Date: 26 August 2014

GAZA – News from the ground August 26, 2014.

We continue to watch the unfolding events in Gaza with mixed emotions..

During the past few days, the cease-fire gave us hope that violence would stop. It gave us hope that life and peace could be back to the centre of priorities. However, as we are all too aware this has not the case.

Through continuing communication with YMCA young leaders in Gaza, we remain hopeful for a peaceful resolution and commend their bravery during these very difficult times. The flame of hope is alive when you talk to them.

I opened my Facebook page today (26th August) to see messages and pictures from Hani showing destruction in close proximity to his home that could have killed him and his family. A few days ago he had to move again to a safer place in order to protect himself and his loved ones. One can only imagine what is to be on alert 24 hours to protect his child and wife.

Rami, another of our young leaders talked about his volunteer work at the UN schools giving psychological support to the people living and sheltering there.

He also mentioned that in the YMCA, during the cease-fire, people started coming back and taking part in some activities. They were painting things which they were afraid of, but also things that they love most.

They even managed to have an Italian magician entertain people in the YMCA.

The YMCA volunteers have also distributed aid received from the Jordanian Hospital in Gaza, ANERA and Oxfam.

It fills me with pride when I see those young leader finding ways to help the community around them. Regardless of the hardships, these people continue to demonstrate love and humanity through their actions.

Emergency Appeal for Gaza

Dear YMCA Friends,

As you are aware, the emergency situation in Gaza is critical causing increasing loss of lives and injuries. Families are in severe crisis as the war is destroying their homes and weapons are killing many innocent civilians, especially women and children. People of Gaza are in urgent need of your support and assistance.  Please help! We are raising US$250,000. 

We ask you to act now and give generously to help to provide relief and care to people in Gaza.

Your financial aid will help the YMCA to provide food, hygiene materials, milk for babies, clothes, mattresses and basic supplies for about 2,000 families.  The YMCA expects to directly reach about 11,000 persons through this emergency support.

The Gaza YMCA is on the ground and is trying to help families to survive in the midst of this tragic situation.  The Gaza YMCA is seeking financial aid and recovery materials to help 2,000 families to survive and return back to their normal life. This assistance will include 1) food and basic supplies and 2) psycho-social counselling for 900 persons to help them to survive the trauma they are experiencing. The psycho-social counselling programme will be made available to about 900 YMCA members including kids, youth, family members and elder people. This assistance is expected to be required for at least 3 months.

The main objectives of the YMCA of Gaza’s Emergency programme are:

1- To help people survive during wars with direct relief.
2- To rehabilitate the people of Gaza to be active members in the society after the end of the war.
3- To strengthen the role of YMCA as a youth organizing which assists people in need during crisis, particularly young people.
4- To reinforce the YMCA solidarity and commitment with the community they live in and to disseminate our values and beliefs in the community.

We thank you for your solidarity and support.

DONATE NOW – Click Here

Donations to the World Alliance of YMCAs can also be made via bank transfer or cheque using the details below:
World Alliance of YMCAs 12 Clos Belmont, 1208 Geneva, Switzerland
Bank: UBS SA, PO Box 2600, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
Account number: 0240-617775.10L IBAN Code: CH780024024061777510 L

GAZA – News from the ground July 30, 2014.

On the course of days, one would hope that situation tended to get better in the region as attempts for a cease-fire were on the table but unfortunately did not happen so far.
I keep watching news and trying contact with people on the ground and images are very impressive on both sides of this conflict. I happened to have neighbors that came just few days ago from Israel and they have described the fear of the people with constant sirens and having to hide when rockets reaches the Israeli skies and are intercepted by the anti-missile system. They have done it themselves one night.
On top having news from GAZA, where the impact on lives is being felt in high numbers, I wanted to know how the people on the other side of Palestine are also experiencing this situation, for that reason, I contacted Watan, another of our change agents who lives in Bethlehem. Take a look on what she shared:


“I`m writing now and my eyes are full of tears, my heart is aching, and my brain is killing me whenever I think of our people in Gaza. I don`t know from where should I start writing and expressing my deep sadness about what is happening in Palestine in general and especially in Gaza. I`m living one of the worst feelings ever because I`m sitting here and I can`t do anything to my people who are dying every 5 minutes. I live in a continuous worry, anger and grief because of two reasons: the first one is the situation in Gaza, and the second one is that what is happening in Gaza could happen to us sooner or later here. Being a Palestinian means to be in danger every day, hour and second. We have severe clashes everyday in Bethlehem (the place I live) and in many other Palestinian cities. Everyday we have injured people and martyrs. I wake up every morning hoping that everything was a nightmare, however, it is not. It is the horrible reality. I really wish everyone who is reading this to imagine himself\herself in this situation.

