An Appeal for Gaza


My Dear Friends,

A belated Happy Paddy’s Day.
It is always a day of happy remembrance, thinking of you over the many years of working for peace, first in Ireland, the land of my ancestors, and later in the land of my faith, the Holy Land. The events of October 7th and its aftermath have shaken our belief in peace. Yet, on Saint Paddy’s day, when I see our WIP graduates Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (2000) and Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Emma Little Pengelly (2002) presenting at the White House, I feel that our work in bringing together former foes can work, if  the USA can act as a fair and honest broker. I feel the same pride that the whole Young Leaders- WIP family feel in making our contribution to the end of the “Troubles.” 

That was the model Diane Halley (2001) and our WIP – SAWIP alums set out to emulate for Israel and Palestine in founding New Story Leadership. But October 7th has destroyed any chance of reconciliation. It has made the model unworkable. That conclusion is not new. It became evident to me 5 years back when I stepped down from leading NSL and pivoted to Gaza, where the greatest need lay. Working with both sides as if they were equal no longer made any sense. My power belongs to those who need it most. Being right is nothing to be proud of, but anyone who knew the situation on the ground knew it had to explode.


We founded Gaza Plays Peace, a sports-trauma recovery program with Palestine football playerLoai Ahmed back in 2015. Four of the kids we coach are dead. The rest are dispersed. But Loai has not given up. He insists Gaza kids can only begin to heal if they can play again, even if it is among the ruins.

With Ahmed Mansour, we initiated  Gaza Ambassador  which sponsors festivals, concerts and children’s art created by Gaza kids to be exhibited in Gaza first and then, at venues like DC’s Museum of the Palestinian People, that NSL alum Bshara Nasser founded from our original idea. The leader of this inspiring community work, Abed, was killed along with his production team and his family in the third week of the invasion. We were devastated. But now a new team has reached out to us to say they want to carry on Abed’s mission.

We work with and represent Gaza University, the first and only secular college in Gaza with Professor Ali Mansour, and help fund scholarships for disadvantaged students. This University, like most schools in Gaza, is in ruins. Yet Dr. Ali has reached out to us and said, we must rebuild like we did in 2014. Education is essential for recovery.


So much of our work in Gaza is gone. So many of our partners on the ground are lost, and yet, Gazans are a people who refuse to disappear under the rubble. Their existence is their resistance. I am teaming with one of my amazing students, writer Abdallah Aljazzar, who lives in Rafah in the tent city to establish a local community relief organization he calls Roots- Rebuilding from the ground up. He is asking for funding so he can start refilling gas tanks so families can cook. Abdallah is lucky to be alive, but what has kept him going, he says, is the hope our support gives him. If Abdallah refuses to give up, we have no excuse. I have no excuse.


As you can see, the war has destroyed over 5 years of work in Gaza, work that mustbe restored and expanded. But right now, how does one even get funds to where they are most needed? Dr Ali Mansour has stepped up to be our ally and partner, through Palestine Save the Children Foundation that he founded years ago as an independent iteration based off of the international Save the Children. This will be the parent charity that all funds raised through our Save Our Story Appeal will go to, so we can support PCFS projects and keep our locally led GAZAN initiatives alive. Gazans want to reclaim their broken lives and rebuild Gaza, from the ground up. Let us allow them to start.


I have been lucky to be the founder of many successful programs that serve those most in need. My earliest work in Australia, Rosies Friends on the Street, serving the homeless, is going stronger than ever after 37 years. The Irish work and the Middle East programs continue to work for lasting peace.

But right now, what I feel is the most important work of my lifetime is in the greatest jeopardy. I have adopted a family of Gazans, my former students, Ahmed, Karam, Loai, Jamal, Mohammed, Khaled, MajdAbdallah who are as precious to me as my own kids. When I see the suffering they are enduring, I feel like we have failed them. We created a program promising a path to peace and all along, we allowed our President and Congress to unconditionally fund the sources of violence and hatred. Even now, we are allowing those same leaders to pay for the genocide that has “Made in America” written on every plane and every bomb.


I thank you for your support and appeal to you like I have never done before. Please support Gazans who want to lead. After 30 years of this work, when you wake up to the devastation and death, you wish you were 30 years younger. And yet, the work that led to leaders like Leo Veradkar and Emma Little Pengelly in Ireland and Northern Ireland is the evidence that it can work if we act in time to give it a chance.

We must invest in a new generation of Palestinians to work together for a lasting peace and do all we can to ensure their work is not in vain. You can give to international programs that do great work, but even the humanitarian aid that is being shipped re-enforces a sense of dependency. Gazans are proud people. All they ask is the chance to help themselves. Give to local programs run by local leaders who know what the local need is. And send a signal that we believe that Gazans can make a comeback. We owe that to them, after all the harm we have sponsored, and all the false hope we have sown.


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