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Archive for March, 2009

 

Finally, we have an update for you all regarding our journey to Gaza. Below, you will find the official announcement from the Free Gaza Movement“, in relation to the ‘HOPE’ Fleet. Derek and I will both leave for Gaza on board one of the boats in the Flotilla. Regardless of how long the boats are staying in Gaza, we are hoping to stay for 3-6 months. So, the next few weeks will be a surge of organisation, both personally and with regard to the flotilla. As both of us have now decided to stay long term in Gaza, we are technically leaving Cyprus, so our house needs to be emptied, belongings put into storage, bags packed, etc.

We have many hopes, ideas and plans to assist the people of Gaza, once we actually get there, and will keep you all updated as we progress. 

A sincere thanks to all of you who have been supporting us so far. Thank you to all of you who have spread the word about the blog, and of course, to those of you who have already donated. ( please keep it up, xxxx)

 

 

 

RENDEZVOUS GAZA!

Support the Free Gaza  Hope Fleet  and help shatter the israeli siege

 

 

DEAR FRIENDS: The Free Gaza Movement will again challenge Israel’s illegal closure of the Gaza Strip and collective punishment of its civilian population by sailing the HOPE FLEET, a flotilla of passenger and cargo ships, to Gaza at the end of May 2009 – to be followed by freedom riders this summer. We are turning to you, our friends & supporters, to help make Hope come alive.

Our small yet committed group has already made five successful voyages to Gaza, delivering needed human rights workers & humanitarian supplies, taking out Palestinian students and medical patients, and helping to lessen Gaza’s terrible isolation from the world. We are confident that with the universal outrage over Israel’s massacres in Gaza we will be able to send a flotilla of ships to shatter the siege and deliver a message of international hope and solidarity to the people of Palestine.March 30th, 2009 marks the BDS (Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions) Global Day of Action against Israeli violence [1]. Responsible BDS actions were used to end apartheid in South Africa. Today, Israeli policies of racism, ethnic cleansing and the brutal military occupation of Palestine demand equally determined & direct action to overcome them. When our governments fail to act, we – the citizens of the world – must stand up and make our voices heard. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights grants all people the right to leave and return to their own country – a right that Israel summarily denies Palestinians.

We are looking for ships wishing to join the Hope Fleet and sail to Gaza in late May, and we are looking for high-profile people, including parliamentarians and celebrities, who want to join us and demand that a besieged Gaza cannot forever remain an open-air prison with no access to the world. The Free Gaza Movement will continue to challenge Israel’s brutal policies. We will go to Gaza again, and again, and again, until the Israeli siege is broken and the people of Gaza have access to the rest of the world.

If you are interested in joining or supporting this action, please email Iristulip(at)gmail.com. We will begin collecting names and information as we ready for this historic voyage. With your help, we will make the HOPE FLEET a reality.

For more information, please visit our website: http://www.FreeGaza.org

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[1] Land Day, known as ‘Youm al-Ard’ in Arabic, commemorates the bloody killing of six Palestinians in the Galilee on March 30, 1976 by Israeli troops during peaceful protests over the confiscation of Palestinian lands. It has since become a painful reminder of Israeli injustice and oppression against the Palestinian people, and a day for demonstration linking all Palestinians in their struggle against occupation, self-determination and national liberation. http://www.miftah.org/Display.cfm?DocId=3410&CategoryId=4

 

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On Thursday  19th march,  the    Israeli  online haaretz    published testimonies of Israeli soldiers who took part in the Israeli Cast Lead offensive in Gaza.

palestinian_child_from_gaza_killed_during_the_cast_lead_operation__photo_by_pchr

 

Photo by pchr. Palestinian child killed in cast lead offensive.

 

 

The Israeli officer statement was made during a pre-military preparatory course at the Israeli Oranim Academic College organized by Yitzhak Rabin Center last month.

The course included uniform soldiers, pilots and officers latest Israeli operation Cast Lead started on December 27th 2008 and ended 22 days later, leaving 1,400 Palestinians killed and at least 7,000 injured.