Imagine that you are living this life for one minute, what would you do? What would you say? What would you act and react? Finally, I deeply wish to have a better future for us as Palestinians. We deserve to live like any other human being in this world. Our children should live their childhood as any normal child. This suffer should end because enough is enough.”

On the emotion of these words, Michael, another YMCA young leader, a Change Agent, in GAZA confirms all the concern expressed by those words of Watan by sharing about his day

“I did not wake up from my sleep because I do not sleep well. Sometimes sleep for a few minutes up to a quarter of an hour because of the psychological physical stress in which we live, the fear and anxiety that we face every night from the sound of explosions and guns and fighting.  We also have to deal with daily power cuts of up to 20 hours. Last night the main center power center was destroyed, which feeds electricity to the Gaza Strip, it is likely this will affect us for the whole year. There is also a lack of water for the region because of the circumstances and we are forced to buy mineral water for drinking and washing. There is already shortage of food on our house because there is not much available to buy.

Today I went to church just like any other days to provide assistance because it contains nearly 1,200 refugees from individuals whose homes were destroyed completely and does not have any place to shelter themselves do and I personally volunteer to meet their need and provide all their requirements of water and food, and I do backstopping psychological them by playing. Some days I cannot go because of the circumstances, and the risk of death.
I have lived three wars already and this is the strongest one.”

Several messages of solidarity coming from YMCAs all over are reaching our office and we are working to pass it on to our friends there.
Romulo Dantas

GAZA – News from the ground July 28, 2014.

As we continue to follow the news about the conflict situation, I keep communicating with some of our young people in Gaza to get updates and share solidarity.

Ramy Al-Jelda, another of our Change Agents wrote to me about how are things related to this conflict and how it is affecting his daily life.

Even after being denied permission to cross the border to join us in the USA for the World Council, he kept his motivation for service while watching the deterioration of the circumstances in Gaza in the past days.

In his plans was also to attend a Youth Conference in India in August, a travel that, once more, won’t be possible in the light of the ongoing humanitarian catastrophes in the region.

He also says he’s “safe” during our Facebook exchanges and I wonder myself how safe is it while at the same time I am watching television and hearing that there is no such place just now. It is just too many people for a relatively small geographic area.

Does he feel safe?

“To be honest I feel insecure and unsafe at home!. Nothing to do except praying, tracking news, eating and a little bit of sleeping hours being afraid of the airstrikes and loud bombardment that may hit my home at any time.”  He says.

Reflecting on it, I think “safe” can be easily translated to “alive”.

He shares about his “unbearable stress” on his own words, caused by the “horrifying noises of the explosions coming from all sides during day and night.” It’s for sure hard to establish any routine to keep the mind busy but, under all of that, it is clear to me that the flame of hope is there and very alive. He talks about the inspiration he got from the work as Change Agent in the past months and his memories from Prague festival.

As I heard and saw that some young leaders of the YMCA are involved in relief activities, I asked about his involvement and he says: “YMCA GAZA haven’t allowed us to go to schools for psychological support as they are afraid of us being in danger because schools can be a target as it happened with the UNRWA school… so Hani and Rami and some other youth went to schools by their own and I couldn’t make it because my family didn’t allow me to do so but, I’m kind of involved in distributing some goods and foods with my friends”

“I have a dream to live in peace, move and travel freely and participate easily with youth empowerment plans similar to all young people in the Y movement around the globe”

As I look at the picture above from Ramy, looking to the horizon, I see young men full of visions and dreams. He’s a digital artist, a very well educated youngster, and a kind person who is respected by his fellows in the community yet, a young person feeling the injustices of the world in his skin and heart in terrible proportions.

As we continue to pray and communicate, we hope that those eyes of hope and confidence looking to the horizon can lead us to a different reality.
Romulo Dantas

News from the Ground. Gaza, July 24

In the past days, I have been in touch almost every day with YMCA young leaders from Gaza to get to know about the situation, their perspectives and to express solidarity in these difficult times.

