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Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children

by Rebuilding Alliance
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Brighten the Future of Gaza's Children
Here's the Sunbox Energy System on one home
Here's the Sunbox Energy System on one home

In Gaza, these days, power goes off 16 hours a day: 8 hours on and 8 hours off. That is when we’re lucky; sometimes an entire day passes with no power. Many people aren’t able to afford alternatives like generators or UPS systems, so they just stand around, waiting for power to turn on. With generous support from GlobalGivers like you, Rebuilding Alliance was able to distribute Little Sun personal solar lights and also ten SunBox power systems to families in need.

My name is Omnia Ghassan and I am a Coordinator for We Are Not Numbers -- a group of young writers who aspire to deliver the Palestinian cause to all English speakers. I was asked by RA to visit its four Non-Governmental Organization partners in charge of the distribution, and also those ten families who received full systems to evaluate the project.

All total, Rebuilding Alliance's partners have distributed 35,600 personal solar lights (both Luci Lights and Little Suns), and recently installed ten Sunbox home solar systems.

Youth Vision Society program manager, Mr. Bilal Al Shaer, sais that the SunBox installments -- solar panels that work as an alternative and affordable source of energy when the electricity is off -- "help people, especially children, with asthma to turn on nebulizers at home without having to go to hospitals. It is also more economical than other expensive alternatives." 

The Sunbox system was designed by Gaza engineer Majd Mashharawi and her innovative new company
to provide enough electricity to power lamps, charge laptops and cellphones, run a small refrigerator and even a TV set.  Livana, a housewife whose home benefited from the SunBox installment, said this makes a big difference. “My very sick mother-in-law finds solace in watching TV with a light fan breeze whenever the power is out and the weather is hot.”

Director of Al Basma Club for the Disabled, Mr. Eid Shaqura, said that many disabled in the club have benefited from the Little Suns while training when the power is out. Also, fishermen benefited "because of its waterproof feature; it worked as a guide when they were out on the water."

I was especially touched by when Women Program Center Director, Mrs. Najah Ayyash, said that the Little Suns mostly benefit housewives in completing their chores, elders while going to Al-Fajr prayer when it's still dark, and children studying and doing their homework.

She encountered a little girl in the second grade named Maram who suffers from Nyctalopia and now considers the Luci Light (the product distribued before the Little Suns) her best friend. "She was so introverted because of her inability to see at night," Najah said. "Now, it's like she has night-eyes — she can go visit her cousins and play."

And then she told me of a man on an electric wheelchair whom cars couldn't see when the street lamps were off. He taped a Little Sun on the back of his chair to make sure that drivers would see him. Who could ever think of this mind-blowing idea!

The Director of Al Amal Society for Rehabilitation, Mr. Zeyad Al-Abed, explained that the Little Suns held a special advantage for the deaf. "While they can't hear danger, they can see it," he said.

Your donation helped to ensure that thousands in need of light received it. We're incredibly grateful for your decision to support this project. You, dear donor, made this happen — and we’re looking forward to sharing our next steps soon!

Sunbox is full-service, providing more than light
Sunbox is full-service, providing more than light
Little Suns make all the difference!
Little Suns make all the difference!
Kareem RA's coor. in Rafah, handing out LittleSuns
Kareem RA's coor. in Rafah, handing out LittleSuns
The boys and their LittleSuns
The boys and their LittleSuns

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Dear Friend,

On December 5th in Gaza, 8,600 children, families, and the elderly began receiving Little Sun solar lights, delivered by Rebuilding Alliance's four NGO partners. The lights, the children, all of our partners, and you are truly Nur al-AmalLights of Hope.  None of this would have been possible without your help — thank you!

With this shipment, Rebuilding Alliance has sent a total of 35,600 solar lights through the blockade to children and families in need in Gaza.  Nearly half of Gaza's population are children under the age of 15 — that means there are 750,000 children in the Gaza Strip. I hope we'll find a way to send each child a solar light of their own and press to open the blockade.

To reach the children, Rebuilding Alliance works in partnership with four Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) to identify the children in greatest need and deliver the solar lights to them at their home or school. We began this distribution in Rafah, Gaza on December 5th, starting at the El Amal Rehabilitation Society. The children in their school are deaf. Next our team went to the Women's Program Center — Rafah where children and moms had gathered to receive Little Sun solar lights.

After the wonderful morning in Rafah, we brought the film crew and our team of writers to Gaza City to distribute at night with the Youth Vision Society visiting families in the refugee camp called, Beach Camp. The next day, the ABCD, brought children with disabilities in their community together to receive the solar lights.

Why these lights?