The Palestinian Ministry of health in Gaza says that 400 children were among those killed during the offensive. A soldier said in his testimony “There was a house with a family inside …. We put them in a room. Later we left the house and another platoon entered it, and a few days after that there was an order to release the family. They had set up positions upstairs. There was a sniper position on the roof,” He continued to say “The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn’t understand and went to the left, but they forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof they had let them go and it was okay, and he should hold his fire and he … he did what he was supposed to, like he was following his orders.”

That soldier commander said in his testimony “The sharpshooter saw a woman and children approaching him, closer than the lines he was told no one should pass. He shot them straight away. In any case, what happened is that in the end he killed them. “I don’t think he felt too bad about it, because after all, as far as he was concerned, he did his job according to the orders he was given.

The lives of Palestinians, let’s say, is something very, very much less important than the lives of our soldiers. So as far as they are concerned they can justify it that way,” The commander added another army commander talked about an incident during the Cast Lead operation where Israeli soldiers shot and killed an elderly Palestinian woman.

The woman was shot while walking in the street from a house the Israeli soldiers occupied 100 meters away. That commander said that he argued with his commander about the rules of engagement but he says that he was told “we should kill everyone there(Gaza). Everyone there is a terrorist.”

This report is the first in its kind, since it contravenes with Israeli army repots few weeks after the Cast Lead operation ended that the soldiers have behaved in a “high level of morals” during the attack. The Israeli online Haaretz announced that it will publish more of those testimonies in the coming few days, but off course no names of soldiers or their commanders will be published.

 

THIS STORY WAS ALSO COVERED BY THE         “TIMES ONLINE”.

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 rachel_smanderson

Rachel Corrie, (left) , Tristan Anderson (right)

We thank all who continue to remember Rachel and those who, on this sixth anniversary of her stand in Gaza, renew their own commitments to human rights, justice and peace in the Middle East. The tributes and actions in her memory are a source of inspiration to us and to others.

Friday, March 13th, we learned of the tragic injury to American activist Tristan Anderson. Tristan was shot in the head with a tear-gas canister in Ni’lin Village in the West Bank when Israeli forces attacked a demonstration opposing the construction of the annexation wall through the village’s land. On the same day, a Ni’lin resident was, also, shot in the leg with live ammunition. Four residents of Ni’lin have been killed in the past eight months as villagers and their supporters have courageously demonstrated against the Apartheid Wall deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice – a wall that will ultimately absorb one-quarter of the village’s remaining land. Those who have died are a ten-year-old child Ahmed Mousa, shot in the forehead with live ammunition on July 29, 2008; Yousef Amira (17) shot with rubber-coated steel bullets on July 30, 2008; Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22) and Mohammed Khawaje (20), both shot and killed with live ammunition on December 28, 2008  On this anniversary, Rachel would want us all to hold Tristan Anderson and his family and these Palestinians and their families in our thoughts and prayers, and we ask everyone to do so.

 We are writing this message from Cairo where we returned after a visit to Gaza with the Code Pink Delegation from the United States. Fifty-eight women and men successfully passed through Rafah Crossing on Saturday, March 7th to challenge the border closures and siege and to celebrate International Women’s Day with the strong and courageous women of Gaza. Rachel would be very happy that our spirited delegation made this journey. North to south throughout the Strip, we witnessed the sweeping destruction of neighborhoods, municipal buildings, police stations, mosques, and schools – casualties of the Israeli military assaults in December and January. When we asked about the personal impact of the attacks on those we met, we heard repeatedly of the loss of mothers, fathers, children, cousins, and friends. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reports 1434 Palestinian dead and over 5000 injured, among them 288 children and 121 women. We walked through the farming village of Khoza in the South where fifty homes were destroyed during the land invasion. A young boy scrambled through a hole in the rubble to show us the basement he and his family crouched in as a bulldozer crushed their house upon them. We heard of Rafiya who lead the frightened women and children of this neighborhood away from threatening Israeli military bulldozers, only to be struck down and killed by an Israeli soldier’s sniper fire as she walked in the street carrying her white flag. Repeatedly, we were told by Palestinians, and by the internationals on the ground supporting them, that there is no ceasefire. Indeed, bomb blasts from the border area punctuated our conversations as we arrived and departed Gaza. On our last night, we sat by a fire in the moonlight in the remains of a friend’s farmyard and listened to him tell of how the Israeli military destroyed his home in 2004, and of how this second home was shattered on February 6th. This time, it was Israeli rockets from Apache helicopters that struck the house, a stand of wheat remained and rustled soothingly in the breeze as we talked, but our attention shifted quickly when F-16s streaked high across the night sky. and our friend explained that if the planes tipped to the side, they would strike.

