On giving to Palestine
It is hard to look at human suffering. At the same time, it is hard to look away from it. Our eyes, too, are drawn by what is happening in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. It begs the question - how to respond?
Our local partner BuildPalestine has been considering that very same question over the last few weeks. EVPA has been working with BuildPalestine within the framework of the Impact Together!-project, an EU-funded effort to promote the social economy in the MENA-region. Those plans have now taken a back seat as a humanitarian crisis has taken hold in Palestine.
But when times are dark, tiny rays of light shine the brightest. It is important to help bring attention to the stories of the brave changemakers on the ground. Beyond that, staying informed on the conflict and the needs of people in the conflict region is essential.
Local relief aid
If you want to help by donating, it is important to shift your focus to directly empowering local organizations, says BuildPalestine. The advantages are manifold. Local organizations can respond rapidly and enjoy the trust of their community. They approach problems not only with a short-term vision, but with a sustainable mindset. Perhaps most importantly, they engage the local community and help make it more resilient.
Social entrepreneurs are well-placed to fill this role, and unsurprisingly, the network of BuildPalestine has rallied to make an impact. On their blog, BuildPalestine has compiled a growing list of organizations that have a proven track record in delivering effective aid.
Atfaluna (”our children”) is one of those organizations. As a long standing partner of BuildPalestine, since 1993, Atfaluna has been supporting a community that is often overlooked: the deaf. In chaotic circumstances like evacuations, they struggle to respond to warning signals, and have difficulties expressing their needs to others.
Atfaluna have since branched out to support people with different disabilities in Gaza. Typically, Atfaluna would be helping these people by employing them in an arts and crafts programme and by introducing them into the digital economy. Now, they are working around the clock to help provide in basic necessities. “People with disabilities in Gaza are unable to receive the care they need in shelters, and are denied basic protections,” says Fidaa Shurrab, Projects and Fundraising Manager at Atfaluna.
Hakini is another partner of BuildPalestine that is stepping up its efforts. As tragedy unfolds at rapid pace, Hakini tries to provide some much-need psychological first aid. They are currently working on setting up a crisis hotline to help support the people in Gaza, who are dealing with immense trauma, fear and grief.
By bringing some compassion to the situation, Hakini aims to help people cope with their immediate emotional reactions and reduce the risk of long-term psychological distress. Their support will remain relevant long after the conflict hopefully settles.
Other organisations like the Tamer Institute for Community Education and the Sharek Youth Forum specifically target children and youth, a demographic that has been heavily affected by the conflict. The AlReef Farm, too, has been collecting funds in order to send relief shipments to Gaza, including food, medicine, water and cleaning materials. You can learn more about their mission through this video, courtesy of BuildPalestine. The video was shot before the recent escalations.
However important these relief efforts are, it is also important to acknowledge that true progress and lasting change require a broader approach. Besan Abu-Joudeh, one of the founders of BuildPalestine, talks about this in her personal podcast “Lighter Impact”. With her guest, the writer Nora Lester Murad, she talks about the paradox of working with donations in times of crisis. While the capacity to be active in the field typically decreases because of grief, stress and danger, the urgency to do so only increases when a crisis hits.
Lester Murad touches upon the topic of ‘liberatory giving’ - people donating mainly out of guilt and powerlessness. “What it means to make a true impact, however, is to get people to see something they didn’t see before”, she says. “To not be erased, and to keep speaking. To uplift constructive people and their actions.” If you are looking to make a real impact, Lester Murad says, you shouldn’t stop giving, but you should give and take action by giving a voice to the voiceless.
Those who should wish to use their voices online, can find a call to action with relevant materials in this document by BuildPalestine, that advocates an immediate ceasefire between both parties in the conflict. There is also a sizeable amount of organizations that do advocacy work. A few of those are listed on the BuildPalestine blog.
Zooming out, the current situation spotlights a larger issue with financing and economic progress in the region. Palestine has been dealing with the ghost of conflict for a long time. A lack of political stability has spooked away traditional investors, and with it many prospects of economic growth. Employment numbers, especially for youth, have been some of the lowest across the globe for several years now. But while the problems of Palestine are fairly clear to see, the solutions are less evident. Financial inflows into the region are often heavily restricted and the reliance on traditional foreign aid remains large.
This context was what inspired the theme of the annual summit of BuildPalestine: “reclaiming funding” - moving towards a more self-sufficient and empowering relationship with finance. The summit was supposed to take place the very weekend the conflict in the region escalated. And while the original plans were cancelled, Reclaiming Funding has started a second life in the form of a webinar series that anyone can follow online.
The first panel discussion has already taken place, and can be rewatched on the BuildPalestine channel. Some central questions in the conversation included what it means to “reclaim funding” in times of crisis, and how supporters can be more intentional in their giving. Self-sufficiency and empowerment are all the more relevant in times of crisis, concluded the panel. The next edition is planned on November 13th, and focuses on the role of humanitarian aid and local organizations on the ground.
As stated before, EVPA will continue to support BuildPalestine in their mission of expanding the social economy in the region, moving forward. After all, it is during these moments that impact people stand strong.