Challenge: 10 years of blockade on Gaza has resulted in widespread darkness with power only available for four hours a day in rolling blackouts. 750,000 children are affected by electricity shortages and are forced to use kerosene lamps and candles with horrific accidents. Life is put on hold when the sun goes down - studying is difficult and playing is unsafe. Imagine being a student and not having light to finish your homework, or a little child without a nightlight. Solar lanterns change this.
Solution: With your help, we are delivering thousands of solar-powered lights to children in Gaza so they can read and study. Rebuilding Alliance has been working with Non Governmental Organizations in Gaza since 2003. Pre-clearance is secured before shipments through both Palestinian and Israeli Customs offices. We will soon send our 4th pallet with a double shipment of 5860 solar lights for arrival in time for exams. With your donation our 5th shipment can arrive during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
Long-Term Impact: The reassurance of a little light lets Palestinian children know that the world cares about their future. In Gaza, there's a special tradition during Ramadan to give children a 'fanous' lantern to help them realize their own light within. Let's extend that tradition to people the world over, encouraging all to shine a solar light in their own home to come to know the children and families of Gaza, and to connect with each other through this program to build sustainable peace for all.
by sending a solar powered lantern to the children of gaza and their families
"Gaza has the dubious and unfortunate distinction of being the most closed off place on earth- most people cannot travel in and out of the territory due to hermetic border closures, and the flow of imports and exports is severely restricted: things we take for granted like ordering items off the internet or sending and receiving mail are simply not possible. This makes projects like this one particularly important, as very few organizations are given approval to bring items like solar lamps into Gaza. Gaza's electricity crisis started with Israel’s 2006 punitive bombing of Gaza’s sole power plant, which left the turbines crippled and only partially operational. This, coupled with subsequent bans on the import of factory components to rebuild- part of a crippling 10-year-long blockade, and severe restrictions on fuel and tax-collection and payment, has left the situation we see today- about four hours of power a day."
-Laila El-Haddad, author and activist
Q. How did you get connected with the NGOs that will be receiving the lights? How do you know they are trustworthy?
Our first pallet of 1,920 Luci lights will be distributed by the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. Our next pallet will be distributed to the Women's Project Association of Rafah. Our third pallet will be distributed by the Al Basma Club for the Disabled.
Rebuilding Alliance has partnered with GCMHP since we began our work in Gaza in 2004, when Dr. Eyad El Sarraj agreed that GCMHP would help us as our fiscal partner. Our goal was to help rebuild some of the 2200 homes demolished in Rafah, starting with the family whom the late Rachel Corrie stood to protect. We finished the home for the family, and brought them on speaking tour in the U.S. to raise funds for the project (getting a visa proved they are not terrorists). Please note GCMHP is an independent organization and is independently audited.
Rebuilding Alliance has partnered with the Al Basma Club for the Disabled since 2008. Most recently, in 2014, they helped us complete a program to get emergency hygiene kits to all the families taking refuge in UNRWA schools in Rafah, Jabalya, and Khan Younis during the 51 day bombing of Gaza. Rebuilding Alliance working with volunteers at UNRWA was able to deliver the hygiene kits during the bombing because local merchant sold us the kits on credit following an appeal to them from the Rachel Corrie Foundation. ABCD helped us pay those bills and they also received a set of hygiene kits for the disabled children made homeless and their families. All merchants were vetted in accordance with US law.
After the bombing stopped, Rebuilding Alliance was asked to collect clothing for Gaza. we know how very hard it is to get things into Gaza (we couldn't build houses after the blockade was put in place) but we also knew that if anyone could get something in, it was probably us. You see, when our shipment on the MV Rachel Corrie was impounded along with all the flotilla boats, the U.S. State Department helped us successfully negotiate entry of our cargo (cement - to help build a kindergarten, exercise equipment for the ABCD deaf soccer team, and backpacks for children).In parallel with that effort, the Women's Project Association of Rafah asked RA and the Rachel Corrie Foundation to help them with two important projects: job creation and post-trauma community counseling. We vetted the organization very carefully and decided to support those projects.
When Donna was in Gaza, in addition to working closely with GCMHP, she went to visit the Women's Project Center personally to see if they would like to join the project. She left them with sample lights to see if they felt the lights would be of use. Everyone who saw them, even passersby, spoke to the immense need and was delighted by the little lights. She stayed overnight with the family whom Rachel Corrie sought to protect and experienced the daily blackout there and also at other visits with families.
Q. How can you be sure the lights won't be used to support terrorist activities?
Our NGO partners will take responsibility for vetting the children and families who receive lights.
Q. It's so difficult to get things into Gaza. How do you know these lights will make it there?
A. As mentioned above, on February 18, 2016 the Government of Israel's Customs Directorate provided Tax Exemption Approval for Customs Clearance of Donation Destined to the PA, specifically to the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme in Gaza City! In case there are any roadblocks, we are in communication with Senator Feinstein (D-CA), among other members of Congress, who are standing by to help us get our shipment in.
Q. Smuggling tunnels are an issue of major concern. Is it possible these lights would be used in tunnels?
It is highly unlikely that these lights will end up in the hands of people who work in the tunnels. However, even if they did, using small solar-powered lights to illuminate an underground tunnel would be very inefficient. They would have to be collected daily and recharged outside in full sunlight for 12 hours- simply impractical. Besides, if the Israeli Army thought these lights carried even the most remote possibility of being used by smugglers, they would not have let them in. So far, Israeli Customs says there's no problem, as these are just LEDs with a cellphone battery. Please note, at 50 lumens, this is rather a tiny light. People of means will instead use battery-powered flashlights or kerosene lamps for more light.
Q. What will happen when the lights break?
A. We're working on developing a recycling program in Gaza, so that when the lights finally have to be retired (though they are a very durable product), they can be reclaimed or repurposed rather than just thrown out into the street. This is the next step in the process of creating truly sustainable positive change with this project. If you have any suggestions, please email email@example.com.