Tag Archives: UNRWA-USA

Walking the Talk

Friends and I made a large human peace sign at UNM on Friday (9/21/18).  I reflected on the forces that have marched us towards many more wars since the signing of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights 70 years ago. Perhaps we are less safe, less secure and less peaceful than the human community was in 1948.

my gaza5k 3The next day I joined the #Gaza5k run/walk in DC virtually by walking 5k in Albuquerque around the UNM Golf Course. I measured my distance with my Steps App and felt a sense of accomplishment, although I wish I could have been with my friends in DC. Action together is more fulfilling than solitary action.

During my personal #Gaza5k I meditated about the extreme hardships occurring in Gaza today which are preventable, fixable and avoidable if only the U.S. government had the political will to stand up for the oppressed, rather than kowtow to Israel’s every whim.

Today (9/23/18) I attended the First Unitarian Church in Albuquerque and met Gilbert. He was staffing the table for the Immigrant Justice Task Force and informed me about the work of the group called No More Deaths. They travel to the southern expanses of desert in Arizona and New Mexico to leave water, food and clothes for the immigrants crossing this dangerous border. The volunteers work together in teams during all seasons of the year risking arrest. A friend of mine has taken donations from Albuquerque to this group in the desert. It is noble work they are doing.

UU Church

The sermon really resonated with me too.  It was about generosity and the take away message for me was that every gift, donation or contribution is meaningful but the most meaningful gifts we can make, whether large or small, are those that are made with a generous heart.

I invite you to make a gift, donation, contribution to my #Gaza5K campaign to help UNRWA provide important mental health services to Palestinian refugees in Gaza.  No matter the size, your generous heart will connect with the Palestinians. Online tax deductible donations can be made here.

Over the past three days, I’ve learned that action is important — whether taken alone or together with others. We must walk our talk to make this world a better place.

 

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Southwestern-style buffet for sale for UNRWA #Gaza5k

I’m selling this southwestern-style buffet for $1,500 to raise vital resources for UNRWA. Please contact me if you’re interested at LoraLucero3@gmail.com

The buffet is 5 feet long, 18 inches deep, and 37.5 inches tall.

buffet for sale

Mouin Rabbani spells out Trump’s magical thinking in an article in this week’s issue of The Nation.

This week marks 25 years since Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the Oslo agreement on the White House lawn. It was also the week in which the United States effectively severed diplomatic relations with the Palestinians by ordering the closure of the PLO mission in Washington, DC, capping a series of punitive measures that have included the termination of US funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the elimination of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) program in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the cessation of an American program that supports Palestinian hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem.

No word adequately describes these contemptible acts, nor captures my anger. I’m livid.

But I must stay focused on my goal of raising funds to support UNRWA’s life-saving work with the Palestinian refugees in Gaza.  I know the importance of UNRWA’s work and the very good reasons to support UNRWA, including:

  • UNRWA USA is a 501(c)(3) registered with the IRS and your donations are tax-deductible.
  • 91% of all donations made through UNRWA USA directly support UNRWA’s work for Palestine refugees.
  • UNRWA USA receives platinum, the highest rating for transparency, accountability, and administration from Guidestar. Of every dollar spent, 91 cents goes toward helping Palestine refugees. Just 6 cents of every dollar is spent on fundraising costs and 3 cents on operations. The UNRWA USA website has all of the 990 tax forms available for viewing and downloading.
  • The majority of UNRWA’s annual budget comes from voluntary contributions from donor states, such as the United States, the European Commission, the United Kingdom, and Nordic States, individual donors, and NGOs. Reductions in donor states’ contributions due to the slow economic recovery, and the ongoing crises in Gaza and Syria, have left UNRWA with significant budget shortfalls, making contributions from private donors, such as individuals and foundations, all the more crucial.
  • More than half of UNRWA’s regular budget is devoted to education. UNRWA believes that education is essential to Palestinians’ future and to stability in the region. UNRWA’s education programs aim to encourage a tolerant and empowered Palestinian population who can serve as partners in peace.
  • UNRWA is a direct service provider, it doesn’t contract out its work to any third parties, and 99% of the 33,000 person staff across Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Palestine, are refugees themselves, so the admin costs go toward paying the salaries of refugees who are support families of 5+ people. UNRWA’s staff works tirelessly to uplift their communities while facing the same hardships as the people they serve — sometimes even risking their lives.
  • UNRWA is the most trusted way to help Palestine refugees. In fact, the United States government has historically been the single largest donor. In light of the recent funding crisis, donating provides urgently needed assistance and shows our government that Americans care about Palestine refugees — and that it needs to continue supporting them.