Everywhere, the psychological costs of the recent and ongoing attacks for all Gazans, but especially for the children, were sadly apparent. It is not only those who suffer the greatest losses that carry the scars of all that has happened. It is those, too, who witnessed from their school bodies flying in the air when police cadets were bombed across the street and those who felt and heard the terrifying blasts of missiles falling near their own homes. It is the children who each day must walk past the unexplainable and inhumane destruction that has occurred.

 In Rachel’s case, though a thorough, credible and transparent investigation was promised by the Israeli Government, after six years, the position of the U.S. Government remains that such an investigation has not taken place. In March 2008, Michele Bernier-Toff, Managing Director of the Office of Overseas Citizen Services at the Department of State wrote, “We have consistently requested that the Government of Israel conduct a full and transparent investigation into Rachel’s death. Our requests have gone unanswered or ignored.” Now, the attacks on all the people of Gaza and the recent one on Tristan Anderson in Ni’lin cry out for investigation and accountability.

We call on President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and members of Congress to act with fortitude and courage to ensure that the atrocities that have occurred are addressed by the Israeli Government and through relevant international and U.S. law. We ask them to act immediately and persistently to stop the impunity enjoyed by the Israeli military, not to encourage it.

Despite the pain, we have once again felt privileged to enter briefly into the lives of Rachel’s Palestinian friends in Gaza. We are moved by their resilience and heartened by their song, dance, and laughter amidst the tears.

Rachel wrote in 2003, “I am nevertheless amazed at their strength in being able to defend such a large degree of their humanity – laughter, generosity, family time – against the incredible horror occurring in their lives … I am also discovering a degree of strength and of the basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances … I think the word is dignity.” On this sixth anniversary of Rachel’s killing, we echo her sentiments.

 Sincerely, Cindy and Craig Corrie on behalf of our family

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John Hurson, from County Tyrone, in Northern Ireland, entered Gaza as part of the Vivapalestina /George Galloway convoy. This is his story , in his words:

 

Well folks, the great news to report to you today is that the Rocwell lorry filled with aid has been safely delivered to the people of Gaza in one piece. It was an amazing emotional feeling handing over the lorry and aid, knowing that it was going to make a difference to so many people affected by the recent war in Gaza.
 
To start off from where I last filled you in, was a roller coaster ride of anger, relief, tears, revenge, joy and achievement. There were so many emotions packed into 24 hours, it’s hard to know where to begin!
When I left the internet café in Al Arish, we returned to the car park where all hell had broke loose! A few hours before, the police had come in very heavy handed and had batoned several members of the crowd. They then retreated suddenly, switched the lights off, and then a barrage of missiles came over the wall injuring several members of the convoy. Not only that, they had used the darkness to write anti Hamas slogans on several vehicles. For a while it was total chaos. Thankfully I wasn’t around for it, and luckily my vehicle escaped the slogan writing.
 
However, that wasn’t the worst part. As I had mentioned in the last message, the Egyptian government had planned to refuse non medical aid to be delivered to Gaza. We had hoped this wasn’t going to happen, however, they were true to their word, and at midnight on Sunday, they proceeded to strip each vehicle with all the contents that wasn’t medical aid. The sight of van after van been stripped of the blankets, clothes, toys, shoes, generators, cement mixers, building products, and everything else that wasn’t medical aid brought each and every one of us to tears. To see fellow convoy members crying in each others arms was a very sad sight.
 
We were in total shock as we witnessed the Government officals go through each vehicle one by one and take everything out. How a government could deny it’s neighbour vital aid was just unbelievable. We all knew that Egypt is controlled by Israel and the U.S. but we didn’t realise the true extent until Sunday night. We were way beyond angry, and not one official could speak English when questioned about why they were doing it, however their English was perfect when they were asking people to open their doors and question them about their contents.
 
