in touch with Dr. Moustafa Barghouti's group, the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, to identify staff. Because British Consul originally built the Al Amal Clinic, we will ask the British Consul for a grant to fund Birthing Center personnel.
So, that's where we stand right now. I'll keep you posted as these matter resolve. Thank you again for your support and your patience. This is a project that matters and I look forward to arranging the next steps (scheduling the training visit with the new staff and scheduling a tour for all the donors) as soon as we know how and when we will get the equipment in.
Dear Friend, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your support last year and the years before. I also want to bring you exciting news about our project, Teaching in a Village Under Demolition Orders. Two new visiting teachers have joined the team in the West Bank Palestinian village of Al Aqaba: Dan Pritt from Estonia and Elaine Zhu from China! I also want to take this moment to ask for your help to pay staff salaries at the Al Haq Kindergarten. Like all kindergartens in Palestine, this is a private kindergarten. It has expanded to serve 160 children this year, because the Palestinian Authority is providing salary for 3 new teachers — but the salaries for all the other teachers, director, bus driver, and janitor comes from tuition payments. The bus driver covers a good part of the Northern Jordan Valley to pick up students, an area that is targeted for demolitions and impacted by forced relocations. They need your help. Our project, Teaching in a Village Under Demolition Orders, started in 2010, has enable quite a group of amazing visiting teachers — Kali Rubaii, Matt DeMaio, Morgan Bach, and Ian Leech — to work in Al Aqaba. This program also supports local teachers' salaries and ensures that the kindergarten is able to keep the mainstay of its educators. Dan Pritt, our 6th visiting teacher, has been teaching English in the kindergarten for two months. Dan is from Estonia and currently on academic leave from Tartu University. He came to Al Aqaba because he believes "one cannot find knowledge by just occupying seats in the local library or classroom." Dan believes “that education is one of the central keys to any kind of bright future or a sustainable solution, and while teaching in the kindergarten, my belief has become even more compelling and self-evident." To our delight, we also welcome Elaine Zhu, the charismatic 7th teacher! "I spent two days with kids and took a lot of photos of them," Elaine told us, "and also had a great conversation with Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq. Then, I decided to come back. And I did. The smile on kids' faces and the kindness from the mayor and villagers brought me back here!" Elaine, who is from Guangzhou, China, was aware of the challenges facing her to teach in the village but she was determine to become a part of the community and make a difference for the children of the village "For me, both to be a first time teacher and to teach kids from a culture that is very different from mine own is not easy," Elaine explained, "Therefore, I am not just teaching, but also learning. I'm so much more than just a teacher. I learn how to interact with children, how to cooperate with the people from a different cultural background, and how to understand the situation of this village, which is under demolition orders. I'm part of Al Aqaba village, and this place if part of my life now." "Education is the great engine to personal development," Nelson Mandela, the well-known statesmen, once said, "It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that the child of a farm worker can become the president of a great nation." Kindergarten is the first step for children on their journey through the educational landscapes they will cross throughout their life. Through your support, and concerned people like you, the children of Al Aqaba are getting the best beginning on this voyage, by supporting amazing teachers including the staff of the kindergarten and visiting teachers Dan and Elaine.
Sincerely, Donna Baranski-Walker Found and Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance