Where: Alkmaar to The Hague
No. of Cyclists: 45
Charity Partner: The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund
Amount Fundraised: £152,000
Fietsers gaan van Alkmaar naar Den Haag: Cycling4Gaza
Den Haag Direct, July 2015
Sluit je aan bij Cycling4Gaza!
DocP, July 2015
A Few Words from Our 2015 Cyclists:
What a ride!!! Epic experience and incredible trip!!!! Where do I begin?
Cycling through the Netherlands – WOW! Beautiful scenery and charming towns! No chance to get bored, feel tired or cold (even through the heaviest summer storm in the history of the Netherlands)! Fun conversations and jokes all throughout! Trying to organize 50 people in a ‘SINGLE FILE!’ when a ‘CAR!’ or ‘BIKE!’ comes to the ‘RIGHT!’!!! Can’t hear those words anymore 😉 !!!
Meeting different people and interesting personalities – we were a group of 50 people from different cultures, ages, and educational and professional backgrounds! Every person added a unique touch to the group in their own way! Positive vibes and lovely spirits brought us all together!! SHTE2TILKOM!! 😛 😛 .. as I used to tell them everyday!!
The Palestinian cause – I have always been into it, especially being originally Palestinian in addition to generally being the type of person who is passionate about helping people and advancing the cause of positive change! However, I never got into it as much as I have after this trip! Getting the chance to form friendships with incredible people like Mutasim, an 18 year old from Gaza who lived through 3 wars and lost a leg and fingers on one hand in one of them, and Adham, a 15 year old boy from the West Bank who was treated for Cancer was an experience on its own! These boys were our heroes and inspiration! Listening to their stories and just interacting with them was such an eye opener! Also, meeting Steve, the founder of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) who started by helping one child from Gaza when he was a student himself in Ohio and who is now running one of the world’s top and most effective organizations! All for the children of Gaza. Steve asked me what my ambition is and all I could say was, “to be you Steve and run PCRF II”. What an honor to meet this man!
It was so much about the cause, also because we got the chance to hear different stories each night from people like Mutasim, Steve, Adnan Abu Sharar who grew up in Gaza and shared his own experience, and finally the inspirational doctor Bahar, a child psychiatrist working on the mental health project for PCRF.
Cycling4Gaza is amazing! From the idea of it to the whole entire thing! It was only a few days, but left such a huge impact on me in so many ways! It is a combination of being active, raising awareness and funds to a remarkable organization and cause, meeting people and having fun and travelling! Thank you awesome founders and organizers (of whom I met Tamara, Zara and Miral who made the trip a trillion times better with their amazing energy) for a refreshing and a perfect trip!
Finally, a BIG BIG thank you to every person who supported me personally and/or donated to the pediatric mental health project in Gaza! I couldn’t have done this without you and it feels great to know that we are all actually making a difference!
Dear Cycling4Gaza Friends, Donors and everyone else,
I started writing this while we were in the Netherlands on my iPhone notes app, I never got around to completing it. Apologies for any grammar or spelling mistakes in advance. Here we go:
Steve Sosebee, The Humanitarian/CEO of PCRF:
Thank you for every step you have taken in supporting and improving the health and living conditions of thousands of children from Palestine and across the Middle East.You are a true symbol of humanitarianism. You have taught many that if you really want to achieve something, you don’t need to follow the path that most people expect you to follow, to work for brand names and study multiple degrees at brand universities. The most important values you embrace are passion, persistence, commitment and focus, all of which are a means to success. Your work and efforts continue to inspire us everyday and you are a reminder of why we are here, what our true potential is and what we want to achieve for the world. See you in Ramallah, and with the best falafel of course…
Tamara Ben-Halim, Founder of Cycling4Gaza:
We briefly spoke while on our bikes of how the Cycling4Gaza organization started and it was pretty remarkable. The first Cycling4Gaza event was born in a day and has now turned into an annual event. Tamara has collaborated with several great non-profits such as Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), Welfare Association (WA) and (obviously) the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) to ensure she supports projects in order of need and priority.