They strutted about under armed guard, and laughed at us as we stood around in total disbelief. However, we regrouped and came up with a plan. As each vehicle was stripped, and then cleared to move to the other side of the car park, convoy members distracted the officials with cups of tea and coffee, while the rest worked like an army of ants and carried the confiscated aid behind their backs to the cleared vehicles. As quick as the officials took the aid out, we put it back in again! This was a victory for us, and it went on until 6am when the officials left us to go home. Practically all the aid they took out, we had put back in again. We had turned a bad situation into a positive one, and the stupidity of the officials was exposed by their failure to see what was going on!
 
The following morning we awoke to the dreaded thought of them having to go through our vehicle and the others they hadn’t got to the night before. Thankfully for us, (and them), the Government relented and allowed us to carry all our aid. They had gone around us and the other vehicles asking what we had on board. Of course by that stage, all the aid in the remaining vehicles had turned into medical aid. We had covered our load with “hypothermia blankets”, and when questioned, this was all we were carrying. It became a joke to hear them ask question after question about the aid on board each vehicle, and to hear the answers given was hilarious. They had held up a wind up torch and were told it was a pacemaker! Generators became heart monitors and incubators, saws became surgical saws, clothes became maternity wear, and just about everything else magically turned into medical aid. It became a total joke, and we had the last laugh when about noon on Monday, every vehicle rolled out of the car park and made the 50 km journey towards the Rafah border destined for Gaza…….
 
At the border, we waited for a couple of hours for the paperwork to be completed and passports stamped, and then around 4pm, the gates opened and we drove across the border into Gaza. It was a feeling that I find difficult to put into words. After 25 days on the road, over 6,000 miles driven, we finally got into Gaza. Tears flowed like rivers from each and every one of the convoy members, and the feeling among us was a sight to witness. It was a moment in time that you would just love to freeze, such was the excitement.
 
Following our crossing, we were greeted by the Palestinean government at the border, and given the warmest of welcomes.
We then proceed to drive into Gaza city, a distance of about 25 kms. Thousands and thousands of people lined the drive to Gaza city. They wanted to shake our hands, take our photo’s, touch our vehicles, wish us well, thank us, and bless us. We were in total shock as we drove along the road, and very humbled to receive such a reception. What this convoy meant to the people of Gaza is so hard to explain. The hope, joy, thanks and relief in their eyes as we drove along was amazing. It was such a proud moment for everyone to drive along the road into Gaza city. We had all made such an effort along the way, and finally we had made it to Gaza. We were very happy people indeed……
 
In the city centre, we were all parked in a large car park, and people were coming over to each and everyone of us to shake our hands, hug us, kiss us, and thank us for making the journey. Not only was it a great feeling, but it was very humbling as these people are the real heroes. People in wheel chairs, people on crutches, old, young, all affected by the war lined up to thank us, and all we could do was thank them. They were the real heroes. Following a reception, we were split into groups and taken to various acommaditon for the night.
 
The following morning we were taken on bus tours around the city to visit the areas hit hardest in the war. No one on the convoy could believe what we saw. Street after street were demolished, home after home flattened, factory after factory ruined, tree after tree uprooted, their water treatment facility wrecked, their sewage works destroyed, the sea polluted, and what wasn’t bombed or bulldozed was shot to pieces. 51 Mosques were destroyed, police stations flattened, ambulances destroyed, hospitals attacked, schools bombed, and just about everything wrecked. We were drove around in total shock belief and horror. What we had seen on TV did absolutely no justice to what had really happened. It was very easy to see how the media had been censored on what images they. had shown us. The heaviest damage was inflicted on the areas closest to border with Israel. It just went to prove what the war was really about. LAND. They had flattened and destroyed so much land, leaving the Israelis in a position to capture it when the next opportunity arises.
 