You may remember that we were shipping Luci lights but now we've switched over to Little Suns.  The Little Suns charge in the sun for 7 hours, and can then run for 50 hours.  They were designed by an artist and an engineer at the Little Sun company in Germany - and everyone especially likes the brightness of the light, as well as the ability to change out the battery when it wears out, some five years from now. Also, Little Sun arranged for a matching grant from the Bloomberg Foundation, so for every one that we are able to purchase, they send a 2nd one as well!

The children use the Little Suns to study and read and play.  They are a nightlight. Parents, especially moms, use them to see in the kitchen while cooking. Everyone uses them if they have to go out in the utter darkness.

But do they still need solar lights?

Yes, very much so.  Recently, for most neighborhoods, electricity increased to 12 hours per day - which still means that half of each day is without power. Our team interviewed a dad who explained the energy independence that this little light offered. "In our neighborhood, electricity is still on only four hours each day on a rotating basis.  This may be increased soon — but for my family, it won't matter.  We just can't afford the prepaid billing system.  Even 20 Shekels right now is not possible because I have no job.  Your little lights are such a blessing to my family."

Everyone keeps asking how we send them through the blockade. 

Basically, the key is pre-clearance. These pallets shipped from Hamburg, Germany, through Israel's port of Ashdod, to our Palestinian Non-Governmental Org partners and we made a little film to show you (see link below). The pre-clearance paperwork is harder to show. We apply well before the shipment moves. Approval by the Palestinian National Authority takes only a day while Israeli Customs' and Israeli Civil Administration approval takes months (— and a lot of phone calls).

Telling their stories

When we began this project, I hadn't realized that each light would bring light to each family's story and show my team, and the world, what we otherwise might never see. If you'd like to read a few of those stories, click here to read our latest blog post. I hope you'll continue to support our work so that we can bring you these children's stories and together, find better ways to do more, and keep them safe, warm, fed, and healthy.

Thank you again, for making this work possible. In this season of Light, may the way open to brighten the future of Gaza's children.

If you can donate, to send more please do.

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I brought suitcases full to test LittleSun in Gaza
I brought suitcases full to test LittleSun in Gaza

Dear Friend,

Great news: 8,600 lights in 4 pallets are set to arrive in Gaza this Thursday! If all goes well the lights will cross from the Israeli side (Karem Shalom) to the Palestinian side (Karem Abu Salam) and be trucked to our NGO partners for distribution on Sunday to children in need in Gaza.  An international TV crew might be filming this with us too.

With this sixth shipment, Rebuilding Alliance will have so far shipped a total of 35,600 solar lights through the blockade to Gaza's children! Each shipment has a long journey and this is no exception.

Everyone asks how this is possible: How can they transit the blockade? How will they reach the children in need?

  • We applied for Custom's preclearance in June. As usual, Palestinian Customs awarded pre-clearance approval immediately but it rather got lost on the Israeli side.  Once found, the shipment was pre-cleared by the Israeli Army on Sep. 4th, and the papers returned by Israeli Customs two weeks later.   

  • Our 8600 solar lights were shipped out of Hamburg, Germany a few weeks ago - see the smiling fork lift drivers in the video =). Last Friday, they arrived at the Port of Ashdod, Israel.  With pre-clearance it took just three working days to get the lights through Israel customs into a warehouse near Karam Shalom where they wait for Palestinian acceptance, now on behalf of the Palestinian Authority instead of the Gaza Government.  That should happen today, Wednesday, for transit tomorrow, Thursday.

Why Little Suns instead of Luci Lights?

There's a wonderful back-story about a mom whose son was so excited to receive a LittleSun, and her friendship with another mom in Gaza. She said, "He was the happiest kid in the world! And on that day the newspaper headlines reported on the electricity crisis in Gaza - I had to find a way to send them there too, and so I found Rebuilding Alliance."  I look forward to telling that story in full someday soon.

We upgraded to send Little Suns, because this green and very efficient solar light needs 5 hours of sun to give 50 hours of light.  Created by the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen, Little Sun B Corp is headquartered in Berlin, Germany. They formed Little Sun as a public benefit B Corporation to sell these solar lights as a commodity around the world, and also created the Little Sun Foundation, which brings Little Suns to children who live in off-grid areas, mostly in Africa. What I really liked is that in five years when the battery fails, one can change it instead of losing the unit - and also, the Bloomberg Foundation provided a 1:1 matching grant!   This will be the first time that Little Suns are being shipped to Gaza.

The other big question: will they still need solar lights?  YES, they will.

At the end of October, the electricity in Gaza returned to 10-12 hours on, each day.  Neveen, our coordinator in Gaza City, called it, "Glorious and truly wonderful!"  Yesterday, on our conference call Kareem, our coordinator in Rafah, was in darkness again and noted, "But there are still many hours in the night without electricity. Also, here in Gaza, we don't know if the ceasefire will hold - we can be thrown into total darkness at any time. Please, our Brighten the future of Gaza's Children program must continue."

