April: Kids on wheels in Jabalia & other farewells

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Here again are the children of our Jabalia friends, one of the many lovely families I spent last week saying goodbye to. The wheelchair belongs, not to any of the kids thank goodness, but to the father of the oldest boy, who lacks both legs, yet continues to tackle life with humour and enthusiasm. It made me smile to watch them use the chair for their games. But it reminded me of something I saw recently; two young friends, boys of about 12, going down the street side by side. One was on his bike, the other in his motorised wheelchair. This is Gaza.

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I tried to give people short notice of my last visits, in the hope of avoiding gifts. But you can’t stop Palestinians giving you things, because if they didn’t (or can’t afford to) buy something for you, then they will raid their own belongings for something they think you might like. Last week this included a fancy bra, which I was instructed to quickly hide before the menfolk came back into the room! But most valuable to me are the many dear friends who quietly announced themselves to be my brother or my sister, only waiting the chance to help me with anything I might need in life.

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Something I particularly felt proud of was my last tea-drinking with my Tai Kwon Do teacher. He speaks almost no English, and our mutual friend S (who does) and my classmate E generally are the conduit between us for easy chatting. Neither of them could make our last meeting, and my teacher and I later admitted to uneasiness about facing an hour of communication by ourselves. But we were proud of how great we did! I can talk Arabic now – ok, not loads, and no doubt my conversation contains a lot of nonsense and some appalling grammar, but I can communicate, and I’m so happy about that.

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I am writing from a Cairo cafe. The cars run the place here, and it’s all a little overwhelming. My ISM colleagues still in Gaza tell me that yesterday Israel kidnapped four more Gaza fishermen and stole two more fishing boats. In my next post, I will write something for you about the crazy place that is the Rafah border crossing… (so don’t start missing me yet, A.Vawda!)

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Here above is the smallest one of the family. You first met her sheltering from the Israeli air bombardment in the basement, at just a month old. She’s becoming a real little person. And two more babies are on the way…

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5 Responses to April: Kids on wheels in Jabalia & other farewells

  1. Kerry McQuade says:

    I, too, was starting to feel sad about not having your blog to keep me in touch.. but look forward to at least a couple more. Hopefully, we’ll bump into each other in the North of England. I need to talk you anyway about a Scurrah Wanwright Charity grant…..!

    All very best wishes and e-signs of affection

    k x

  2. James Wiegert says:

    The children seem to be doing their best to make the wheelchair substitute for wagons and bicycles. And in at least one photograph the boy in the red shirt appears to be carefully examining it. Simply seeing the children smile must give their parents strength to carry on.

    Thank you for the photographs, and for continuing to write. There are others blogging from Gaza, but your reports have had a special blend of compassion and insight. As with other readers: I’ll miss them. Good luck with your studies.

    Yours truly,
    James Wiegert

  3. dance says:

    You are a wonderful person. I hope that many more people hear your message and it continues to grow.

  4. Claire says:

    Really lovely photos of the kids.Glad that you got out ok and are safe. Looking forward to seeing you soon. I feel like someone else did like my link with Gaza has been cut. I have told so many people to read your blog over the last few months, lots of love and hugs from Claire xxxx

  5. LFB says:

    so very glad for you that you are safely ‘out’ – and trust that getting used to a different life is not too great a shock. Please keep in touch with us, by blogging from home perhaps so we can be encouraged to support the people of Gaza in different ways when you discover what else is possible.

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