The people of Gaza are left with no resources to re build their homes as the raw materials are controlled by Israel, and they have no chance to re build. This effectively leaves them with no other option but to move further in land, leaving the land and bombed out homes behind. This is ethnic cleansing on a scale so big I find hard to describe. My pictures will give you an indication, and you can make up your own minds. The bombing by the Israelis continue on a daily basis, and 1 hour after we toured the area, they bombed it again! It just keeps going on, and the media fail to report it again and again. Shame on them, shame on them, shame on them.
 
Following a large civic reception in our honour, we were broke into groups and taken to various places around the city to witness what had happened to different groups in Gaza. A fellow convoy member from Gaza had arranged for me to go to the Gaza City Sports Centre where a 5 a side soccer match was arranged for us. We had a “Convoy 5” select play the a Gaza city select. Our team was kitted out in Dungannon Clarkes GAA jerseys, and did very well in the match, scoring a very dubious penalty to draw the game at the end 2 – 2.…..… Following the match, there was a civic reception held in their boardroom / trophy room where I presented them with over 50 Dungannon Clarkes jerseys in various sizes. I also presented them with 30 Armagh childrens jerseys, shorts and socks, that had been donated by O’Neills in Strabane. They were absolutely delighted and so thankful for our gifts, and I assured them that this wouldn’t be the end of the aid that we will help them with. Upon my return, I hope to be able to raise funds for their club which provides so much for the people of Gaza.
 
Yesterday morning, Wednesday, I visited a local school and presented them with more jerseys donated by O’Neills and the Sligo Co. Board. I had Dublin and Sligo jerseys for them, and to see the kids scramble for a jersey, quickly put it on and then run like mad after a football around the play ground was very emotional for me. Maybe one day they can grow up learning to play Gaelic, and who knows, they could line out for Dublin who are in need of new talent at the minute…………….
 
At 11am, our trip to Gaza was over and we had to say tearful goodbyes to our hosts and make our way to the Rafah border. At the border, about 20 of us decided that we were not going to cross, and that we wanted to return to Gaza and offer whatever help we could. After a 2 hour delay, we were strongly advised by the Palestenian Government to return as they could not guarantee when we would be able to leave due to the fact that the Rafah crossing is controlled by the Egyptians, and only opened once every 6 weeks or so. And that is only to let medical aid only into
Gaza. Some decided to stay anyway, and for the rest of us we crossed the border wishing we could stay longer. However, when we get home our work will continue, and we will do our very best to publicise what we had seen, and double our efforts to raise more money and aid for the people of Gaza.
 
When we got on the bus, an American woman boarded the bus with a young Palestinean girl who had a very serious facial disfigurement. She was attempting to bring the child back to the US where she was going to arrange specialist surgery for the young girl. The childs father got on to say goodbye, and he was in floods of tears as he told us he had been trying for 7 years to get his daughter treatment outside of Gaza. It had a serious effect on all us on the bus, and we were again left in bewilderment as to how this could happen. If this girl was in the “western world”, money would be raised, television and press would follow her, and she would receive the best treatment money could buy. However, because she is from Gaza, she can’t even get to see a specialist doctor! Just an another sad example of what is really going on in Gaza.
 
After crossing the border, we took a taxi into Cairo, where we arrived at 2am last night. I hope to unwind here and get a filght tomorrow or Saturday and return home. This journey has not only been amazing for me, but also for each and every other person on the convoy. We will all go home and tell all our friends and family what about what we experienced, and what we saw in Gaza. It makes us all so sad and angry to have witnessed the destruction and loss of life in Gaza. The people we met in Gaza were without doubt the warmest and friendliest we have ever met. They are so well educated, and speak fantastic English. Why they have to suffer so much, make do with so little, and try to live a humble life and the whole time they are been attacked by Israel with the backing of the western world just beggars belief.
 