 

 

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UNRWA’s flawed business model

Americans who have advocated for Palestinians’ human rights in Congress and elsewhere have experienced personal threats, intimidation and much worse over the years. James Zogby’s description of those battles filled me with gratitude that there were (are) Americans who have never given up fighting for justice for Palestinians. (The Struggle For Palestinian Rights: Then And Now, August 4, 2018)

In several significant ways the Palestinian reality, whether under occupation or in exile has worsened in recent years, taking a horrific toll on both Palestinian lives and aspirations. Although US politicians may now feel comfortable mouthing support for a “two-state solution,” it is difficult to imagine how such a solution can be implemented. It is even more unlikely that some of the same elected officials who say they support two states would consider taking the tough positions to force Israel to end the occupation in order to allow a viable Palestinian state to come into being. Their profession of support for two states, therefore, appears to be hollow and designed more to side-step their responsibility to address Israel’s abuse of Palestinian human rights and justice.

Nevertheless, I remain more optimistic than I was 40 years ago. The developments that have occurred have had a profound impact. The situation may be more difficult, but the movement for Palestinian rights is stronger, larger, more diverse, and more deeply committed to justice. There is new energy and new hope that we are turning a corner in our ability to secure justice for Palestinians. James J. Zogby is the president of the Arab American Institute.

I wish I could find hope in this political environment.  Last week, the Trump Administration announced it’s ending US support for UNRWA, the UN agency created to assist the Palestinian refugees when the State of Israel was created.

Great_March_of_Return_2016-

What this means is that overnight, UNRWA has lost 1/3 of its budget. What this means is that Palestinian children may not be attending UNRWA schools this year. What this means is that the Palestinian engineers, doctors and other professionals working for UNRWA may join the unemployment rolls and will not be able to provide services to refugees.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the business model and fiscal practices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) made it an “irredeemably flawed operation.”

“The administration has carefully reviewed the issue and determined that the United States will not make additional contributions to UNRWA,” she said in a statement.

Nauert added that the agency’s “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years.”

Now the US considers human rights through the “business model” lens rather than through the lens of internationational human rights.

Let’s put this in perspective for Americans who don’t follow these things as closely as they should.

First, no one wants to be a refugee less than a Palestinian. 

I’ve heard many Zionists argue that Palestinian refugees are just beggars who don’t know anything besides living on handouts from the international community. Those same Zionists have never met or talked with a Palestinian, as I have, and so they’re uninformed (to put it mildly). Using their same logic, one might argue that Israelis are just beggars who don’t know how to survive without the largesse of US aid to the tune of over $38 billion over the next 10 years.  U.S. taxpayers have given much, much more $$ to Israel since its creation 70 years ago than it has given to the Palestinians who were involuntarily and forcibly removed from their homes, businesses and villages to make way for the new state of Israel.  The “refugee” status is not one of their own making.

From a business model perspective, the state of Israel is a “flawed operation.”

Second, the State of Israel (not UNRWA) is responsible for the growth in the number of Palestinian refugees.

The Trump Administration argues that UNRWA has an unsustainable business model because the growth of the number of refugees is unsustainable.  Now Trump wants to change the definition of who qualifies as a refugee. The UN and international community count those Palestinians who were displaced from the region in the 1948 and 1967 wars, as well as their descendants—even if they possess the citizenship of the Arab country to which their ancestors fled—as refugees.

