The Road to Gaza

Spring and summer 2010 were spent planning and preparing for a development of our work in Gaza — a fully independent convoy, avoiding the politics which beset other organisations involved in the region. As is traditional for us, we drew together volunteers and local fundraising groups from all over the UK.

We built up a convoy of 36 ambulances and delivery vehicles, carrying medical equipment, medicines, educational supplies, and a limited selection of items to help with rebuilding homes. (Import regulations continue to prevent a comprehensive inventory of tools, etc.)

Morocco-Algeria border crossingDeparting in October 2010, the convoy travelled through North Africa, where we were – once again – overwhelmed by the generosity and encouragement we received from the people of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.

As always with border crossings anywhere, there were bureaucratic complications. It’s often possible, however, to turn these into remarkable successes; for example, we were very grateful to be permitted to pass through the normally-closed border between Morocco and Algeria (pictured). We also stumbled into what may well have been the beginnings of the in-fighting and changes in Libya which have so violently come to the fore since. We hope that the contacts we developed may enable us to be of some help in the eventual reconstruction of that country too.

Despite all the issues, and in spite of a number of our volunteers having to go home due to the protracted delays, the convoy made it through and delivered all of its aid directly to Gaza in November.

Unseen Gaza

Commonwealth war graves in GazaDuring the December / January 2009 convoy to Gaza, we had occasion to find ourselves being driven from Gaza City in the north to Khan Yunis in the south of the Gaza Strip. At one point our driver mentioned the Commonwealth War Cemetery we were passing, and our volunteers – somewhat surprised – asked to see it.

We’ve posted a note of it here, both to share a remarkable little corner of Gaza but also to illustrate in just how many unexpected ways it can be deeply rewarding to volunteer on an Aid Convoy.

Commonwealth war graves in GazaThe cemetery had miraculously survived all the upheavals in the region, including naval bombardment, aerial bombing, and mass population clearances. It was still being tended with all the love and care seen in such cemeteries the world over. All the more remarkable though given the difficulty of access to this one for the agencies which usually care for them. The young men tending the garden, late in the evening, had spent the day struggling to rebuild their own food-producing land.

These military graves tend to be marked with religious symbols appropriate to the fallen soldier. It was deeply heart-warming to note that every grave was clearly receiving the same respect and care, without prejudice.