Washington, DC; 28 April 2016: Providing aid and bolstering development in a region that has been a perennial conflict zone since 1948 is both demanding and rewarding. United Palestinian Appeal (UPA) has managed to do just that with a small dedicated staff and supporters since their founding in 1978 by a group of successful Palestinian-American professionals in New York. Focus Washington’s Chuck Conconi sat down with UPA’s Executive Director Saleem Zaru to learn more about the organization and its operations.
Zaru discussed the challenges of working under the constant state of emergency, noting that providing relief often consumes a great deal of time and funding, as opposed to being able to focus on development. One of the founding principles of UPA was to contribute to socioeconomic and cultural development in Palestine, but immediate needs to provide food aid, medical care (including psychological care for trauma victims) and basic needs like clothing and hygiene products sometimes take precedence.
In spite of the ongoing violence and emergency situations, UPA has made remarkable inroads in anticipating and instituting programs that help Palestinians become more independent so their situations do not perpetuate reliance on charity. Whether through micro-finance programs that launch small entrepreneurial start-ups, scholarships that advance education to better position Palestinians for employment, or partnerships programs like the Embracing Life campaign which is bringing Cleft Lip and Palate surgical and nursing training to West Bank and Gaza in conjunction with the Craniofacial Center at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
When asked about how programs like UPA can address extremism, Zaru stated that giving someone the opportunity to put food on their table and support their family creates hope, and hope is the best way to fight the lure of extremism.
Zaru’s dream for UPA is that they would go out of business because there is no more need and Palestinians live under normal conditions. Until that time comes, UPA will continue delivering hope to the people in Palestine and the refuge camps.
To learn more about United Palestinian Appeal, visit their website at: http://helpupa.org/
April 5, 2016: In the second race of the season, the German racer Nico Rosberg took a comfortable win in the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday April 3rd. Meanwhile, his Mercedes team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, climbed to third following a first-lap collision. The event attracted a peak of 3.2 million viewers. Around a hundred of them were watching from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Washington, DC.
The viewing party drew an eclectic crowd of friends of the embassy, as well as fans of the event. Attendees tended to wear red and/or white – in support of Bahrain – or wore apparel that identified their favorite team. Employees of the embassy mingled and socialized with the rest of the crowd, but were readily identified by their matching red and white Bahrain International Circuit shirts.
The main room functioned as a majlis (a room for gatherings in Arab homes) where people could watch the race and socialize. With large windows that flooded the space with natural light, the space was decorated from flags from all over the world and had multiple large screens to carry the broadcast from Manama. Outside a long buffet had been set up that served American and Arab Barbecue fare — with everything from hot dogs and kofta (similar to grilled “sausage” made from minced lamb and beef with spices) to hummus and pita. Arabic sweets were provided for dessert.
In comparison to the event in Bahrain — which is held as a night race set off by shooting sparks resulting from car modifications that have welded titanium plates to the undercarriage of the low, sleek automotive beasts — the viewing party at the embassy was casual and provided a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy the afternoon. After the excitement of Rosberg crossing the finish line, the embassy raffle brought its own cheers as several winners took home first class tickets to Florida, and others won pearls from Bahrain.