Due to a remarkable permit, I visited Gaza three times in the past six months bringing LittleSun and Luci lights in my suitcases. Our team took me to the homes of families in great need to meet them and hear their stories - families that barely have a light bulb. Even if the power comes on, the LittleSuns will make life easier. These are Nur al Amal, lights of hope.

Thank you again for making this project possible.  Please mark your calendar for Giving Tuesday Nov. 29th when GlobalGiving will be matching all donations all day starting at midnight until 11:50pm Eastern time!  


Sincerely, 

Donna

 

P.S. Here's a short history of the 11 years of power outages in Gaza: 

  • Soon after Israel imposed the blockade of Gaza eleven years ago, the electricity supply in Gaza fell to 12 hours a day.    As more people lost their jobs and were unable to pay their bills, electricity fell to just 3-4 hours per day. According to UNOCHA, “On 8 April, 2016 the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) was forced to shut down completely after exhausting its fuel reserves and being unable to replenish them due to a shortage of funds. This  triggered electricity blackouts of 18-20 hours per day, up from 12 hours previously, further undermining the delivery of basic services.”

  • According the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, in the early morning hours of 28 June 2006, following the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli Air Force attacked the only electrical power plant operating in the Gaza Strip, destroying all transformers. It would take a very long time before it was repaired, only to be partially destroyed by Israel again and again during the invasions in 2008, 2009, and 2014. It took a long time for repair. 

  • Now, the system is restored to 10-12 hours per day because the ceasefire, negotiated by Nikolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, is holding.  The Government of Qatar is sending fuel to run the power plant and Israel's Army (specifically COGAT) is allowing it in.  We hope this will help put people back to work at long last. 

  • Our Brighten the Future project, and the energy independence it provides, is still deeply needed.

P.P.S.  I want to say that I see our shipments as a small miracle.  We’re dealing with four dysfunctional governments - the only thing that matters is gentle, painstaking, constant persistence.  Long ago, when Craig Corrie and I  first went to talk to the State Department about Gaza, I wondered how on earth to proceed. Craig, who was a founding board member of Rebuilding Alliance, said, “Always go in with the intention of giving the official the opportunity to help”  … later, another founding board member, Ghassan Abdullah, noted, “Too they need so many opportunities!”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Helping with basic needs
Helping with basic needs
A way to finish homework
A way to finish homework
Little Sun:  a child's only light on a dark street
Little Sun: a child's only light on a dark street

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Aug. 1st, Rafah: Reading Party at the WPC library
Aug. 1st, Rafah: Reading Party at the WPC library

I know we said these solar lights will brighten the future - I want you to see that they make things brighter now too!  Kareem, our Rafah Coordinator (look carefully and you'll see him in the photos) said, "The librarian called and she had a wonderful idea.  That reading circle was really fun!"

There are so many ways that these little solar lights help, and none of them would be possible without you.  This project began in response to an electricity blackout, night and day for eleven years.  The power is on for four hours, then off for sixteen, daily. Whenever there is power, families must scramble to charge phones, wash clothes, or even watch TV — and that rotation, those few hours can happen mid-day or mid-night.

When there is no electricity at night, people in Gaza turn to candles and kerosene lamps and this is dangerous. Gaza continues to experience fires caused by candles gone wrong that even took the lives of many innocent children and left survivers with severe burns.

I know a lot about life in Gaza because I’m in touch with my family there nearly every day (sometimes more than once a day as my little brother will soon be getting married). I recently finished my MBA and joined Rebuilding Alliance because I want to build our Brighten the Future giving program into a program that will reach big goals for energy independence in Gaza.  The first step I hope to accomplish is delivering a Little Sun, solar-powered, lamp to every child in Gaza — that's about 750,000 lamps! We also want to ramp-up to provide loans or stipends to help families install SunBox solar energy systems in homes and offices. SunBox is an exciting new system designed by young woman entrepreneur who lives in Gaza City.

This is huge — and it is still important to note what’s most important: these solar-powered lanterns are especially beneficial for children.  Schools in Gaza are scheduled to open on August 27th. With solar lights, children will be able to complete their homework and study, without having to worry about the moon getting in the way.  Little ones will have a night light.

Yes, we’re proudly upgrading the models we’re shipping:

  • We're working with Little Sun from Germany to bring the highest quality lamps to children in Gaza! This is an upgrade because you can change the battery.  Donna, our Executive Director, was able to visit Gaza twice in the last few months and she took large suitcases filled with them each time to high approval. 
      
  • Something new! SunBox home energy systems can light the whole house, charge a cellphone or computer, and run a small refrigerator or the TV. 

We've sent 27,000 LuciLights lights so far. I am happy to report that the pre-clearance process for this next shipment is underway - the Palestinian Customs Office gave their approval to send 8,600 Little Suns for distribution by our four Palestinian NGO partners in Gaza. Now, all we are waiting for is for the Israeli Customs Office to reply. I’m told that this process can take anywhere from three weeks to five months,so Rebuilding Alliance is asking our Congresswoman and our Senators for help to push the Customs office to sign-off.

