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Apr 11, 2014

Invitation to Celebrate Sadiq & Lema's Wedding, April 18th

The engaged couple
The engaged couple

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Al Aqaba Village.  I am delighted to be here to invite you to celebrate Sadiq and Lema's Wedding on Friday, April 18th.  Everyone is working hard to make sure their house is finished on time. 

Their wedding plans are modest by local standards: a henna party at the Fiancee's house on Thursday, the celebration for men and women (but not the bride) on Friday at Mayor Haj Sami's house with the Rural Women's Association serving the dinner, and then the celebration just for the women, bride and groom on Saturday.  

Mayor Haj Sami invites you to this the National Wedding of Sadiq and Lema on the 18th.   In the invitation, he wrote, "Come celebrate the return of this first family of displaced citizens to their new affordable home, crowd-funded by people around the world (that's you!) and the Al Aqaba Cooperative Assembly for Housing Displaced."  

The wonderful series of photos attached to this report makes the finishing of the house look easy.  I'm happy to report that the challenges were the normal things that nearly everyone faces when building a home: the contractor wanted more money. Because the dollar fell 9.2% since we spec'd the house in 2011, the price of materials rose even more. 

Rebuilding Alliance founding board member Ghassan Abdullah joined me for a walk-through with the Rebuilding to Remain families and a good discussion with Mayor Haj Sami.  Next our award-winning architect, Hani Hassan, visited and joined us for a discussion with the families, Mayor Haj Sami and me, thoroughly reviewing the contract.   When Mayor Haj Sami and I spoke with the contractor the next day, we were able to reach a fair agreement re. extra costs for this home.  Finishing of the next two homes will see the Al Aqaba Community Assembly for Housing Displaced seeking bids and contracting directly with each craftsman instead of working with a general contractor.

Rebuilding Alliance board met on Monday night California time (5am here) to elect two new board members and then elect officers.  A big welcome to Rebuilding Alliance's new Board Chair Nadia Cooper, Secretary Kali Rubaii, Treasurer Carin Pacifico and new board members Jeremy McCain and Akber Malik.   The board carefully reviewed and approved my request to transfer the remaining funds due plus $3773 in additional charges needed to finish, bringing the total cost of this first home to $37,073.  The families agreed to ammend their mortgage agreement with the Al Aqaba Cooperative Assembly for Housing Displaced  to include the finishing costs, thus extending their mortgage to a total of 24 years at a monthly payment of $150/mo.  We all hope this revolving mortgage loan fund will be used to help build many more homes.

Lastly, you may be wondering what's happening with the overall status of our Rebuilding to Remain homes vis a vis the Israeli Army.   Last week, Mayor Haj Sami Sadek posted urgent photos on his Facebook page when the Israeli Army held spring training exercises all around, and over the village.  Thankfully, the Israeli Army held to their agreement, as brokered by the Israeli High Court, and did not use live fire inside the village.

Our Rebuilding to Remain homes have received their building permits from the Al Aqaba Village Council, the first Palestinian-issued building permits in Area C.  Our homes are being build inside a red line drawn by the Israeli High Court in 2008 when they said, "For the time being the center of the village can remain standing."  So far, thankfully, no demolition orders.  I hope the world will find Rebuilding to Remain as inspiring as we do — please hold our homes, these families, and this project in the light.  If possible, please forward this message to your senators and representative to ask them to be ready to make calls for us if needed.   But first, very soon, let's celebrate a wedding.

Thanks again,
Donna

P.S.   Please mark your calendar for May 7th, the next GlobalGiving Bonus Day Match.  Let's use that 30% match that day to fund completion of the next two homes, and once those are done, let's raise enough to provide mortgage loans to the other seven famiies who've started building inside that circle, all with building permits issued by the Village Council.

The open kitchen in Sadeq's new house
The open kitchen in Sadeq's new house
Sadeq's nephew's birthday party
Sadeq's nephew's birthday party
RA Adviser Ghassan, with homeowners Othman & Sadeq
RA Adviser Ghassan, with homeowners Othman & Sadeq
Doors, Windows and Window Grates are all in!
Doors, Windows and Window Grates are all in!
Everything is ready for painting, starting Sunday
Everything is ready for painting, starting Sunday
Sadeq installed the tile field & septic on his own
Sadeq installed the tile field & septic on his own
Sadeq and friend plastering the porch he added on
Sadeq and friend plastering the porch he added on
Sadiq showing Nadia a picture of his Fiancee
Sadiq showing Nadia a picture of his Fiancee
Solar tiles and water heater, installed on roof
Solar tiles and water heater, installed on roof
Sadiq's house is painted!
Sadiq's house is painted!
View from the yard
View from the yard
Porch talk with Mayor Haj Sami, Sadiq, visitors
Porch talk with Mayor Haj Sami, Sadiq, visitors
Sadiq at home in his new home
Sadiq at home in his new home
You are invited (English)
You are invited (English)
You are invited (Arabic)
You are invited (Arabic)

Links:

Apr 7, 2014

Kindergarten Scholarship Program is Underway!

