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Mar 15, 2016

We've scheduled 20 Conference Call Briefings with Congress -Join In!

Aysar, at home with his new sister, in Susiya
Aysar, at home with his new sister, in Susiya

Dear Friend,

Good news: on March 10th, U.S. Consul General Donald Blome visited Umm al Kheir, Susiya, and several other villages slated for demolition in the South Hebron Hills. We have been pushing for this to happen, because it represents the start of significant U.S. engagement to mitigate the recent upsurge in the demolition of Palestinian homes and villages by the Israeli Army. 

The Consul General's visit was a step forward, but we must press for more. There is a way to keep Umm al Kheir, Susiya, al Aqaba and all the other Palestinian villages standing in Area C, but it requires bold advocacy from you as an American constituent.  

If you haven't registered already, please sign-in to join a half-hour Contact Congress Briefing with your Senators and Representative’s staff.

We started this week with a briefing with Sen. Marco Rubio's staff and we've scheduled almost 20 more so far.  We're working to book 100.  These calls are an advocacy breakthrough.  To see the schedule and join, go to www.RebuildingAlliance.org and just scroll down to the calendar.  Click Count Me In! to join the calls.

To each legislator, our ask is simple: on behalf of your constituents, please call the U.S. State Department and the Israeli Embassy to express concern about the Palestinian villages in Area C and to show support for their right to plan and live on the land they own. 

Congressional intervention already makes all the difference in keeping demolition bulldozers away from Susiya, Umm al Kheir, and Al Aqaba. These conference calls have proven to be a remarkable tool for influencing foreign policy. Please join us. Constituent by constituent, legislator by legislator, this is our best hope to keep Palestinian villages standing.

One more thing: this Wednesday, MARCH 16TH, GlobalGiving.org is matching all donations to our U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages. Thanks to your support, our U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages helped keep Susiya standing.  We're making real progress and we need your support again now to ramp-up.  Please set your alarm and give on Wednesday 



Sincerely,

Tamsin Avra

Contact Congress Coordinator, Rebuilding Alliance 


P.S.    Questions? Suggestions?  Please call me at 650 651-7165 or reply to this email.

P.P.S.  There are so many heartbreaking photos of demolitions ... instead we are sending you this photo that Donna took of Aysar, the 14-year-old who presented his Pinwheel for Peace to members of Congress in Washington, D.C. last year.   Aysar's U.S. visa states he may visit twice more in 'September with Rebuilding Alliance' — and so we begin planning to bring Aysar and other Susiya leaders on speaking tour for International Peace Day again this year and next.
 

Links:

Mar 15, 2016

Smart Kindergartners Shared Their Views on Peace

Dear Friends,

The school year is underway in Al Aqaba, and thanks to your generosity, 30 children are receiving a scholarship this year! We just sent $2,000 for the scholarships, and the children and their families are so glad to have your help.

Most of the boys and girls are orphans or from families with very limited income. Their families cannot afford to pay the tuition fees. This was the case for D., a girl who is currently receiving one of the scholarships you helped fund. Her father does not work and could not pay the monthly tuition for Kindergarten. Because he could not pay the installments, he said D. would not be able to attend school. Your scholarship changed all this -- D. gets to attend school with her 131 classmates and receive all the benefits an early Kindergarten education provides for her future. 

These 132 students come from near and far. Two bus drivers bring children every day from nearby towns and villages to learn alongside students who live in Al Aqaba. Many families are refugees from Al Aqaba, from the decades when the Israeli Army used this village for live-fire training exercises.  The kindergarten building was the first building Al Aqaba built (Rebuilding Alliance was proud to help) when Israel's High Court stopped the live-fire training inside the village in 2002.

The children learn important concepts that will help them be successful in first grade and beyond. Since 2008, students at the Kindergarten have also been creating Pinwheels for Peace, an activity that encourages children to express their vision of peace. Rebuilding Alliance's social worker, Fatma, saw this activity at the Kindergarten and is bringing it to South Hebron Hills. She uses the activity to create a safe space for children to open up about their unpeaceful experiences and as a gateway for healing trauma. 

Donna Baranski-Walker, Executive Director and Founder of Rebuilding Alliance, visited Al Aqaba's Kindergarten in December and saw first-hand how powerful making these pinwheels can be. Donna traveled to Gaza to deliver 3,888 backpacks kits filled with school supplies and children's books. Then she visited the Kindergarten in Al Aqaba and made Pinwheels for Peace with some of the students. The children wrote down what peace means to them and drew what it looks like, then fixed the paper edges to make their messages turn in the wind. 

Thoughtful visions of peace filled pinwheels and conversation, and leave no doubt in our minds that we're helping some pretty smart Kindergartners! Thank you. Peace can mean a lot of things, but for some of the Kindergartners in Al Aqaba, it is as simple as the opportunity to receive an education. 

I hope we can continue to increase our scholarships to this Kindergarten. Your donations are making such a difference in the lives of children, families, and their villages. Please continue your support so we can help even more smart Kindergartners in the future. 

Cheers and Gratitude,

Christina

P.S. On March 16 you can stretch your donation to Kindergarten Scholarships further! It's GlobalGiving's Bonus Day. GlobalGiving will match a percentage of the donations we receive between 6:00 am PST and 8:59 pm PST, which increases your impact. Please set your alarms!

Links:

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