Rami Shuhaibar, 23 years old is one of those young leaders, a YMCA global change agent whom recently, alongside other three young leaders, could not take part in our World YMCA gathering because of the complete closure of borders in the Gaza strip last month.

Rami talks to me from his phone on Facebook and tells me he is safe at home during these very difficult times. He also says that his home, as everywhere in Gaza, does not have enough safety —  therefore, the fear of death is constant.

On a regular day of life electricity is provided for people in Gaza for 8 hours a day but, now, since the conflict got worse, he reports that electricity is available only for 2 hours. This, of course, makes very communication difficult.

He gets news of what is going on via radio, via neighbors and via Internet when access is possible. My best guess is that must be very confusing to be in the middle of all and not exactly knowing all that is happening.

He tells me that he sees a lot of young people working on humanitarian aid and that he also wants to be there doing the same and supporting the injured and displaced people.

His wish will become reality tomorrow, July 25, when he plans to start working alongside other people in humanitarian assistance as well as providing recreation for children.

In the course of all these days I have been amazed by his maturity and behavior during all this. Its for sure something hard to imagine here from Geneva or in Brazil, from where I come from, and I just wonder internally how strong he and his people are.

He tells me “I often switch between trying to feel good, and feeling bad. But the hardest part is not knowing. I think all people, young and old, should get psychological support after this war”

All together, he has lived through, as he can remember at least 3 tragedies of conflict we all see on the news in the past days. He remembers 2008/2009, 2012 and 2014 is a vivid one in his surroundings just now.

In his last message, he greets me with the following words:

“Best Regards from the Holy Land, Land of Peace”

Romulo Dantas




Dear YMCA friends all over the world,

It was a great pleasure to see so many of you at the 18th World Council in Estes Park – thank you for your great commitment to our YMCA movement!

Suheil Tarazi from Gaza was together with us in Estes Park. So was one of the three Change Agents from Gaza, Hany Farah. The two other Change Agents from Gaza were not given permit to travel to Estes Park, despite all the efforts we could make to help them. That was a sad fact to all of us.

Ten times sadder is the letter I received from the YMCA leader in Gaza, Suheil Tarazi, please read it below, with Suheil’s permission.

Our friends in the Gaza YMCA will need our help and assistance in aiding the victims, increasing in numbers every day and every night. Please be prepared for an emergency fund raising campaign and you are also welcome to send money already now to the World YMCA, and we will hold the funds until we have a well prepared emergency action plan.

Thank you for your help and solidarity!

Warm regards


Johan Vilhelm Eltvik
Secretary General
World YMCA

“Dear Johan,

 Thank you very much for your prompt action and solidarity.  We value your concern and understanding.  Unfortunately, what is happening in Gaza stole my happiness, joy and freedom obtained in Estes Park.  I was not able to enter Gaza so easily as it was difficult to receive an exit permit from the Israelis to enter Gaza and join my family under the most difficult situation.

Certainly, we need to help the Y community in Gaza as well as the injured people and displaced families to provide immediate needs and after the crisis assistance.   To be honest, people do not move from homes in order to avoid being recognized as a moving objects targeted by the drone unless there is a necessity doing this.   I am unable to meet with the Y team neither be able to write longer letters due to the heavy bombardment, rocket launching and air strikes.  We don’t sleep during the night as all of the airstrike are launched at night. I don’t feel safe and secured at home!  I am sorry for telling these sad stories but this is the reality.  We are sick of bloodshed and violence.

I will do my best to finalize an emergency appeal with the Y team in Gaza to pass it to you, hopefully before the weekend.
Suheil, General Secretary,

Again, I repeat my respect, appreciation to you and all NGS friends from the Y movement who have already expressed their solidarity with us.  

May Lord bring peace and love to this small piece of land.
Many thanks and Best regards


DONATE NOW – Click Here

Donations to the World Alliance of YMCAs can also be made via bank transfer or cheque using the details below: World Alliance of YMCAs 12 Clos Belmont, 1208 Geneva, Switzerland Bank: UBS SA, PO Box 2600, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland Account number: 0240-617775.10L IBAN Code: CH780024024061777510 L

Hani Farah (Yellow T-Shirt) Change Agent, Gaza YMCA