Oct 2, 2007

Updates from the field

The blockade of Gaza is entering its third month now and the crisis there is overwhelming, (see www.ochaopt.org). The Rebuilding Alliance is doing all we can to organize an end to the blockade. We were just awarded a seed grant from Grassroots International to use our Contact Congress Teleconferences to launch an Open Gaza Campaign focused on ending the blockade with Gaza, and also topics related to the Leahy Law. We'll keep you posted as the Campaign takes shape.

This past week the Israeli Banks said they are cutting off all funds transfers to banks in Gaza, As far as we know, this does NOT impact Rebuilding Alliance funds transfers to our NGO partner in Gaza, the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. We’ll test our bank-to-bank wire transfer system in the week ahead to confirm.

What does the blockade mean for our rebuilding project? Khaled Nasrallah who works with procurement requests at UNRWA, reports that everything in Gaza now cost 10 x more than it did last year. This is true in all sectors. When materials run out, they are not replaced because no raw materials are being allowed into Gaza at all.

We hoped to buy the last bags of cement for this project – but cement is now becoming bad, unsafe to build with. What about exploring alternative building materials?

Straw bale construction can be beautiful and long-lasting but such construction is not the norm in Gaza. People in Gaza want to build homes made of poured concrete and re-bar, homes that will last 100 years, best if the walls are thick. What do Gazans say about using local building materials? Khaled Nasrallah said, “We don't really have building materials now but we do have a lot of empty shipping containers. Perhaps building with materials like these could show that people are struggling to have homes even with no materials.”

A group of eco-builders called Bustan Shalom are rebuilding with Bedouin families in the Negev. Their speaking tour brings them to visit the SF Bay area in two weeks. The Rebuilding Alliance is inviting all the green builders in our area for a house party for Bustan, so we can learn more about this work to show examples to our partners and the families in Gaza.

It may be possible to build with local materials, even shipping containers, if engineers and architects can design to meet the family’s needs. Next step: touch base with the Al Bahry family to explore these ideas further.


Aug 2, 2007

Husam is Home! And the RCRC won an eBay award!

Completed Building
Completed Building

Dear Friends of the Rebuildling Alliance,

Mr. Husam El Nounou finally returned home to Gaza at 10:30 pm Jul 31, via the Erez Checkpoint. His luggage was sent through today at noon. He is the PR Director for our NGO partner in Gaza, the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme -- and he was stranded in Egypt for a month and a half behind the blockade.

“Please thank everyone for all their help on my behalf,” said Husam. “At last I am back with my family!”

We especially want to thank those who contacted their congresspeople. Many found that staffers wanted to help and started making calls on their constituents’ behalf to express concern about Husam’s situation and the blockade of Gaza. One constituent was even asked to draft a statement the congressman could read into the Congressional Record (full report coming soon).

Please take a moment now to call your representative’s office to let them know Husam El Nounou is safely home.

“Ask them to do all they can to allow more people to enter each day,” said Husam. “So far only 300/day are allowed to cross… that means it will take some 20 work days, more than a month, to bring everyone home,”

And tell them to redouble their efforts to speak out against the ongoing blockade and siege of Gaza so that 1.4 million hungry people can feed their families and go back to work.

With sincere thanks, Donna Baranski-Walker Executive Director

P.S. Thanks to 43 donors, the Rachel Corrie Rebuilding Campaign in Gaza won third place in Global Giving’s competition, and a prize from eBay of $2000!!! Raising funds for this home was the reason Husam El Nounou left his family for the U.S. – so these contributions are especially meaningful at this time.

Family from Gaza
Family from Gaza
Jul 25, 2007

Rachel Corrie Rebuilding Campaign narrow lead - please forward

Dear Friends of the Rebuilding Alliance,

GlobalGiving.com informed us that our project, the Rachel Corrie Rebuilding Campaign, Gaza 2nd Home is narrowly leading their international competition – and they have extended the competition to July 27th.

Please help rebuild the next home in the Rachel Corrie Rebuilding Campaign in Gaza, the home of physiotherapist Ali Al Bahry and his family. Donate now at GlobalGiving and help us win an additional $5000, $3000, or $2000 for this project through an eBay match.

