Gaza Surf Project makes waves

From left: Mohammed Saleh, Chris Gibbs Stewart, Hasan Alhabil, Shamikh Khalil Badra. Photo: Northern Beaches Committee for Palestine

The Gaza Surf Project aims to establish a surf life saving club in Gaza to teach lifesaving and run a Nippers program for young people. Palestinians living in Gaza continue to face the ongoing effects of Israel’s crippling blockade. For many Palestinians, particularly children, the beach is the only playground they have left.

The Northern Beaches Committee for Palestine, together with the Gaza Committee, organised a fundraising dinner for the Gaza Surf Project in Lakemba on January 27.

As part of the first stage of the project, North Steyne Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC), in Manly, hosted two young Palestinians, Mohammed Saleh and Hasan Alhabil. Hasan has already earned his Bronze Medallion, and Mohammed the Surf Rescue Certificate.

North Steyne SLSC president Chris Gibbs Stewart, who addressed the dinner, said Saleh and Alhabil were “star students”.

She said their stay was “just the start. We are committed to helping establish the Gaza SLSC, including providing equipment, further visits and so on.”

Stewart said dozens of club members volunteered to assist their Gazan guests: "We feel this is a hugely important project. Lifesaving is, of course, about keeping people safe on the beach, but it's about more than that: it's about building a community, building a sense of family.

“We are trying to teach that culture we have here.”

Shamikh Khalil Badra, a Palestinian activist and member of the Northern Beaches Committee for Palestine, played a key role in the project. He said it took the committee four years of negotiations and planning, overcoming various bureaucratic obstacles, to get Saleh and Alhabil to Australia.

"This project is about hope," Badra said. "Gaza suffers from so many problems; the United Nations said 8 years ago that Gaza will become unliveable by 2020. We are in 2020 now and people are still suffering there.

"This might feel like only a small thing, but it is very powerful; it can bring hope to people there."

[To support the Gaza Surf Project visit Northern Beaches Committee for Palestine on Facebook.]