We have amazing news. Abir’s Garden: Playgrounds for a Safe Place to Grow has been selected to be part of Microsoft’s Youth Spark matching grant program! What that means is that on #GivingTuesday, Dec. 3rd, Microsoft will match all donations in a 1:1 match starting at 9am Pacific time — and they are giving away a total of $250,000.
The reason Abir’s Garden qualified for Youth Spark is that Combatants for Peace added something new: youth theater. In addition to the wonderful building plans we’ve just received for the new playground construction in Ein Yanoun (see photo below), CfP will launch a new theater workshop for the children. These big former soldiers and former fighters are going to build the new playground AND work with the children to give shape to their dreams and vision while acknowledging the daily challenges the face. This project matters because the children face a very real danger. Nearly every day, settlers run down the hill and attack families in the village. I’ve included a wikipedia link that describes what has been going on. Internationals are invited live in the village because that helps keep them safe and this village has been working with Combatants for Peace for years because they so deeply want a peaceful future.
Now here’s our challenge: yesterday, a representative from Microsoft told us that their Youth Spark matching funds run out in the first hour. I know this project means a lot to you — please take a moment now to mark your calendar and set an alarm for 9am Pacific / Noon Eastern / 5pm London / 7pm Jerusalem time.
At a minute after the hour on Dec. 3rd, please make your donation and watch it double!
We have really good news. This amazing project in support of the kindergarten and schools in Al Aqaba Village, has been selected to be part of Microsoft’s Youth Spark matching grant program! This means that on #GivingTuesday, Dec. 3rd, Microsoft will match all donations dollar for dollar starting at 9am Pacific time — and they are giving away a total of $250,000.
What an incredible pleasure it is to hear Al Aqaba Village fill with children’s voices each morning as the school bus minivan brings more and more students from the surrounding towns and hillsides! This is especially important here, because demolition orders have been issued against the 95% of the structures including most of the homes, the mosque, the clinic, and the kindergarten. Our Al Haq Kindergarten (Al Haq means ‘justice’ in Arabic) is what keeps Al Aqaba Village standing, inspiring some 20 countries to invest in Al Aqaba and to provide a diplomatic channel that is the village's lifeline — but no matter how wonderful a building may be, what matters most is the children.
When the brilliant students at Foothill College's Rebuilding Alliance Club helped us launch this project, we called it "Teaching in a Village Under Demolition Orders." As you see, we’ve now renamed to call it “Scholarships for Children, Stipends for Young Teachers” to help the neediest children attend kindergarten tuition-free while continueing to provide stipends to student teachers. We moved support for the Library into its own project called, “Help the Ibn Rush’d Library Serve Youth in Area C” — and that new project qualified for the Youth Spark 1:1 matching grant too!
I know this project means a lot to you and I hope you will save the date to give on #GIvingTuesday. We learned in the Youth Spark training that even with $250,000 to give away, Microsoft’s Youth Spark 1:1 matching funds will likely run out in the very first hour. Please take a moment now to mark your calendar and set an alarm for 9am Pacific / Noon Eastern / 5pm London / 7pm Jerusalem time. At a minute after the hour on Dec. 3rd, please make your donation and watch it double!Questions? Suggestions? Please give me a call at 650 325-4663.
Our project, Teaching in a Village Under Demolition Orders, continues to grow. I and Sophia Omar were both there for the first day of school on August 24th in Al Aqaba Village — so very exciting! I am happy to announce that a new teacher, from Estonia, is now working in Al Aqaba through a grant provided by the Estonian government. Some 160 children registered for the Al Haq Kindergarten -- one of Al Aqabaa's largest classes ever.
I promise to write more soon about the new programs that Librarian Haneen has been developing new programs at the Ibn Rush'd Library. We may be able to qualify these for the Microsoft Youth Spark matching grant -- more on this by the end of this week.
What I do want to share, in addition to these great photos, is something I noticed when Sophia and I joined Combatants for Peace to visit a school they helped finish for a small Palestinian village called Kirbet Twire. The new school is beautiful, funded by the European Community — but the school is not in the village it serves. It is a half mile away, uphill, no school bus. The village itslef is in Area C and faces demolition orders (as does Al Aqaba) Instead of risking the demolition of the school, the Palestinian Authority and the donor governments placed the school in Area B, leaving Kirbet Twire without its children, without direct investment in its infrastructure, and, I would argue, even more at risk of demolition.
When we came back to Al Aqaba that evening, I asked Mayor Haj Sami how he built the elementary school there, in the village itself. One thing he did was to attach it directly to his home, one of two pre-1968 structures that are free of demolition orders. Also, he got private funding to build the school and only asked for PA help to staff it after it was built. With the kindergarten, I know that story — Rebuilding Alliance had a small grant to buils a school that would not be demolished and so we responded to Al Aqaba's request and then Japan, Norway and Belgium added the 2nd floor ... and so it has grown and we've all kept it standing.
You support has made a big difference in this process. Your calls to your members of Congress have been invaluable at pivotal times, like when we helped Al Aqaba bring their case before the Israeli High Court in 2008 or when we asked for U.S. State Department assistance last June and the Israeli Army stopped live-fire training in the village that night and did not return.
Our strategy to support the building of Al Aqaba's kindergarten despite demolition orders has helped Al Aqaba become the vibrant village it is today. Sophia and I had the pleasure of meeting a representative of the British Consul and also of the Palestine Welfare Fund while in Al Aqaba — very exciting to hear of their new grants to improve the kindergarten! What we all set in motion is a network of assistance, both financial and diplomatic, to keep this village standing. It is a good model — your support for this program is the key, so deeply appreciated!