Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Diary of an aid worker in Gaza

Photo by: Jenny Matthews/Islamic Relief

Hatem Shurrab wrotes again.

GAZA 12 February

For the first time in seven weeks, I had a break. I slept a lot.

While I was awake I decided to sit back and think about what had happened to Gaza and its people during the war.

I went to the beach to look at the sea, something I did in the past to help me relax, but this time my mind kept replaying images of children, mothers and the elders in our communities who died.

I drew lines in the sand with my fingers and wrote the word "war". Maybe it was something I did subconsciously - I quickly wiped it out.

Yes, the bombing has stopped, but the fear that it may return is still here.
I saw two boys running and playing on beach. As they passed by me they both looked at me. I began to ask them about their schools and hobbies. We talked for a while but we didn't mention the carnage in Gaza. They were full of high spirits - absorbed in the act of play. Its seeing children like this which motivates me and helps energise me.

After my brief rest I returned to work the next day. I went to one of the psycho-social support sessions that Islamic Relief is holding for thousands of families and children who had their homes totally destroyed.

I saw children drawing flowers, sea, rain and beautiful scenes. Unfortunately many children drew warplanes, guns and destroyed homes. There is a lot of work to do with these children - they have been severely psychologically affected by what they have experienced. Our psycho-social support specialists are helping these poor children and others - I hope they make a difference soon.

Many people are sleeping in tents - they have no homes left to return to. The weather is cold and it is raining and the tents cannot protect them from the weather. What will become of them?

Every day, Islamic Relief teams have been distributing food and equipment for hospitals. Desperate and deprived people still need and deserve hope and have the right to believe that they have a future.

I have been writing this diary in sometimes very difficult circumstances - sometimes literally whilst bombing was going on around me, other times as I was seeking safety in the basement with my family.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I was not killed or injured. I didn't lose family members and my house wasn't destroyed. Because I'm an aid worker I am in a position to help people. Writing these diary entries has given me the opportunity to tell the world about what Gazans were and are going through - to humanise our experiences.

I have seen how humanitarian agencies and aid workers can make a real difference to people's lives - in some cases even saving them. But it's the strength of the people of Gaza and their ability to keep going amongst the horror and devastation that has humbled me.

This year Islamic Relief marks its 25th anniversary as an international humanitarian organisation - 25 years from now I pray that Gaza is a place where people are no longer forced to exist, but a place where they can flourish and live.

1 comment:

umar_skyscooter said...

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