A long-term aspiration is about to be realised.
Gaynor Jones (Holm resident), and longstanding member of the Orkney group has been involved with the Palestinian Camp for the last 9 years. She has spent time living with families in the Camp, observing the terrible conditions first-hand, and volunteering focused on children with disabilities, women’s groups, health, and education. It has been a long-held ambition to create an exchange for people in the Refugee Camp to experience a visit to Orkney, in order to raise awareness of the challenges of living under Israeli occupation and to share skills amongst fellow health professionals and educators and supporters within Orkney’s thriving voluntary sector.
Gaynor has spent the last 8 months working with UNITE union in London to bring the trip to fruition.
“I had the links with key people in the Camp, and the union members had the desire and the resources to make something happen. The biggest challenge was to get visas approved for the delegation of 5 so they could leave Palestine for a visit to health, education and charity sectors. I honestly didn’t think it would happen as visas are routinely refused but UNITE worked with the authorities to grant this important opportunity.”
The delegation is led by Dr. Salim Anati (formerly the only UN doctor in Shu’fat Camp). He is accompanied by 3 staff and volunteers from the Camp’s Disabled Children’s Centre and a teacher from the UN Girls School.
The group arrived in London on Saturday 9th September and they tour the country hosted by UNITE and various support groups. They are travelling to Liverpool, Yorkshire, the south coast and London. They have meetings and talks scheduled throughout the programme including an audience with MPs at Westminster.
They finally arrive in Orkney on 22nd September, and they have 5 days with Orkney Friends of Palestine supported by the Orkney branch of Amnesty International. They leave Orkney on 26th and head back to Palestine on 27th.
Brayn Milner, Secretary, Orkney Friends of Palestine said:
“We are delighted to be able to host this important delegation here in Orkney. It is the only visit to Scotland within their busy schedule. We look forward to extending a warm and hospitable Orkney welcome.”
“We have worked hard to create a meaningful programme for the group while they are here. We hope to learn from them and that they can learn from us. I am so thankful to the friends, colleagues and professionals who have all pulled together to make this happen. We plan to have awareness raising/ skill sharing sessions with schools, NHS Orkney, various health professionals, the Creative sector and Orkney’s third sector. The support of our community has been incredible and I’m sure the visit will be a great success.”
“A special part of what we can offer is the fact we’re rooted in Agriculture. Farming and land are entrenched in Palestinian psyche and belonging to the land is paramount. Since 1948, Israel has expropriated approximately 4,244,776 acres of Palestinian land. All our guests have experienced land takeover and displacement, and one was recently victim of house demolition, and his smallholding of sheep, goats and horses ruined. I am particularly keen he gets the chance to see and visit our farming community.”
A key part of the Orkney programme is the public meeting which will be held at the St. Magnus Centre on Saturday 23rd September at 7pm. All are very welcome to come along and hear firsthand about Life in a Palestinian Refugee Camp.
Orkney Friends of Palestine is very grateful for donations received from home and overseas to make this happen, including support from local UNITE representatives and UNITE colleagues in England.
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