The Short Version of the Story

My dear friend Rania, a major character in my book (Fast Times in Palestine), needs help. Her husband was arrested a few years ago by the Israeli army on bogus charges, putting all their hopes and plans in jeopardy. He’s out of jail now, but they’re still struggling to pay off debts and find a way to make a living in the devastated West Bank economy.

LuluKRania, a college graduate, took the initiative to find meaningful work as a psychological counselor for the people who need it most in her community. Unfortunately, there’s no funding for it yet. She does it on a voluntary basis, hoping that when funding comes through, she’ll be first in line for her dream job.

Simply put, without outside help, she can’t continue her work and continue to feed, clothe, and educate her two beautiful children (older brother Karim and little sister Lusan).

I raise money every year to send the family $300 per month, which helps not only the family but also the community at large because of Rania’s incredible work. I just used the last of the money I raised from my last appeal, and a donation to help replenish the stocks would make a terrific wedding gift. 🙂

The kids are growing up fast, asking many difficult questions about their situation and learning songs and English words and all the other things kids learn as they color in this big world and start to figure out their place in it. They’re so smart and cute and funny, and it’s exciting to watch them grow, and sobering to think what might have happened to them if their family had fallen into true poverty with no help.

As always, all money goes directly to the family, and I pay the Western Union fees each month.

I set up an IndieGogo campaign, but I only asked for one-third of what I need (I’ll need $3,600 for the year) because I’m hoping to raise most of the money directly from donors so IndieGogo doesn’t get a 4% cut of all of it. But even if you don’t go through IndieGogo, I’ll be happy to send you any perks you qualify for.

Here are the various ways to donate:

  • My Paypal email is pamolson02@yahoo.com
  • Email me for details about how to send a check (pamolson at gmail)
  • I can send you an invoice via Paypal, which you can pay with any major credit card
  • If you’d prefer to send the money directly to her via Western Union, I can send instructions how to do it — it’s very easy
  • Here’s the link to the IndieGogo campaign if you’d rather donate that way

Even $5 helps and adds up quickly.

Thank you for reading, and for any help you can give. I can’t do it alone, but together we can do something amazing for two sweet kids and all the people helped by one extraordinary Palestinian woman.

Fundraising and donating aren’t nearly as hard as raising two kids while trying to be a rock for a society under brutal, strangling occupation. But the one makes the other possible, and it’s an honor to be a small part of it.

Sweet Lusan

Sweet Lusan

The Longer Version

Shortly before graduating from college, Rania married a man named Sharif, a poor but kind man who lost his parents when he was young and never finished high school. He was incredibly supportive of Rania’s education, and they had a beautiful baby boy named Karim in 2007.

Two years later she was pregnant with a little girl, and Sharif secured a permit to work in Israel so he could finish building their house and support his growing family.

Then… disaster struck. Before her husband had a chance to use his permit, he was brutally arrested in the middle of the night by armed Israeli soldiers who beat him in front of his pregnant wife and child and took him away without explanation. (The harrowing story is told here.)

He was held without charge, trial, or telephone call, and it was days before she learned the reason he had been arrested: He was accused of stealing cars in Israel. Rania could only laugh when she found out. He had never even been to Israel. But she wasn’t laughing when they handed down his sentence: one year behind bars.

A full year without his wife, without his son, without being there for the birth of his daughter. Even worse, a year without being able to provide for his family.

I visited Rania a few months after her husband was taken. She said her savings were almost finished, and she had no idea what she would do when they ran out. Every social safety net had failed her one way or another.

When her husband was finally released, he was a changed man. In bad health, in bad spirits, angry and unstable. The only job he could get was tough physical labor. Prices is Palestine are inflated due to the occupation and being tied to Israel’s currency and economy, and his small and unstable wages aren’t nearly enough for a family of four in debt from a year of no income, legal fees, etc.

Meanwhile, in 2010, Rania took the initiative and found meaningful work with the Syndicate of Psychological Social Workers, an organization that sponsors activities, classes, and counseling sessions to improve the psychological health of the community. It’s a desperately needed service in a town suffering so badly from the occupation (violence, vicious arrests, land expropriation and unemployment) and other stresses (the usual societal problems like spousal abuse and mental illness).

Unfortunately, it’s not a paid position. The Syndicate has been trying to get funding for years, but for various reasons — the latest of which is Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax funds to try to prevent the formation of a Palestinian unity government — it has never materialized. The office doesn’t even have working phones.

So, for the past couple of years, I’ve been sending Rania $300 per month to live on while her husband’s wages pay down their debts and she continues working (and paying for child care), in the hope that if and when funding for the Syndicate finally comes through, she’ll be first in line for her dream job.

When I visited Palestine in September 2011, Rania invited me to visit her in Tulkarem and see the work she did on a daily basis. It was a whirlwind tour. We met several women who came to the Syndicate a few times per week as part of their university training, and another volunteer was taking them through the day’s lesson. One of the male volunteers was a music teacher. Another was a policeman, most of whose family is in Israeli prison. One of his sons was unable to finish high school because the Israelis took him when he was 16.

They all had the disarming, earnest friendliness I’m used to in Palestine, the same direct and matter-of-fact way of talking about their hardships, the same undying hope that telling their story just one more time will somehow make a difference. And they all spoke of Rania as if she’s indispensable.

Next we visited a home for the mentally handicapped. Most of the patients had Down syndrome. Many of them recognized Rania, and their faces lit up when they saw her. A teacher showed us the different classrooms, from the one for people who could barely function at all, who basically just played or danced all day, to a class for more advanced students who could learn to read and write and perform other basic skills.

Finally we went to a UN school for refugee children, where Rania and several other women organized an after school program for girls through the local YMCA. About a hundred high-spirited first-graders showed up, all of them girls, and we set up games of tug-of-war, sack races, hop-scotch, hula hoops, and best of all, the game where everyone grabs the edge of a parachute cloth and jumbles it around with balls on top so that the balls jump around everywhere. Everyone was laughing the whole time we did it.

Rania whispered to me, “When the girls are doing this, they forget all their stress!”

Afterwards we handed out juice boxes and cakes and did face-painting and drawing on a giant piece of butcher paper. The girls were engaged the whole time, their eyes shining, supporting each other through every challenge. Without these women, and the smattering of funding from the YMCA for the supplies, these girls would simply be trudging home to crowded cinderblock alleys and small rooms that may or may not have electricity.

It was incredibly humbling to see so many volunteers, who had hard and busy lives of their own, and barely enough money to survive, spending their time helping others instead of throwing up their hands or ignoring their even-less-fortunate neighbors.

On the way back to the office, Rania said to me, “You see how I am known in Tulkarem? Before I did this volunteering, no one asked about me. No one knew who I was. The important thing is not to stay in the house all day. If you stay in the house, the people will forget you. But if you know the people and society, in the end you will succeed.”

I have no doubt she’s right. I don’t know when that time will come, but I do know that I’m proud to support the work she does in her community, and I hope I will be able to continue (with your help) until better fortune comes to the occupied city of Tulkarem.

A gift of support is not just helping Rania. It’s also helping her beautiful children and the dozens — probably hundreds by now — of people Rania helps with her work. It’s an investment that is guaranteed to grow many times over. You can’t say that about many investments these days.

All money goes to the family, and I pay the Western Union fees every month. If you’d rather send money directly to the family, please be in touch and I’ll let you know the details: pamolson at gmail.

Thank you so much.

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