Children now receiving scholarships
Children now receiving scholarships

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Ramallah!  The scholarship project is really taking off, all because of you.  

Earlier this year, Kindergarten Director Raheya Alsbaih and Mayor Haj Sami sent the list of children who would especially benefit from the scholarship program and their photos.   From your donations we transferred a grant of $5,565.68 for the 26 children in families facing unemployment, financial difficulties, health program or who just show a particular aptitude to learn.  I've attached a translated summary of the selection list. 

As soon as Thai Hien Ho and I arrived in the West Bank we met with the Kindergarten Director to discuss the implementation of the scholarship program. Kindergarten Director Raheya explained, "The scholarship will not involve a transfer of funds to the families but instead the families will be privately notified that their fees are being waived.  We will start reporting specifics back to you soon."

The photos sent to us as we announced this program show anxious, needy children in the cold of winter. Now, in springtime, they all blend in and with the care of their teachers and parents, they just shine.  I've posted a few pictures from the recent Land Day celebrations on March 31st to give you a sense of how remarkable they are ... behind me were hundreds of moms snapping photos of their little ones.

This kindergarten is such a special place, filled with 130 students and now 20 more.  A new grant from the British Consulate and the Welfare Association upgraded the kitchen to offer hot lunches.  The Estonian Government continues to send a teacher every three months who lives at the guest house and teaches the little ones.   Kindergarten Teacher Trainer Expert Abla Mahroun, who designed the kindergarten along with Engineer Laila Sbaih when Rebuilding Alliance first built it, came back to offer the teachers additional insight.

I wish I could stop my report there, reflecting back the beaming children in the bright sunny days of spring.  The hard part is that for three days this past week, Al Aqaba Village was like the eye of a hurricane, in this case a booming mass of Israeli Army soldiers training with guns and mortar from all sides of the village.  Everyone is safe, there was no shooting in the village itself, but machine gun fire, sonic booms, and tank fire can be really scary for children.  The bus drivers and teachers modeled reassurance and calm. 

If you would like to support our Kindergarten Scholarship 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.  Please mark your calendar for noon, Wednesday April 16th through noon Thursday April 17th — and ask your friends to mark their calendar too.

I head back to Al Aqaba Village in just a few days time and will be happy to convey any questions you may have to the staff or to the children and get back to you.  Please email me at contact@RebuildingAlliance.org or call me at 0119702313811.

Sincerely,

Donna

This scholarship program means a lot to them
This scholarship program means a lot to them
Mayor Haj Sami with the candidates for scholarship
Mayor Haj Sami with the candidates for scholarship
Thank you for helping these children be in school
Thank you for helping these children be in school
Their kindergarten commemorating Land Day
Their kindergarten commemorating Land Day
All the children dancing on Land Day
All the children dancing on Land Day

Attachments:
Jan 22, 2014

A Good Way to Finish, at Last

Nabil and Safa eagerly wait for their home
Nabil and Safa eagerly wait for their home

Dear Friend,

I am happy to tell you that work has resumed to finish our first three Rebuilding to Remain homes in Palestine. 

Nearly 700 donors like you helped Rebuilding Alliance meet our Rebuilding to Remain fund raising goal, and we built the first 3 homes as promised in Al Aqaba Village in the Jordan Valley. This is one of the areas of the West Bank that is currently under demolition orders by the Israeli Army, Area C.  We worked directly with the families to design energy efficient homes, together daring to draft Palestinian Building Permits where none existed, and created the first mortgage loan program for Area C.

Instead of waiting for the finishing grants promised by the Palestinian National Authority (its been over one year now), the families have agreed to extend their mortgage loan and Rebuilding Alliance is raising the funds caused by that shortfall to buy the doors, windows, tiles, and plumbing to finish so they can move in.  Thanks to recent donations we are transferring $7000 this month in extended mortgage loans and will transfer additional loans each month as soon as donations arrive. 

If only a small amount is raised each month, the families have decided to finish the homes one by one instead of finishing all simultaneously.  They declined to draw straws to choose which home is finished first.  Instead, Nabil, Safah, Othman and Sara all decided that Sadeq’s house should be finished first because Sadeq’s wedding waits for the day he can bring his bride home.

As you can see in the attached itemized budget, the total finishing costs for all three homes is $38,862.   The families will be doing the painting, reducing the total to $33,417.   With our transfer of $7000, we just need $26,417 to finish. 

If we could finish all three at the same time it would be both safer and also, newsworthy as the village will hold a grand homecoming celebration that will be truly inspiring.   All three homes could be finished in early March if all of us make a one-time donation of $50.    Let’s make this happen.

If you would like to join me for that Homecoming celebration  (and maybe even Sadeq’s wedding), please consider travelling with me on Rebuilding Alliance’s first-ever study tour, February 24-March 6th.   Please give me a call if you would like to discuss a major donation or would like more information about the study tour.  My cellphone is 650 440 9667.

I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,
Donna

Future home for Sadeq and his bride
Future home for Sadeq and his bride
Sophia at Othman & Sara's home - they visit daily
Sophia at Othman & Sara's home - they visit daily

Attachments:
 
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