Rebuilding Alliance

Rebuilding Alliance is dedicated to rebuilding war-torn communities and bringing the world together to make them safe. Our vision is a just and enduring peace in Israel and Palestine with equal value, opportunity, and security for all.
Mar 17, 2015

The project is climbing to see the light

The survey results are in!
The survey results are in!

The Rural Women’s Association of Al Aqaba is making good progress in their development of a business plan for the Rural Women’s Restaurant, yet to be built. Last month, I visited Al Aqaba village and joined the Rural Women’s Center’s board in a meeting with youth from the entrepreneurs club of Al Aqaba. We discussed how to implement a survey of potential customers, created by the Middle East Investment Initiative (MEII) team to determine how many people would come to the future Rural Women’s Restaurant.

The MEII Technical Assistance Program team has come to Al Aqaba to hold discussions with Al Aqaba Rural Women Association, Al Aqaba village council and Rebuilding Alliance.

Rebuilding Alliance had introduced the MEII Technical Assistance Program to the Al Aqaba Rural Womens Association to help plan their income-generating enterprises, specifically their restaurant, guest house, and wedding hall.  They start with a restaurant that would serve different groups: (1) the community of Al Aqaba village and surrounding area, (2) students at the kindergarten and elementary school, and maybe also schools nearby, (3) governmental and non-governmental visitors attending workshops and meetings in Al Aqaba (there is a vibrant conference center) and (4) internationals delegations and visitors.

The survey targeted three areas; Al Aqaba village, Tayaseer village and Tubas town. We were delighted to have the help of the youth of Al Aqaba in this task. 12 volunteers attended the meeting; 4 from each area. Based on the population of each area, they completed 120 surveys for Tubas area, 50 for Tayaseer and 50 for Al Aqaba. Ibn Rush’d Librarian Kefah Taleb (who is also the coordinator for the Ibn Rush’d Youth Entrepreneurship program) helped in planning and tabulated their results.

"There's a lot of local enthusiasm about building a Rural Women's Restaurant in Al Aqaba," said Librarian and Entrepreneurship coordinated Kifah as the survey results came in. I translated the survey results so you can take a look (click on it below).

The MEII TAP team recently completed their financial analysis and shared their suggestions and perspective with Al Aqaba Rural Women Association.   They thought the Rural Women's Restaurant is just viable -- we still have a lot of questions and are meeting with the Rural Women's Association and the TAP team in ten day's time to move the business plan forward.   We look forward to raising funds for construction of the restaurant!

Thank you for your faith in us and in this project. 

Sincerely,

Ayat

P.S.  On Wednesday, March 18th you can stretch your donation the Rural Women's Restaurant in Area C!  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.  Please set your alarm!

Good words from Mayor Haj Sami
Good words from Mayor Haj Sami
Getting ready to survey potential customers
Getting ready to survey potential customers

Attachments:
Mar 6, 2015

Big next steps for Rebuilding to Remain

Dear Friends, 

We are very proud that due to your help, Al Aqaba Village completed construction of the first three affordable homes in our signature project, Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine.   Sadeq and his bride moved-in on the night of their wedding in April.  Othman and Sara and their children moved-in just before Ramadan in June.   Teachers Nabil and Safa delayed their move to also allow Safa to finish her teaching degree program in Hebron.  They hope to move-in soon.

I'm writing now to discuss the direction of this important project.

Our next goal is bold yet simple: Help 10 more families build and move in to affordable homes on the land they own.  We want to use the revolving construction loan model Rebuilding Alliance piloted with Al Aqaba's community credit union in building these first three homes.  Revolving means that as each family repays its loans to Rebuilding Alliance's office in Ramallah, those funds become available to fund more new home construction. The first three families are already repaying their loans.

Ten is a realizeable construction goal that offers both a big opportunity as well as real challenges.  The opportunity is this:  last summer, as the families were moving in to their new homes, Rebuilding Alliance was invited to apply for something called Political Risk Insurance.   The Managing Director, Insurance and Reinsurance at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) conveyed the invitation.  It was surprising because I've been asking OPIC for many years to give us and Al Aqaba this insurance for construction in Area C.

By August, all OPIC applications re. Palestine were put on hold.  In January, when I asked them to re-open our application, they were  happy to hear from us - but sadly, over the weekend I was informed that Palestinian construction in Area C is still too risky for OPIC to provide us with Political Risk Insurance.

Their questions however opened the possibility of forming a political risk insurance consortium instead of simply relying on OPIC as the sole insurer.  I leave for Palestine on March 9th to meet with the Development Finance Institutions (DFI’s) of other some six other countries, and also the World Bank, to explore the possibility of their insuring the Rebuilding to Remain Revolving Construction Loan program that would be administered by Rebuilding Alliance or Al Aqaba Villagers themselves.

Now the details:  If we stay with the original plan to qualify Rebuilding Alliance as the loan-maker,  Rebuilding Alliance must formally register our branch office in Ramallah and raise a significant reserve as required by the Palestinian Monetary Authority.  We'll will have time to reach the reserve requirement — and it will be especially reachable if Rebuilding Alliance secures Political Risk Insurance.

