Greetings from the West Bank, Palestine! A week ago Friday, Rebuilding Alliance's Accountant, Thai Hien Ho, and I were part of a remarkable meeting near Ein Yanoun at the home of the architect who designed this our third Abir's Garden playground. An engineer was also there to meet with us and quite a contingent of Combatants for Peace members, including both Israel and Palestinian members and Combatants for Peace board members. The meeting was gracefully conducted in three languages with Tel Aviv / Tulkarem Team Leaders Maya and Mohanad translating Hebrew and Arabic into English and back.
Our goal was to approve the plans for the third Abir’s Garden Playground and Youth Theater Program. I asked for the meeting because I was concerned that the playground plan presented to Rebuilding Alliance was too expensive at $24K. With the added cost, we would not be able to also fund the youth theater program. Remarkably by the end of the meeting a solution was found.
The Palestinian landscape architect, trained in Spain, stood by his design for the playground. He explained that the steep rocky grade requires extra work for leveling and to build the retaining walls, both for the lower playground and upper picnic area level. Combatants for Peace and Rebuilding Alliance were both impressed with his design and satisfied with his explanation.
Then magic happened: When I raised my concern about also being able to fund the Youth Theater program, a phone call was made to the mayor of Agraba. On behalf of the municipality of Agraba, the mayor agreed to match our grant, dollar for dollar! Project co-leader, Maya Katz, explained, "We have great cooperation with the Agraba Municipality. They provided a matching grant for our last project and our teams finished the parking lot and installed a garden at the new school for the village of Kirbet Twir."
So far we have transferred $12K to CfP so the mayor of Agraba confirmed that they will put in the starter $12K so that we'll complete the playground according to spec and launch the theater program! Combatant for Peace Bilal said, "We are really pleased to begin Phase 1 of the Abir's Garden playground construction in a few days time!"
If you would like to support our project again, one great day to do this will be on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 starting at 12:00:01 PM (noon) EDT when Microsoft's Youth Spark will provide a 50% match to donations (up to $1,000 per donor). The bonus competition will end April 17th, 2014, at 11:59:59 AM EDT.
NOTE: The project that has the most unique donors on Microsoft YouthSpark's Bonus Day will receive an additional $10,000 from Microsoft. We CAN DO this: Abir's Garden reached the most donors in the last YouthSpark bonus!
Please mark your calendar for noon, Wednesday April 16th through noon Thursday April 17th!
Please call me or send email as questions arise and I'll do my best to connect you with the Combatants for Peace team! My email is Contact@RebuildingAlliance.org and my phone here is 1-970-599-331-2811.
Thank you again for all that you've done to make this remarkable project a reality.
P.S. After the meeting, one of the Combatants for Peace took us to visit Ein Yanoun so that Thai and I could take pictures at the empty site of the playground. One of the villagers introduced us to the three internationals who are living in the village and working with the villagers to keep everyone safe. It is a real challenge and very scary — this village is surrounded by 5 settlements with very threatening settlers. We want to help everyone there to stay in touch with all of you, our Abir's Garden Playground donors, so that in any future moment of need we can all relay their call to our elected officials to rouse the diplomatic corps. Thank you again.
"I think the first sense I had in experiencing the work with Theater of the Oppressed was surprise. It was surprising to feel so many feelings at the same time: excitement, sadness and joy. It was surprising to feel so close to people that only an hour ago where strangers or enemies. For me, TO is a bridge, a surprising bridge.”
Below, I've attached a more detailed description of the theater rationale and also how CfP will extend this to youth, starting with a launch event in Al Aqaba Village and Ein Yanoun soon after.
We have amazing news. Abir’s Garden: Playgrounds for a Safe Place to Grow has been selected to be part of Microsoft’s Youth Spark matching grant program! What that means is that on #GivingTuesday, Dec. 3rd, Microsoft will match all donations in a 1:1 match starting at 9am Pacific time — and they are giving away a total of $250,000.
The reason Abir’s Garden qualified for Youth Spark is that Combatants for Peace added something new: youth theater. In addition to the wonderful building plans we’ve just received for the new playground construction in Ein Yanoun (see photo below), CfP will launch a new theater workshop for the children. These big former soldiers and former fighters are going to build the new playground AND work with the children to give shape to their dreams and vision while acknowledging the daily challenges the face. This project matters because the children face a very real danger. Nearly every day, settlers run down the hill and attack families in the village. I’ve included a wikipedia link that describes what has been going on. Internationals are invited live in the village because that helps keep them safe and this village has been working with Combatants for Peace for years because they so deeply want a peaceful future.
Now here’s our challenge: yesterday, a representative from Microsoft told us that their Youth Spark matching funds run out in the first hour. I know this project means a lot to you — please take a moment now to mark your calendar and set an alarm for 9am Pacific / Noon Eastern / 5pm London / 7pm Jerusalem time.
At a minute after the hour on Dec. 3rd, please make your donation and watch it double!
Thank you again for your support for the next Abir's Garden Playground!
My colleague and mentor, Sophia Omar and I are here in Palestine to work through project details, in advance of John, Gethin, and Jon's big swim from Europe to Asia on August 30th! These three cool guys in their 30's from Great Britain are swimming the Hellenspot Channel in Turkey to raise funds for Abir's Garden. More about their adventure, and how you can help in the link below.
On Friday, Aug. 23rd, Sophia and I had a great meeting with Combatants for Peace leaders and the mayor of Ein Yanun Village where everyone is ready to build the next Abir’s Garden playground! Then some of us continued on to Al Aqaba Village where the mayor is inviting them to help with their playgound and stand with them too.Rebuilding Alliance began our work with Combatants for Peace back in 2007, in memory of 10 year old Abir Aramin. Since then, Combatants for Peace (CfP) has evolved considerably and it was good to work through details in person. CfP’s commitment to Ein Yanun, a Palestinian Village in Area C, is so very important because the village is under daily threat from a particularly violent group of Israeli settlers just meters away. EAPPI volunteers reside in the village and Rabbis for Human Rights files legal petitions on Ein Yanun’s behalf. In Ein Yanun, we envision a two level playground on the hillside, framed by a stone wall, with picnic benches for families overlooking the play structures — can you see it? We site it on a sunny spot next to the school, safely tucked in between the houses and away from the arbitrary and dangerous border with the settlement. Soon, Combatants for Peace will send their budget and specs. We’ll develop the project in phases, starting the land preparation now and moving forward with Playground equipment, tables and shade as soon as donations arrive.
In Al Aqaba, in just a few weeks time, Combatants for Peace will help spread sand and repaint and repair playground equipment. For many of the Israeli members, they will be returning to a place they may remember as Israeli Army training camps are nearby.
Building playgrounds is a good way to make a real difference for children and support a movement of former combatants determined to end the violence and the Occupation. Your help makes this possible!
P.S. In addition to John, Gethin's and Jon's Big Swim, from now through Aug. 30th GlobalGiving is matching recurring donations by 100% up to $200. Please consider making a 3 month commiment of support for this important project before the end of this month.
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.
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