For Immediate Release
Dermot MacWard: +44(0)20 7502 7252 / 0789 641 9683
Greg Challis 0780 779 5621
Cyclists to Ride 435 Miles to Fundraise for Gaza Children
WASHINGTON - More than 200 cyclists from across the UK, aged from 15 to 80, are joining a mass cycle ride to raise awareness and money for children in Gaza traumatised by the 2014 bombardment.
The Big Ride for Palestine will cover 435 miles between Edinburgh and London over nine days in August, passing through villages, towns and cities to draw attention to the 551 Palestinian children killed by Israeli missiles and the 400,000 left traumatized by the impact.
It is the brainchild of Dermot MacWard, a keen adventure cyclist and founder of Redspokes who arranges tours to far-flung corners of the world. He has recruited a team of volunteers to help the drive to raise £50,000 for the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) which works to improve the health and well-being of Palestinian children in Gaza. MECA has been working in Gaza for 27 years and provides psychosocial support to children and families; builds water purification and desalination units to give children access to clean, safe water; sends shipments of medical aid to hospitals and clinics; and makes grants to community organizations working with children.
Dermot, a one-time sheet metalworker and mental health crisis worker said: “Like many people I watched the assault on Gaza last year with mounting disbelief and outrage. What got to me particularly was the hundreds of children who were killed and families left devastated.
“I decided something had to be done to try and help and started talking to friends. We made contact with charities on the ground in Gaza and they welcomed our support with open arms. But what they also said was: ‘Please tell the world about what is happening to us in Gaza’.”
Dr Mona El Farra, Gaza Director of MECA and Vice President of the Red Crescent of the Gaza Strip, has dedicated her life to developing community-based health programs. She lost 11 members of her extended family in an Israeli airstrike during the 2014 massacre of Palestinian civilians. Dr. El-Farra has traveled from Gaza to the UK to join the Big Ride. “The Big Ride is breaking barriers that separate human beings who should be equal regardless of race, colour or religion. We dream of a day when we can welcome cyclists in a free Palestine to enjoy the beauty of our country that has been devastated by long decades of Israeli occupation, disposition, and annihilation.”
The Send-Off for The Big Ride is Saturday, August 1 at 10:30am in The Meadows, Edinburgh. Dr Mona El Farra will talk about her life in Gaza as a mother, doctor, and activist. Other speakers will include Claudia Beamish (MSP and Chair of the Palestine CPG) Sandra White (MSP Co-Convener of CPG) and Wael Shawish of the Association of Palestinians in Scotland.
The Big Ride has attracted participants from Britain, Ireland and North American. The youngest will be 15-year-old Ciaran Wakefield, a pupil at High Storrs School in Sheffield. Ciaran said: “As a teenager I look at Gaza and people my age there and think of the lack of opportunity they have and it’s really devastating. It’s so important that people find out what is happening in Gaza and Palestine, especially to young people.
“Personally it’s going to be a great challenge for me. It’s an amazing opportunity to do such a ride, a once in a life time opportunity. It’ll be great to push myself and see if I can do it. I can’t wait to get on my bike and find out what I’ve let myself in for!”
At the other end of the age spectrum is retired doctor Dr John Gleisner from Walthamstow in London. Mr Gleiser, who is 80, said: “I will be cycling as far as my legs will carry me. Definitely from Edinburgh to Newcastle and hopefully joining the last stage into London.
“I want to draw attention to how children in Gaza are living in what is an open prison, surrounded by Israeli forces in the air and on sea and land. There are children who die in natural disasters but this really is a man-made disaster creating suffering on an immense scale."
The Big Ride sets off from Edinburgh on Saturday August 1 passing through Selkirk (Scottish borders), Newcastle (August 2), Northallerton (August 3), Bradford (August 4), Sheffield (August 5), Loughborough (August 6), Northampton (August 7), Luton (August 8) and arriving in London on Sunday August 9 where there will be a reception and rally with speakers including Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Britain’s largest trade union, Unite.
Founded in 1988 by Barbara Lubin and Howard Levine, the Middle East Children's Alliance is a Berkeley-based non-profit humanitarian aid organization that has delivered more than $10 million in food, medicine and medical supplies to children in the West Bank and Gaza, Iraq and Lebanon. MECA also provides financial assistance to community groups working with children in the Palestine/Israel.