Remember the people of Gaza

Nigel Varndell, our Director of Fundraising and Marketing, was in Gaza earlier this month. He wrote this piece, reflecting on everyday life in the strip, a few days before the recent violence that returned Gaza to our TV screens for all the wrong reasons

Now that the TV coverage has moved on, he asks that you will continue to remember the people of Gaza in your prayers.

A lot has changed since I was here last.

It has been 14 years since I was in the Gaza strip and there have been a lot of changes since then. Most of them for the worse.

Life in the Gaza strip has become even more tenuous. The almost constant power cuts mean that families survive on a few hours of electricity a day.  Eight out of every ten people rely on humanitarian aid just to survive. Almost all of the piped water is now undrinkable and unemployment stands at over 50%. Year after unremitting year, Gaza becomes a much harder place to survive with the ongoing Israeli blockade making every single aspect of life harder to navigate.

And children. I don’t remember there being so many children. Perhaps it should not have come as a surprise when the statistics tell us that half of all Gazans are under the age of 18 but everywhere I looked there seemed to be children.

It does explain why a lot of the work you support, through Embrace, has a child or youth focus. Whether that was the mother and baby clinics run by the Near East Council of Churches to ensure healthy pregnancies and to identify children suffering from malnourishment or anaemia.  Or the free medical missions that bring, among others, mothers and children, from some of the most deprived areas of the strip, to Ahli hospital to receive free checks ups that they would never otherwise receive. Or job creation schemes that take enormously talented young graduates and offer them the experience they need to finally land one of the all too elusive jobs in growing sectors like health care.

Many things have changed since I was last here.

But there are some things that have stayed resolutely the same. In spite of a set of circumstances that would make any normal person give up hope, the Gazans refuse to. The Christian run projects and staff I met remain resolute and unbroken. They continue to work and offer service to anyone in need, defying reality by offering hope when despair seems like the sensible, or even the only, option.

In spite of everything the staggering hospitality of people in poverty and desperation is constant and humbling. Families with next to nothing would be quick to offer the little they had to the strangers that came by to visit. Instead of cautious, sensible reserve we met an open hearted generosity that would be extraordinary anywhere, let alone here in the midst of desperate deprivation.

Perhaps, most importantly, what hasn’t changed was the hope that the world won’t forget Gaza, that someone, somewhere will continue to care about them. As I left Gaza one of the last things that was said to me by a local residents was; ‘We are Gazans and we love life. We want to live. We want to live in peace. Please tell everyone about us.’

Some things never change.


Click here for prayers for Gaza, a template letter to send to your MP about the recent violence, and for anyone who would like to give to our ongoing appeal to provide healthcare in Gaza.