In fact, no one wants to go out of business and become obsolete more than the folks at UNRWA. Just ask them, as I have. The failure of the State of Israel to reach an agreement with the Palestinians and end the occupation has resulted in the growing refugee crisis. Rather than use carrots and sticks to force Israel to come to terms with reality and end its occupation, thereby resolving the refugee crisis, the U.S. government has enabled this “unsustainable business model” to grow and flourish. Shame on Congress. Shame on President Trump and all of his predecessors.

Third, the newly created State of Israel supported the creation of UNRWA to focus on the needs of Palestinian refugees.

Jonathan Cook, a British writer and freelance journalist living in Nazareth, Israel spells out the history of UNRWA succinctly:

UNRWA was created to prevent the Palestinians falling under the charge of UNHCR’s forerunner, the International Refugee Organisation. Israel was afraid that the IRO, formed in the immediate wake of the Second World War, would give Palestinian refugees the same prominence as European Jews fleeing Nazi atrocities.

Israel did not want the two cases compared, especially as they were so intimately connected. It was the rise of Nazism that bolstered the Zionist case for a Jewish state in Palestine, and Jewish refugees who were settled on lands from which Palestinians had just been expelled by Israel.

Also, Israel was concerned that the IRO’s commitment to the principle of repatriation might force it to accept back the Palestinian refugees.

Israel’s hope then was precisely that UNRWA would not solve the Palestinian refugee problem; rather, it would resolve itself. The idea was encapsulated in a Zionist adage: “The old will die and the young forget.”

President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu will not make the “problem” disappear by changing the definition of “refugee” or by blaming UNRWA for failing to solve the “problem” or by reframing the refugee crisis as an “unsustainable business model.”

Human rights are not grounded in business practices. Security is not won or maintained with weapons and armaments. Refugees are not numbers, they’re our neighbors.

Please donate to my UNRWA fundraising campaign. Donations are tax-deductible and will be used to support critical mental health services for Palestinians in Gaza.

Gaza boys flag beach

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Reasons to support UNRWA-USA

My family and friends know I’m soliciting donations for my #Gaza5K fundraising campaign to help UNRWA provide critical mental health services to the refugee children and their families in Gaza. This is my fourth year participating in the #Gaza5K and it’s never been this urgent.

Part of the urgency comes as a result of Trump’s decision to withhold the lion’s share of the U.S. annual contribution to UNRWA. His Administration thinks that will put pressure on the Palestinians to accept the “Deal of the Century”. It won’t. It will only add untold misery to the lives of refugees whose basic existence (especially in Gaza) has been called into question after eleven (11) years of the suffocating siege and blockade.

Another part of the urgency I’m feeling comes from friends and solidarity activists who understandably are trying to do the best they can given their shrinking pocketbooks and the myriad of competing organizations seeking their help.

We all need to work together to lift up and support all of these worthwhile organizations who are helping Palestinian refugees in Gaza and elsewhere. We all need to think creatively.

Here’s some information about UNRWA-USA which might be helpful in your deliberations about how to focus your fundraising efforts most effectively.