Bahar Hashemi ,The Doctor :
Bahar has volunteered to develop the PCRF Mental Health Program in Gaza. For those of you who don’t know, Bahar is Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist who will directly be working in the field, with Palestinian children, as well as supporting doctors based in Gaza to identify PTSD cases and propose best practices. As many of you should know, a child in Gaza has been through four wars so far and the effects of this are unimaginable.
Miral Alaraj, The Lifeguard:
Miral took so much time between her day to day work and grad school applications to organize this year’s Cycling4Gaza initiative so thank you for all your effort. Miral was the trek’s lifeguard. Thank you for making sure no one ended up off roading into the left lane, the middle of the road or into a field of tulips. If it wasn’t for you alerting us, someone would have probably cycled into a horse, a cow or an incoming train!
Zara Hannoun, Natasha Hannoun and Jana Hannoun , The Triplets:
The Hanouns are actually not technically triplets but all three of them love pearls, lipstick and look glamorous even when they are cycling. Except for Jana, she looks great in a car. Thank you for helping organize the C4G2015 initiative. We can see what a tremendous effort you put in alongside your day to day jobs to make sure the event was flawless. And it really was perfect. Jana, thank you for being the social media guru on the team. Next year we don’t want to see you driving around but riding around on a bike- no excuses.
Adnan AbuSharar ,The Gazawi and Teacher of all:
Adnan is a great storyteller that had the ability to bring to life what it was like to grow up in Gaza through impeccable metaphors, and great words. Thank you for teaching us how to support our views through the right argumentative strategies. You are a plethora of information, remarkably intelligent and we were lucky to have you on our trek.
Adham Albalboul and Mutassem Karesh, The true definition of Resilience:
We were honored to have both Adham and Mutassem join our trek this year. Being born under occupation and both having gone through difficult health conditions, we learned a lot more from them than they could have ever learn from us. They both mark the true definition of leadership resilience and we watched them cycle their way to the end. See you soon inshallah!
Dina Dajani Nadeem Alsalem Tamara Khoury Leila Khatib Nadine Habayeb Bader Ataya Kareem Salman Salwa Abu-wardeh Mohamed ArabAhmed Abou Chaaban Lina Abou Chaaban Khaled Lababidi Rouba El Lababidi Shereen Hindia Deema Sosebee Wissam El Cheikh HassanTarek Matar Aziza Osman Normi R Hiba Alaraj Sara Amighi Leen QablawiRana Muwahid Amr Ben Halim Ahmed Issa, Tala Q, Zein Nimri, The Cyclists:
Thank you all for making this such a wonderful experience. I don’t think i’ve come across such interesting characters in my life. Thank you for being cool, kind, weird, awkward, absurd, smart and the list goes on. (Also, sorry if I missed anyone’s tag out, I either don’t have you as a friend on FB yet or I forgot your name because i’m horrible at remembering names, or FB is challenging me for no reason…)
Thank you all for supporting this great humanitarian cause and my crowdfunding page. Together we were able to raise almost $9,000. I never forget those who support me by any means and I can read the list out by heart.
See you next year!
I’ve been on a few different adventures with volunteers in Africa and Peru to raise funds and awareness about the work of the PCRF, and each time I end up making new friends and having wonderful experiences. Our trip from north of Amsterdam to The Hague to support a pediatric mental health initiative with Cycling4Gaza not only raised a lot of money to support the treatment and care of children with PTSD following four wars on Gaza in 8 years, but also to train local doctors and other care providers. I lack good photos of the terrible rain and wind we dealt with, because I didn’t want my camera/phone to get wet. But I promise it rained. Not that it matters, our spirits were not dampened nor did stop us, as we thought of the hundreds of thousands of kids in Gaza who are suffering through much worse than anything we could endure, and that it is our duty to stand with them until they are free.