In 2009 to see such cruel things happen is just unbelievable. So, tell everyone you know about what I have saw, show them my pictures, make them read what I have wrote, phone your politicians, contact all the press you know, and do whatever you can to educate everyone as to the full extent about what is REALLY happening to Gaza and it’s citizens. It must stop, and we can all play a role in trying to stop what is happening to our fellow human beings. We can make a difference if we try………………………….
I will leave you with some cold hard facts about the recent war inflicted by Israel / U.S.A. on Gaza
 
1455 dead, of which 405 were children, and 115 were women.
5,303 injured, 1,815 of whom were children and 785 women.
5 hospitals destroyed.
33 clinics destroyed
16 medics killed
15 ambulances destroyed
179 schools badly damaged, 10 totally flattened
153 Mosques badly damaged, 51 flattened.
11,000 dunums, 140,965 Olive trees, 136,217 Citrus trees and 10,000 Palm trees were destroyed.
$30 million damage to the poultry and cattle industry.
The total losses inflicted on Gaza after the 23 day Israeli war is $2.8 billion.
Folks, that is the cold hards fact, and the reality of what I witnessed in Gaza. You can make up your own minds, I know I have.
Pictures can be viewed by clicking on the following link
http://www.flickr.com/photos/35125248@N03/
Tyrone in Gaza
John Hurson

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PLEASE WATCH………..Written by Paola Mandato

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljTO18_bX2s

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FREE GAZA ANNOUNCEMENT

Please read below the announcement from the Free Gaza Movement.  Although this is a disappointment , as this was how i was hoping to enter Gaza,  it was not the only option open to me.  It did add an extra degree of pride to be going in with an “Irish delegation”, especially this group of amazingly dedicated people, whom i know will continue in their dedication.  I will still be going to Gaza within the next couple of weeks, via land or sea and of course , still appreciate your continued support and donations.

A more detailed update on our plans ,both myself and derek`s, will follow shortly.

 

NEXT VOYAGE TO GAZA DELAYED

 

The Free Gaza Movement regrets to announce that our next mission to Gaza will be delayed due to inclement weather, logistical difficulties, and time constraints. It had been our hope to take a delegation from Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Gaza next week. Unfortunately this will not be possible. We sincerely apologize to the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) and to the Irish people.  
We want to thank everyone involved in these efforts for their drive and dedication, and we would especially like to thank Elaine, Carmella, Kevin, Marie, and all the members of the IPSC for their tireless work in support of the people of Palestine. We would also like to thank the thousands of people in Ireland who donated their time and money toward trying to make this voyage a reality. We are truly sorry that in the end it wasn’t able to happen at this time.

The Free Gaza Movement will continue to challenge Israel’s illegal closure of the Gaza Strip and collective punishment of its civilian population. We will go to Gaza again and again and again, until the Israeli siege is broken and the people of Gaza have access to the rest of the world.

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So, the last few days have been a hedy mixture of emotions. My Arabic friends,R, who is staying with us for a few days, and T, who lives close by, have been attempting to teach me some basic Arabic . They have also been giving me an insight into Arabic culture, as a woman and as a  guest in Gaza. My friend L, in Gaza, has already told me what the best clothing is to bring. For the first time in my life, i am glad i do not have the body that looks good in mini skirts and boob tubes, so my wardrobe of cover up clothes is pretty appropriate. !!!

Emotions have been all over the place, excitement at the idea of a whole new life for whatever length of time, fear of the unknown, doubt as to whether or not i can even try to make a difference, guilt at leaving some people behind, excitement again to meet up with my friends in Gaza again, and of course…………..hope that the ginger for the journey .keeps the seasickness away!

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Donation`s and more thanks

People in general amaze me, right now in the middle of a recession, with everyone facing hard times, you still have been clicking to our blog, reading the links and donating………..yes, donating , from all your hard earned money, and for this i am truly thankful .

From the money donated, i will only personally use whatever little i need for my basics, (and only once i actually get there). Everything else will be used to help the people of Gaza. For example,

 Just lately , in the samoud  refugee camp in jabelia, the “FREE GAZA PLAY CENTRE” has been opened. It is a basic tent used for children to come and play , like any child is entitled to.  But it has trained councellors and youth leaders, (all of whom have experience in pyschosocial work with children )who help the children , through play, to speak about what they have just lived through .  . Some have been injured, most have seen things no child should ever have to see, many  have lost whole families etc.  A percentage  of your kindly donated money will go towards helping to buy essentials for the play centre, toys, food, clean water. Again , thank you so very much.

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Thanks…………..

Just a quick thank you to “alan lonergan” for the photo used in the header, and to “natasha” for correcting all my grammer!!!!

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