  • UNRWA USA is a 501(c)(3) registered with the IRS and your donations are tax-deductible.
  • 91% of all donations made through UNRWA USA directly support UNRWA’s work for Palestine refugees.
  • UNRWA USA receives platinum, the highest rating for transparency, accountability, and administration from Guidestar. Of every dollar spent, 91 cents goes toward helping Palestine refugees. Just 6 cents of every dollar is spent on fundraising costs and 3 cents on operations. The UNRWA USA website has all of the 990 tax forms available for viewing and downloading.
  • The majority of UNRWA’s annual budget comes from voluntary contributions from donor states, such as the United States, the European Commission, the United Kingdom, and Nordic States, individual donors, and NGOs. Reductions in donor states’ contributions due to the slow economic recovery, and the ongoing crises in Gaza and Syria, have left UNRWA with significant budget shortfalls, making contributions from private donors, such as individuals and foundations, all the more crucial.
  • More than half of UNRWA’s regular budget is devoted to education. UNRWA believes that education is essential to Palestinians’ future and to stability in the region. UNRWA’s education programs aim to encourage a tolerant and empowered Palestinian population who can serve as partners in peace.
  • UNRWA is a direct service provider, it doesn’t contract out its work to any third parties, and 99% of the 33,000 person staff across Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Palestine, are refugees themselves, so the admin costs go toward paying the salaries of refugees who are support families of 5+ people. UNRWA’s staff works tirelessly to uplift their communities while facing the same hardships as the people they serve — sometimes even risking their lives.
  • UNRWA is the most trusted way to help Palestine refugees. In fact, the United States government has historically been the single largest donor. In light of the recent funding crisis, donating provides urgently needed assistance and shows our government that Americans care about Palestine refugees — and that it needs to continue supporting them.

In May 2018, both of my US Senators from New Mexico signed on to a letter written by Senator Bernie Sanders urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to restore the funding to UNRWA. I urge you to check the letter to see whether your US Senator signed on. You may contact Congress using UNRWA USA’s online form here.

And please donate to my #Gaza5K campaign if you haven’t already, and share it with your friends on social media or email.

 

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Rising above the cacophony

The cuts in Gaza are “making an intolerable humanitarian crisis even more life-threatening,” said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness. He added: “Now the very organization mandated specifically to provide lifesaving services is being forced to cut service provisions. It’s heartbreaking.”

Gaza boys flag beach

My fourth year raising donations for the #Gaza5K walk/run fundraiser for Gaza, and you would think I’d be a professional by now and know all the tricks.

This year is most definitely the toughest — both for the refugees in Gaza and for soliciting donations. In the past, I’ve raised between $1,000 and $2,000 for UNRWA-USA. However, Trump’s decision to significantly reduce the U.S. share of UNRWA’s budget has sparked a crisis in Gaza and I’ve stretched my goal to $3,000. I’m going to have to think outside of the box.

Please check my fundraising page here, share it & contribute if you can.

The situation in Gaza has reached a state of “collapse,” a Palestinian engineer told me a couple of weeks ago. He’s worked for UNRWA in Gaza for 13 years, and received his pink slip the day we talked, notifying him that his job ends in December. Like many of his colleagues who also learned the same news, he has a family to support. The stress and worry about the future are grinding them down.

running 1The Washington Post reported on July 25th: The United States has provided just $60 million for UNRWA this year, compared with $360 million last year. The reduction in funding came after President Trump criticized the money provided to the Palestinians even though they were “no longer willing to talk peace.”

 

Unless UNRWA can plug the funding gap, the agency has said it may have to cut essential health and education programs, and it has warned in particular that it may have to delay the start of the school year for 526,000 children in the agency’s schools.

Please check my fundraising page here, share it & contribute if you can.

So what are my thoughts outside of the box for raising $3,000 by mid-September?

  • I’m asking readers of my blog to contribute any amount, small or large. I’m more interested in the number of contributors than I am of the size of your donation. $5, $10, $25 helps a lot.
  • I’m asking readers of my blog to share this fundraising appeal with friends and family, and post it to your social media.
  • I’m making phone calls to people because a personal ask is sometimes more effective than an anonymous request on social media.
  • I’m checking with alternative media in ABQ to see if I can publish an appeal in the weekly papers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
  • I’m circulating my fundraising campaign to the traditional Palestine solidarity activist groups to see if they will pitch in.
  • I’m planning an event or party in Albuquerque in early September to bring people together, update them on the collapsing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and ask for their contributions.
  • If I need to, I may have to find something of value in my storage unit to sell to make up the difference.

If you have other ideas outside of the traditional fundraising box, please let me know.

Please check my fundraising page here, share it & contribute if you can.

