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Dec 30, 2015

The Very Best Thing: 3 more families moved home

Mayor Haj Sami, minaret in the shape of peace sign
Mayor Haj Sami, minaret in the shape of peace sign

The best thing I heard all year is what's happening in Al Aqaba Village. 

"Donna, three more families moved into their new homes," said Mayor Haj Sami as we traversed the street.  "Look, they painted with gold and cream, just like the first three.  Someday my whole village will be painted gold and cream, and everyone will know us a a beautiful village of Peace." 

As we finished the first three homes in the Rebuilding to Remain program, and the families moved in, some nine other families applied for building permits to the Al Aqaba Village Council.  With village-issued permits in hand, they started building their homes with their own money, with their own designs, and at their own pace.  As they neared completion, Mayor Haj Sami asked the Future for Palestine Foundation (Dr. Salam Fayyad's NGO) to help by providing finishing grants — and so three more families moved into their home!

As you may remember, we used the funds provided in this project to crowdfund construction loans to build the first three homes in the Rebuilding to Remain Program, using designs developed by award-winning architect Hani Hassan.  Our commitment was $20,000 per home but the total cost of each home was $33,000.  In the end, Rebuilding Alliance was one of the groups that helped finish the homes as well. 

Our three Rebuilding to Remain families continue to pay back their rotating construction loans, not to Rebuilding Alliance (we're not yet able to meet the PA Government's requirements to offer loans), but to the Al Aqaba Cooperative Credit Union.  Now, completion of these three new homes comes about through funding from the Future for Palestine Foundation. 

We currently have $4500 in the Rebuilding to Remain account and we would like to offer one or two finishing loans to the other houses where work is underway.  To do this Rebuilding Alliance must register a branch office in Palestine and partner with a loan-making institution who can meet the significant threshold requirements of the Palestinian Monetary Authority.  We're almost there.

Working with our law team at Ittqan Law in Ramallah, we've ready to open our branch office in Palestine as soon as we hire a general manager.  Local banks have offered to help us administer construction loans in accordance with the threshold lending requirements.  We need to raise the funds that form the basis for these loans and I believe this would be much easier if Rebuilding Alliance's construction financing qualified for Political Risk Insurance (PRI).   That way, we could give you, our donors, the sound assurance that if these lovely homes were to be demolished, there would be a way to help the families rebuild.

Rebuilding Alliance's request for PRI is going up to very high levels at the US State Department, the National Security Council and also to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (the quasi-US governmental agency that provides PRI in all other parts of the world).   If it gets stuck again (I've been working on this for more than 3 years),  our next step could be in the form of a petition asking people to sign if they are willing to commit U.S. taxpayer money to help Palestinian families rebuild their homes if their neighborhoods are demolished.

No matter what, as you can see, Mayor Haj Sami is moving forward.   His new Park for Families, just outside the Kindergarten and next door to the mosque, is attracting hundreds of people each night!   Delegations from European and Asian countries stop by daily.   He knows that the only way to save a village is to build something worthy of saving, and the only real protection against demolition is our collective ability to get policy-makers worldwide to help. What a remarkable model Al Aqaba has become!

Thank you again for supporting the construction of those first three homes and for making dreams real.

Sincerely,

Donna

Here's the first of three new homes!
Here's the first of three new homes!
Here's the second - and another nearing completion
Here's the second - and another nearing completion
Just across from Sadeq's House!
Just across from Sadeq's House!
And here's the third house!
And here's the third house!
Al Aqaba's remarkable park
Al Aqaba's remarkable park
Panorama of the Kindergarten Bldg & Park at night
Panorama of the Kindergarten Bldg & Park at night
Oct 6, 2015

New school year is coming

Al Aqaba's Kindergarteners performing on Land Day
Al Aqaba's Kindergarteners performing on Land Day

Dear Friends,

During the last school year in Al Aqaba, there were many chlldren whose parents were unable to cover tuition. In May, thanks to your help, we sent a grant of $6746 to Al Haq Kindergarten in Al Aqaba to cover expenses like electricity, salaries and fuel for the busses. These are vital grants to keep the kindergarten opening.