1. Why build this home in Gaza now? Our partner from Gaza, Mr. Husam El Nounou, Public Relations Director for Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, came to the U.S. in June to raise funds for this home. Husam remains stranded in Egypt, unable to return to his home and family in Gaza. Credible reports indicate some 5,000-6,000 Palestinians are stuck in Rafah and Al-Areesh and another 30,000 spread throughout Egypt as the blockade of Gaza enters its second month. Husam’s colleague, Dr. Mona El Farrah, lost her mother, unable to go home to be at her side.

Being home, going home, rebuilding home – our work is about all of that. Our projects are symbols of hope that help rebuild shattered communities and offer people around the world immediate ways to make peace, starting with the tangible support of a family's right to a home. Frankly, we ask your help to rebuild a home for the Al Bahry family, and we also ask you to pick up your phone to ask Congress to speak out against this grueling blockade. Donate now.

2. Rebuilding during the blockade of Gaza? Yes, we can – because we just did! The Rebuilding Alliance completed the first home in the Rachel Corrie Rebuilding Campaign in Gaza on May 24th 2007. We built it for the Nasrallah family, the family Rachel Corrie sought to protect when she stood before the Israeli Army D-9 Caterpillar bulldozer that threatened their home. When friends and family saw the home “that American families helped build,” they volunteered their time and talent to help finish it off right.

3. But how can the Rebuilding Alliance build this house during a blockade, when all imports of building materials have stopped – and even the U.N. has called-off construction projects? Everyone is pitching in. Dr. Eyad El Sarraj is taking the list of materials to every contractor he knows to ask if they can spare ten cubic meters of concrete, or a re-bar or two. Khaled Nasrallah, an expert in logistics and part of the family Rachel Corrie sought to protect, writes, “The first step for the project starts with the drawings for the home. An engineering consultancy company in Gaza may want to provide this service as a donation from their company. The next step is to get the approval from the engineering association which also may be for free or with a big discount. This phase is the beginning and can show the world that the community still seeks to work in a healthy environment and uphold its responsibilities.”

Then the family goes to the municipality to confirm title of the land and apply for water and electricity. Please note that this may not be easy: The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, in urgent call to save the judicial system, also reports that the system of permits, taxes, and fees has been suspended. By applying for a permit and doing this publicly with reports back to you, our donors, we’ll find out where things stand.

The next step is building – and that starts with clearing land and digging. Our team will be asking the Gaza community to help, a brave step for all who step forward.

4. Can you still transfer funds to the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme for this project? Yes, because the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme is a non-governmental organization, fully in compliance with the U.S. Patriot Act. Funds transfers to Palestinian NGOs for humanitarian projects are allowed. 5. Will rebuilding this house in Gaza somehow help the current government(s)? Ours is a non-governmental project all the way. Construction is supervised by the Rebuilding Alliance’s engineer, the Al Bahry family, and our NGO partner in Gaza, the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.

6. How does the Global Giving contest work? GlobalGiving.com is offering all projects in their filmfest competition the exclusive opportunity to receive $5,000, $3,000 or $2,000! Thanks to the generosity of one of GlobalGiving’s most valued partners, eBay, three of the pioneering projects will receive these additional funds.

7. How can I help? Please Donate Now via the GlobalGiving.com website and forward this message to your mailing list. It is a brave move for a family to rebuild during a blockade. Your support means everything.

In rebuilding peace,

Donna Baranski-Walker Executive Director of the Rebuilding Alliance

P.S. Urge your senators and congressperson to speak out against this blockade and help Husam El Nounou, Dr. Mona Al Farra and thousands more return home. Please join our planning telecons on Fridays to strategize. The link to the script is listed below.

P.P.S. Rebuilding Alliance board member, Jenni Fischer, has created a blog primarily dedicated to her Run for Peace, a 31.3 mile trail run she is undertaking for her 30th birthday as a fundraiser for The Rebuilding Alliance. Its called, "The Good Long Road." Check it out at http://jennifischer.blogspot.com/.


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