 

 

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Iftar for Gaza

Ramadan is a holy time for Muslims around the world when they celebrate the moment the Koran was unveiled to Muhammad. It’s a time of fasting, praying and reflection. It’s also a time to forgive and ask for forgiveness, which I find very healing. Whether Muslim or not, the world would be a better place if we followed this instruction.

So I ask forgiveness from friends, family and anyone I have hurt this past year. And I forgive those who have slighted me, hurt me or disappointed me.  A new year and a new beginning.

IFTAR for GAZA

To honor my friends in Gaza and to raise funds for UNRWA-USA, I organized an Iftar in Albuquerque with friends and neighbors. The Iftar is the meal to break the daily fast after sunset.

Laura Stokes and good food

We met at Sahara Restaurant on Central Avenue for delicious food — Basmati rice, falafel, hummous, dolmas, shawarnah, and fattoush salad. As I watched my guests serving themselves, I had a flashback to many of the families in Gaza who served me wonderful meals — too numerous to count.  I wish I could have bridged the miles and shared my Iftar with them.

Samia Assed 3

Samia Assed provided a touching introduction to Ramadan, the significance of the Iftar, and why zakat (donations) is considered a very important part of Islam. She discussed the crisis in Gaza and how difficult life is for many families. Since Trump has decided to reduce the U.S. contribution to UNRWA by 83%, the only lifeline that many Palestinians must rely on for their basic sustenance is in serious danger.

Hence, the reason for my Iftar.

For $150, UNRWA-USA can provide a package providing enough flour, rice, whole milk, oil, chickpeas, lentils and protein-rich sardines to feed a family for the summer. My goal is to raise $1500 to help 10 families in Gaza.  Thanks to generous friends, I’ve raised enough to feed 7 families and will continue reaching out to the community near and far until I meet my goal. Online donations are graciously accepted here.

This was a great chance to network. Laura Stokes announced that PDA will be showing the film Radiance of Resistance,  the story of nonviolent persistence and resistance by the Palestinian people against the theft and occupation of their lands.  This film features the courageous actions of two Palestinian girls, one of whom is now in an Israeli prison.   

June 13, 2018
First Unitarian Church
3701 Carlisle Blvd. NE Albuquerque
5:30 PM MINGLE, 6:00 PM PROGRAM

Thank you friends!   Your hearts and words at the Iftar cheered me and provided me more sustenance than you can ever imagine.

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Iftar in Albuquerque

Ramadan in Cairo

Waiting for sunset in Cairo for the Iftar meal

During Ramadan (this year May 15 through June 14), Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, with a pre-dawn meal known as Suhur and a sunset meal called Iftar.

This year I’m hosting an Iftar for my Muslim and non-Muslim friends in Albuquerque to raise funds for food-insecure refugee families in Gaza. For $150, UNRWA-USA can provide a package providing enough flour, rice, whole milk, oil, chickpeas, lentils and protein-rich sardines to feed a family for the summer. My goal is to raise $1500 to help 10 families in Gaza.

The date and location of my Iftar in Albuquerque will be announced soon, perhaps with an extra surprise thrown in. I hope you will consider donating online, and help me reach my goal before the end of May.

Following the US funding cuts in January 2018, many of UNRWA’s programs are at risk, including emergency food assistance for the nearly one million Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip who are relying on UNRWA to meet their basic needs.

With 47% of households in Gaza food insecure, this Ramadan, I am committed to doing something about it by hosting an Iftar for Gaza.

Please consider making a donation before attending the iftar, so we can tally our impact!

By joining this nationwide movement, we’re not only putting food on the table for a Palestine refugee family — we’re also sending the message that Americans care.

Thank you for helping me reach my goal and for providing a lifeline for Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip!

Donations to UNRWA’s cash and food assistance programs are zakat eligible as certified by the National Zakat Foundation. For other ways to help this month or for information on how to host an Iftar for Gaza, please visit unrwausa.org.

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