Unfortunately, the number of children dropping out of kindergarten continued.   115 out of 136 who first enrolled, graduated and are now starting their first grade of elementary school.  Twenty-one little children dropped out.

As they faced these difficulties, Al Aqaba continued to think about this new school year and how to attract students not only from Al Aqaba but also from the surrounding area to provide them with a good learning experience. We want to keep the tuition as affordable it is (100 NIS/month for the first child, 80 NIS/month for the twin — this is a few of $25/mo or less) which is less than the other kindergartens in the area so to win as many students as possible. We know how important it is to have as many children as possible there in the village — the teachers give them a nurturing, safe environment to help them learn and grow, and they become the heart of the village too, pouring energy, life and continuity this remarkable place.

The principle and teachers ask your help to provide scholarships to thirty one Kindergarten students this year.   To fund all 31 tuitions for 9 months, we ask your help to raise $6975. 

Our project qualifies for the Microsoft Youth Spark Matching Grant.  This Wenesday Oct. 7th, starting at 12pm Eastern time, your donations up to $1000 will be matched -- that's a great way to propel this Scholarship program forward.

Please mark your calendar for Wednesday!

Sincerely,

Kindergartener performers on Land Day
Kindergartener performers on Land Day
I was there for this remarkable day!
I was there for this remarkable day!
The new governor of Tubas was there!
The new governor of Tubas was there!
So many parents!   All taking pictures!
So many parents! All taking pictures!
Big sister watching the performance
Big sister watching the performance
Mar 17, 2015

The Little Kindergarten that Could

The children in one of the classes
The children in one of the classes

I visited Al Aqaba village on Sunday 14th of March. When you come to this tiny village, it’s very quiet until reaching the center when you start to hear the children voices all around you. Their lively voices and laughter bring life and energy to this place, even as the sounds of heavy weapons and machine gun training at nearby Israeli military camps would overwhelm the human voice of existence.  

The children are happy and active. They sing songs to me and let me into their world.

"I like coming to the Kindergarten to play with my friends and have fun"
"I like learning the alphabets and singing songs here"
"I like to draw plans"
It was clear how the kindergarten offers an important space for these children to live and grow.

Kindergarten principal Noha said, "The kindergarten is the energy dynamo of Al Aqaba village and the essential element of life here.    It's like the minaret in the middle of the sea.   Even when parents come to pick their children they like to stay around for a while and hang out in the playground.  It's the only outlet for everyone here and the source of good feelings for everyone around."

I want to say we’ve got to do better at raising funds for scholarships. 

The kindergarten, like all early childhood education in Palestine is private and it depends upon tuition to pay staff and expenses.  Sadly Noha, the principal told me that ten children dropped out since January this year. And almost all students have not paid their fees for January and February. This might result in more students quitting as it embarrasses parents when they cannot pay tuition. It certainly puts financial pressure on the administration. Many students haven't paid for many months from last year and tens can't even join the kindergarten.

“We want to give all children the opportunity to come to school, and we want to hold on to our students and give them the best learning experiences, however it’s hard with the limited resources and difficulties we face,” said Principal Noha.

It is not just the kindergarten building that keeps the whole village standing — it's the wonder and hope of all these children. I hope you will continue to support Kindergarten Scholarships for Palestine – especially the Kindergarten in Al Aqaba.

P.S On Wednesday, March 18th you can stretch your donation to Kindergarten Scholarships further! It's a Global Giving match day and all donations up to $1,000 will be matched by 30% starting at 9 a.m. EST. Set your alarms!

creative teaching
creative teaching
Happy children having good time
Happy children having good time
Proudly showing the first alphabet of his name !
Proudly showing the first alphabet of his name !
 
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