FUNDRAISING swimmers went the distance – actually, five times more – and smashed their target to swim the length of Gaza to raise money to support women into higher education.
The challenge set by the Saddleworth Palestine Women’s Scholarship Fund to swim 25 miles surpassed all expectations and raised £2,500 to help women in Gaza and the West Bank.
Swimmers took part independently throughout October before 15 supporters completed the event on Sunday, November 3 at Manor House Barn Pool, donated by Jane Dronsfield and her family for the cause.
They completed 17.5 miles between them over four hours, taking the combined effort to a total of 136 miles.
During the challenge, some swimmers took to the water for the first time in years while others completed distances they had never attempted before.
One team of regular swimmers did a grand total of 64 miles, which included 24 miles swum by Jenny Grindrod.
Regular fund supporter Maggie Magner completed her first mile in her local pool and a 14-year-old in Manchester swam nearly two miles after school.
At a social event held afterwards at Uppermill Methodist Church Hall, about 60 people gathered to hear why the charity chose a swim to raise money.
“Controlling water means controlling life,” explained committee member Magda Sachs. “The Israeli authorities tightly control the quantity of water from the aquifer that Palestinians in the Gaza strip can extract.”
Such is the control, Palestinians receive less than two thirds of the WHO recommendation of 100 litres per person per day.
Dr Mona El Farra, who lives and works in Gaza and was the inspiration for the fund, spoke of the life-threatening difficulties facing Palestinian people due to poor access to clean fresh drinking water.
As well as working with the scholarship fund in Gaza, she is also involved in efforts to implement water purification units in 56 schools and 30 kindergartens.
She thanked everyone who supports the scholarship fund, saying: “You give hope to the girls and their families.
“Nearly every day we receive messages thanking the Palestine Women’s Scholarship Fund. “Many families cannot afford even the transportation and clothes needed, the need is very high.”
She explained 90 students have graduated since the fund began in 2007, with 70 per cent successfully finding jobs despite poor employment prospects in Palestine.
Her comments were echoed by former MP Debbie Abrahams, who congratulated everyone for their support of the fund in what she described as ‘very dangerous times nationally and globally in the context of a fragile and precarious Middle East’.
With further donations from refreshments and home-made cakes, stalls selling Palestinian goods, jewellery, books and handmade crafts and preserves, the event raised nearly £3,000 overall.
More than 95 per cent of all the money raised goes directly to the women to pay for their education. University education in Gaza costs around £600 per year, but due to the widespread poverty this is beyond the means of many women.
“Life in Gaza is intolerable on so many levels,” said Jacqui Greenfield, one of the event’s organisers.
“It is heartening that coming together to raise funds we are at least able to give support to women’s organisations in Palestine that see education as a powerful tool for a better future.”
• The Saddleworth Palestine Women’s Scholarship Fund group meets regularly and welcomes new members.
If you are interested in joining, or supporting events, email firstname.lastname@example.org