The story of Gaza

By Zohra Sooliman, Director: Gift of the Givers Careline Counselling Service

Gaza, a coastal city, was subjected to 23 days of constant bombardment from air, land and sea. The people have endured the impact of a seige for just under two years, depriving them of the most basic needs. The Israeli army deliberately targeted innocent civilians. Not only have they suffered the trauma of losing many members of their family and friends, but this is compounded by the partial or total destruction of their homes. The gruesome injuries, tragic deaths and catastrophic damage only begin to tell the story.
The Gift of the Givers mission to Gaza left with a 40 member delegation consisting of doctors, trauma specialists and journalists. After some obstruction at the notorious Rafah border, namely on the Egypt side, we finally entered Gaza.

Once in Gaza, the team members were eager to get straight to work so as to maximise the limited time inside. The SA doctors mainly worked at the Al Shifa hospital that services the majority of the Gazan population. The health system which was already crumbling before the war was overburdened and under resourced. The doctors in Gaza appreciated the high level of expertise the SA doctors offered, not only to the patients but also to the medical staff in terms of transferring the latest skills.

The journalists worked tirelessly covering the length and breadth of the Gaza Strip, capturing as many stories possible.

The goods that were transported on a Jumbo Jet, consisted of 84 tons of medical equipment, medical supplies, water, mattresses, wheelchairs, ready food supplements, etc and were stored in several warehouses after being cleared at the Rafah Border. To date, everything has been successfully distributed. An ambulance was also part of the donation and the SABC correspondent in the West Bank has reported that it was seen commuting patients. The trauma team worked very hard to access as many people in the short space of time to offer them the coping skills needed to live under such volatile conditions.

They worked mainly in schools, orphanages, children from refugee camps and organisations that were involved with children. Due to language being a barrier, a non-verbal technique was used. Through art and illustration, children unlocked their agonising pain of loss, separation, fear, uncertainty and the dismal state of their country. The efforts of the trauma team was realised when these illustrations changed from dark, dismal hopelessness to bright colourful pictures depicting hope, future and stability.

The SA team went to offer predominantly medical and emergency assistance. But every member will vouch by saying that we returned having learnt such a wealth of human values and teachings from the people of Gaza. We witnessed their pain and suffering but more poignant was their ability to bounce back with such tenacity. Their quiet dignity was deafening to us after having suffered loss upon loss and bearing not an iota of grudge. Their only desire is to taste freedom. Every team member's life has forever been changed.