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Mohammed Eid in a red sweater standing in front of a grassy field

From Gaza refugee to Rotarian

Up to 1.9 million people are displaced in Gaza. 85% of the population has no ​choice but to shelter in community buildings like schools, makeshift shelters, or ​out in the open.

ShelterBox, the charity begun by Rotarians in Cornwall in 2000, is responding to ​support people in Gaza, working with a new partner, MAP. However, this is not ​ShelterBox’s first response there, the charity previously responded in 2004, 2008 ​and 2015.

In 2015, one of the families we supported was Mohammed Eid’s, known as Moh. ​He spent time living in a ShelterBox tent after his family were forced to flee their ​home due to airstrikes. Moh is now a member of Evanston Lighthouse ​Rotary Club and works for Rotary International to support the Peace Centres ​programme and Peace Fellows.

Here he shares his experiences:

Mohammed Eid sitting at the United Nations Economic and Social council youth forum in front of a laptop

Moh attending the United Nations Economic and Social council youth forum, as a member of the ​United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth

My name is Mohammed Eid, 'Eid' like the holiday. I'm one of three boys and three ​girls, a small Gazan family. I was born in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, ​back in 1989. I remember as a kid, my father always talked about home: Gaza ​Strip.

After almost 15 years in Saudi Arabia my father had saved enough for a house, ​so we returned to Gaza when I was six. Our new house in Rafah camp was the ​first house my family owned, and actually built. It was small and cozy, with only ​two bedrooms, but we loved it so much.

A few years later, in 2000, the peace process fell apart, and the conflict erupted ​once again. I remember every morning following a military operation; we would ​wake up and go out to check on the neighbours, see who lost a family member, a ​house, a farm animal, or everything.

We knew we wouldn't stay there for long. For several years following that, we ​were renting different places and moving around a lot. It was a very difficult ​experience, losing everything we ever owned and everything we built. Four years ​after leaving our house for good, we had our new house.

It also felt much safer being away from the borders this time. What we hadn't ​considered was that the conflict would evolve, and aerial bombardment would ​become the main form of attack.

“The loss of a human life is never and ​should never be a normal thing to hear.”

In 2014, during one of the many rounds of conflict, our neighbourhood was ​heavily bombarded. The intensity of the airstrikes forced us to leave our home ​back then, and we never returned to it.

It all started again; we lost everything and sought refuge in the local school ​turned into a shelter. That's when we stayed in a tent provided by ShelterBox. I ​wondered how far that tent must have travelled before reaching us. We were ​grateful for that tent.

I remember in that tent we had what we had in our living room in the first house ​we owned. We had mattresses as we sat on the ground, blankets we wrapped ​around ourselves during the slightly cold evenings, and we had a source of fire ​where we made tea. In those moments, despite the uncertainty and hardships, ​we found peace in family, food, and tradition.

I'm thankful for every time we had temporary shelter or a tent… it was a lifesaver. ​There were waiting lists for these temporary tents; people had to register their ​names, provide evidence of house loss, and wait for their turn to receive one.

When you think about an emergency or crisis, it's absolutely synonymous with ​chaos. There is no smooth transition from homelessness to tent housing and ​then to permanent housing.

Mohammed Eid as a young boy standing in the middle of a desert

Moh in 1997, when he returned to Gaza with his family. Their home was in Rafah

I currently live in the US; I arrived here in 2017 on a Rotary Peace Fellowship to ​attend the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Centre. I pursued a graduate degree in Global ​Studies and International Development, graduating in 2019.

The recent events in Palestine were deeply shocking to me, as they were to ​everyone else. The events reminded me of the generational trauma of losing ​everything we once owned. The loss of a human life is never and should never be ​a normal thing to hear.

My family's house back in Gaza was bombed on the third day of the war. The ​airstrike caused partial destruction, and my brother was injured.

Now, my family are temporarily staying with relatives in Rafah Camp, where ​hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people are seeking refuge as well.

I never thought that one day I will think back and realise that during the time ​when I had a tent to sleep in, I was extremely privileged and lucky, and that a day ​would come when a tent would be so valuable and rare.

I don’t know what will happen to my family next. But I do know that no one ​should be deprived of their most basic human need. People need shelters during ​emergencies.

ShelterBox has launched an urgent fundraising appeal to provide ​emergency shelter and other essential items to people left with nowhere to ​live in Gaza.

The charity is providing emergency items like tarpaulins and rope, to help people ​make damaged buildings and other shelters watertight.

Blankets, mattresses, pillows and floormats will help people to stay warm. We’re ​also providing washing sets, water carriers, kitchen sets, and items like nappies, ​toothbrushes, and sanitary items. These are all vital items for people with no ​belongings and unable to return home.

For more information visit ShelterBox’s webpage.

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