Did you know that each Little Sun lamp we buy is being matched 1:1 for another Little Sun in a program by the Bloomberg Foundation?  This means that for every $40 you give, we'll send three Little Sun solar lights to children in Gaza. If you would like us to send you a light for your window in solidarity, please send us an email with your address and we'll put one in the mail to you.

Good news: GlobalGiving’s International Youth Week Campaign is starting Monday, Aug. 6th! New recurring donations made during Youth Week will be matched!

Recurring donations up to $200 per donor per project started during Youth Week will have the initial donation matched at 100% so as long you keep this active for at least four payments. The project with the most unique donors will receive a $2500 bonus. Let’s do this!August 12th is UN-recognized International Youth Day and Youth Week end that night at midnight EDT.

Please give any time btw Aug 6th and Aug12th — and then share with all your friends because this is something so good, that everyone can get behind it.

                                                               ___________________________________

Oh!  One more thing:  the wonderful Mrs. Najah Ajash, the founder of the Women's Program Center- Rafah is in Turkey for an arts fair, and she has a visa for the U.S.  The WPC-R is one of Rebuilding Allianc's partners in Gaza.  If you or your group would like to have her come speak, call me at 650 651-7165 and let's make it happen!


The librarian's wonderful idea: a reading party!
The librarian's wonderful idea: a reading party!
Stories and friends -solar Luci Lights made it so!
Stories and friends -solar Luci Lights made it so!
A great way to enjoy the summer in Rafah!
A great way to enjoy the summer in Rafah!
The Women's Program Center-Rafah is RA's partner
The Women's Program Center-Rafah is RA's partner
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"Our biggest dreams have turned into basic needs."
"Our biggest dreams have turned into basic needs."

Dear Friend,

Yesterday was the launch of our Nur al-Amal message from families in Gaza to the world. We're asking groups of seven families in Gaza to put a light and a sign with their message outside from 7-8pm every Wednesday.

Will you 
join with any seven neighbors or friends on your street every Wednesday 7-8pm in reply? To see more photos of our Nur al-Amal lights illuminating the dark streets in Gaza, click the link below!

Last week, we brought young writers from We Are Not Numbers to interview two of the seven families. Rebuilding Alliance staff member Kareem Nasrallah joined them and sent me a list of the words that the families chose to put on the signs they placed outside their homes, in English and Arabic:
  • Our biggest dreams have turned into basic needs.
  • Give us light, give us hope!
  • We don't have a fridge, but that's okay. Because we don't have power in Gaza anyway.
  • My only wish is to get my daughter a travel permit for treatment outside.
  • We hope, therefore we exist.
  • Electricity went out. Life stopped. .
The Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy filmed and they will launch a new video on Friday April 20th. We'll be doing our best to use social media and our network here in the US to respond with Nur al-Amal messages in reply. We hope to bring AFP and other media to those first seven Rafah families next week.

There's now a matching grant for each Little Sun light from the Bloomberg Foundation!  That means, for every $40 you give, we'll send three Little Sun solar lights to children in Gaza.  If you would like us to send you a light for your window, after you give, please send us an email with your address and we'll put one in the mail to you. We've sent 27,000 Nur al-Amal lights so far.  

Also, please mark your calendar.  Next week, from Monday to Friday, GlobalGIving is launching their Little by Little Campaign.  

  • GlobalGiving will match all donations up to $50, by 50%
  • Also, GG will provide a 100% match for new recurring donations started during the Little by Little Campaign week!

Thank you for your support of this important project!  Join us with a light in your window, every Wednesday, and on Facebook, It's Time for Light. When you set up your light, make sure it is clearly visible from the street so that people can see it.

Once you've set up your light, take a picture and post it to Facebook and Instagram with the caption "We shine the light to brighten the future of Gaza's families," and use #ItsTimeForLightFeel free to also tag @RebuildingAlliance. Once your posts are up, we will share them on the Rebuilding Alliance social accounts. 

Sincerely,

Donna

P.S.  We'll do all we can to connect the little girl and her family with the medical care, and operation, that she needs.

"We hope, therefore we are."
"We hope, therefore we are."
"Give us light, give us hope!"
"Give us light, give us hope!"
"Did you hear my story?"
"Did you hear my story?"
Families illuminate their street with Nur al-Amal
Families illuminate their street with Nur al-Amal

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Organization Information

Rebuilding Alliance

Location: Burlingame, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @RebuildAll
Project Leader:
Donna Baranski-walker
Executive Director
Burlingame, CA United States
$202,683 raised of $250,000 goal
 
2,134 donations
$47,317 to go
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