What is Political Risk Insurance (PRI)?  
Because Israeli Knesset members openly discuss demolition of Palestinian homes as a way to move them out of Area C, demolitions must now be viewed unabiguously as an act of political violence. As such, one can insure against this (if you are a government with a policy against it).   Basically, if countries join our consortium and share the risk, the DFI's would insure our construction for at least 90% of loss due to any political act.    So if Rebuilding Alliance has PRI, and  if bulldozers threatened to demolish our homes, the consortium governments (and let's hope OPIC joins in downstream) would pay to rebuild them and also seek reparations from the Government of Israel. 

PRI could a game-changer for Palestinain families in Area C.  This guarantee against demolitions would certainly make it easier for us to raise funds to build the next 10 houses.  My challenge in these upcoming discussions is to show why Al Aqaba is a good risk and why the are within their legal and moral rights per the Oslo Accords and International Law to issue their own building permits.

Rebuilding Alliance's request to you:
When you donated to this project, Rebuilding Alliance promised to use your donation for construction -- and we did, succeeding in a remarkable pilot project.  Now I ask your permission to use your donation to take the administrative steps necessary to build more affordable homes.   In the next few days, I will send you an email asking your permission to use Rebuilding to Remain funds to allow Rebuilding Alliance to seek Political Risk Insurance and also register Rebuilding Alliance in Palestine as a loan-maker so that we can raise funds and build the next 10 homes and more. 

There's no guarantee of success but if we succeed, this will be the very first time that Palestinian construction in Area C is guaranteed to remain.   Rebuilding Alliance Board Member, Paula Crow esq. is an expert in affordable housing and real estate law.  When discussing next steps with OPIC, Paula said, "If Al Aqaba Village does not deserve Political Risk Insurance, I don't know who does."  Thank you for supporting Rebuilding to Remain and for believing in Al Aqaba and in us.

Sincerely,

Donna

Links:


Attachments:
Jan 2, 2015

Our first shipment is cleared to enter Gaza

From our 4min video, Clothe Gaza
From our 4min video, Clothe Gaza's Children

Dear Friend,

We set out to open Gaza with compassion and so we begin.   Good news: our first shipping container is now cleared for entry. It wasn’t easy. With your help, what we learned will guide the next containers.

Our container was rejected when it first arrived at Israel's Port of Ashdod on December 10th. Israel has rules against accepting anything used and that included our 727 boxes of gently worn clothing for Gaza. We appealed and just a few days ago, approval arrived to begin customs clearance.

The shocker: the process took too long — our container was racking-up port, storage, and demurrage fees.   When our U.S. shipping agent could not stop the clock, I spent my nights negotiating, fee by fee, with the Port of Ashdod and the shipping line, guided by our Palestinian shipping agent in Ramallah. With most of the U.S. embassy and consular staff away for the holidays, each time I got stuck, the Acting Staff Aide to the U.S. Ambassador in Tel Aviv responded with suggestions.

And it worked. We talked the costs down. Best of all, Rebuilding Alliance set a precedent for sending gently used, donated clothing to Gaza.  Funds are transferred and if all goes well, we'll see our 727 boxes reach the Palestine Red Crescent by Jan. 16th.  Next week, we'll pre-apply for customs clearance for our 2nd container.

Our bold goal -- opening the blockade of Gaza with compassion – came from Khaled Nasrallah in Rafah, Gaza just after the bombing stopped in August.   He is part of the Gaza family whom the late Rachel Corrie stood to protect and he is a social worker at one of the UN schools sheltering families. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, thousands donated, hundreds came to pack.  Please take a moment to watch the video we made.

Your support in the Microsoft YouthSpark program made it possible to hire a Gaza Campaign Coordinator and Project Development Assistant, Kelly Leilani Main.  Kelly Leilani has been volunteering with Rebuilding Alliance for the past 2 months.  She completed her degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from U.C. Berkeley receiving High Honors with a Thesis Topic: The Politics and Aesthetics of Public Space.  Kelly is an intermediate Arabic speaker who is keenly interested in Urban Planning and International Development with an emphasis on housing and community and economic development.  She has visited Palestine and Israel with the Olive Tree Initative,  a student led educational initiative which travels to Washington D.C., Israel, Palestine and Jordan to learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict first-hand and went on to become OTI's Director of Internal Relations, Programming and Education while at UC Berkeley.  Great to have Kelly Leilani on our team! 

  • Kelly Leilani is working to find the best school supplies, backpacks, warm coats, shoes and sock at the lowest price.  She found BLU School Supplies,  a branch of BLUSOURCE, an Oaklahoma company works to provide nonprofit organizations with the highest quality products at the lowest possible fees.   We’re currently checking samples and getting quotes, then will offer everyone a way to buy online and ship to our next collection site.
  • Kelly Leilani will be helping student groups at Swarthmore and University of California at Davis collect school supplies and warm coats to pack the next Rebuilding Alliance shipping containers on site at their campuses. 

  • Soon, we will be asking other community groups to submit proposals to load shipping containers at their sites too.

  • Meanwhile, students from the Sisters for Change group at Notre Dame de Namour College, and from San Jose State College's Students for Justice in Palestine group will join us at Rebuilding Alliance to pack our 2nd container.   We'll load that container as soon as we receive approval from Israeli Customs, hopefully soon.

Thank you again for making this important project happen.  We'll keep you posted as our container arrives, and let you know how the new plans are taking shape.

Best wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year,

Donna

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