UNRWA hosts races in US to raise money for Gaza’s children
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is raising money for Palestinian children by hosting a Gaza 5k in multiple cities across the U.S.
The organization has raised more than a $260,000 to help fund UNRWA’s Community Mental Health Program, after its races in New York and Chicago. Two more races are scheduled for later this year in Washington D.C. and San Francisco.
The health program UNRWA is raising money for offers refugee kids in Gaza the opportunity to engage in after-school support activities at the Gaza Summer Fun Weeks.
More than $94,000 was raised and 850 people crossed the finish line in Chicago’s first ever 5K for Gaza.
“The calls of Gaza and Palestine are very important ones. I think Americans particularly have a certain responsibility because it’s the American government that is the reason why Israel is able to carry out the crimes that occur in Palestine,” said Chicago Gaza 5K winner Brian Bean.
Organizations such as the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation sponsored the race.
“Beyond this being a fundraiser, it’s truly an advocacy and awareness raising event. It gives people the opportunity to learn about the program’s UNRWA’s running in Gaza and to really have a better understanding of the situation that the people of Gaza are facing, particularly children. And, you know, when people are reaching out to their own networks for fundraising purposes, they’re also educating their networks,” Executive Director of UNRWA USA Abby Smardon told Palestine in America. “We take the recap photos and videos and we show them to people in Gaza. The community in the United States cares about you. You are not forgotten.”
People from different backgrounds came to show solidarity for the same cause. The message of hope for the people of Gaza was universal among the race’s participants.
“They’re not forgotten,” said Lena Elkhatib, representative from Network of Arab American Professionals (NAAP) Chicago. “They go through so much and they suffer through so much that, you know, the rest of the world kind of takes for granted. We can do anything we want, go anywhere we want without any restrictions and it’s hard to keep in mind that somewhere else in the world, for no reason, people are being forbidden to do what we can do so easily. So them knowing that we’re here, we’re aware of it, and we’re stepping up and speaking up, I think brings a message of hope to the people in Palestine.”
Team Palestine for PCRF member Hadeel Shabib, who ran in the Right to Movement marathon in Bethlehem last month, highlighted the intersectionality between running in Palestine and running in Chicago.
“I think going over there and seeing what the turnout was over there, and how people from Gaza could not make it, because they were banned from coming in – they could not get travel documents. It’s so nice to come right back a couple weeks later and run specifically for Gaza. I feel like we need to reach out and let them know that we have not forgotten about them. And we have not decided to move on without them,” she said.
Hala Abdelwahed was a unique participant. She came to America on the 30th day of the war in Gaza in 2014.
“If you see the children in Gaza and what they’ve been through during the war you would understand how important this really is because if the adults suffer from PTSD, imagine what the children have gone through. Kids who are like four years old or five years old, all they’ve seen is war and electricity cuts and, you know, border shutdowns and everything like that,” Abdelwahed said to Palestine in America.
UNRWA plans to return to Chicago for more races in the future.
“At its root, Palestine is a social justice issue. It’s about respecting human rights,” Smardon concluded.