I wake up wondering if we’re near mountains because of memory or because of something in the air. We’re in a beautiful old wooden room of a hotel. The sun is shining on the dark wood through the window shade, but even with the shade drawn I can sense that we’re near mountains. There’s mountain air in this room. It’s cool and moist and almost fragrant. One deep breath makes me ready for the next one and then the next one and with each deep breath I feel a little readier until I jump out of bed and pull up the shade and let all that sunlight in…brilliant, cool, bright, sharp and clear.”
A week ago we started our long cycling endeavor through the Netherlands which we have been preparing for quiet some time. I believe we were all enticed by the selfless cause that this will help some less fortunate children in Gaza. In addition of course to the phenomenal experience; the raw feel of observing nature on a bicycle while practicing a passion we collectively shared – It was outstanding (I can’t get into details now :)) and has definitely taken us out of our comfort zone. I got to meet beautiful people from all over the world; each one with a unique and inspiring story to tell.
A big shout out to all of you that helped, supported, donated and pushed me to get this done! (You know who you are!)
Thank you C4G team for all your amazing efforts in organizing this epic event and I frankly cannot wait till next years ride!
It’s been slightly more than a week since I cycled 4Gaza and I still dream of riding bicycles.
For three days we endured on our metal steeds, our helmets: visor less, our banners: Palestinian flags. Through rain, cold winds, and lush green fields, through wet asphalt roads, warm cozy neighbourhoods, and busy highways, we pedaled. It wasn’t in Gaza; but it was Gaza on our minds.
It’s been slightly more than a year since the attack on Gaza, and its children still have nightmares.
The last leg of the ride was a straight 45 km cycle from Gouda to The Hague. It was raining and the temperatures dropped below usual winter temperatures for most of the cyclers who were there from The Arabian Gulf. We didn’t have jackets on us, for we started out sunny that day. Soon enough we ran out of snacks, most ran out of water. How we felt was not important anymore. We had transpired beyond our physicality and into something grander. We were reminded of a collective idea of belonging, of solidarity, of the relief that we will bring to some of the children, however temporary, however miniscule. On to The Hague we rode, to a modest crowd of 20 supporters who waited for us for two hours in the rain. They came showering us with snacks, water, flowers, and flags, and unrehearsed we started calling for freedom.
On those three days I was not me; I was a half Palestinian – half Irish mother of four, a 14 year old cancer survivor from the West Bank, a Welsh Irish wife of an Israeli historian, a spirited Kashmiri from London, an American widower who dedicates his life to help Arab children, a striking Persian psychiatrist that heads the Pediatric Mental Health Project in Gaza. I was a Palestinian dentist from London, a polished Gazan entrepreneur, an MBA student, a consultant, amarketeer, an Italian-speaking architect, an interior designer, a fashionista, an Engineer, a financial analyst, a lawyer, an 18 year old high graduate volunteering in Ecuador, a German guide. My name was Mutassem, and I was the first Arab amputee to climb Kilimanjaro. I wore lipstick to the ride each morning. I was a chanter afraid of dogs, and I was born in Kisumu, Kenya. I was 14 years old and approaching my 60th year. On these three days, I was not me, I was everybody, and for these three days, and for one of the very few times of my life, I had a small glimpse of Palestine; and it was beautiful.
After the ride we had to head for a celebratory dinner some 1.5 km away from the hotel we were staying in. As I waited for a taxi at the entrance of the hotel, with quivering hands in my jacket pockets, Mutasem passed me. I asked him where is he headed, he said he wouldn’t pass up on a chance to walk by the beach. Gazans and their love of the sea. I realized I couldn’t pass up on the honour of sharing that walk with him.
I guess Steve Sosebee put it best: Human relationships and life experiences when combined with helping others is 99% of why we’re here in this world. The other 1% is to eat chicken shawarma in Ramallah.
In a song for Ahmad Kabbour titled “Oh you who is traveling towards my country”, he asks the traveller to inquire whether it is still forbidden to dream. For the sake of allowing traumatized children to dream, we cycled.
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