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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

Riders needed for 350km US cycle trip to aid Gaza

Cycling4Gaza is organising a 350 km ride from Philadelphia to Washington DC that aims to raise US$250,000 to help the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, a US-based charity that provides medical help to Palestinian children.
Miral Alaraj, 27, a banker from Abu Dhabi, is coordinating the campaign with volunteers in Bahrain, London and Paris. Ravindranath K / The National
Miral Alaraj, 27, a banker from Abu Dhabi, is coordinating the campaign with volunteers in Bahrain, London and Paris. Ravindranath K / The National

DUBAI // An international charity is looking for UAE volunteers for a three-day cycling trek in the US to raise funds to treat sick and wounded children in Gaza.

Cycling4Gaza is organising a 350-kilometre ride from Philadelphia to Washington DC, aiming to raise US$250,000 (Dh918,300) to help the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, a US charity. Miral Alaraj, 27, a banker from Abu Dhabi, is coordinating the campaign with volunteers in Bahrain, London and Paris.

So far 16 people, including four from the UAE, have confirmed that they will take part after raising the $2,000 needed to register.

Ms Alaraj wants 40 people to ride. She hopes Ahmed Abu Nammous, from Jabaila Refugee Camp in Gaza, will be one. Last year Ahmed, 16, was shot by an Israeli sniper.

PCRF flew him to the US where he was fitted with a prosthetic leg. He had been in training until the Israeli strikes began on July 8.

“Fingers crossed, he can get out of Gaza,” said Ms Alaraj. “We are really hoping he can join us.”

The chance to raise money and awareness about the situation in Gaza is the motivation for Lina Abu Chaaban, a Dubai communications professional whose father was from Gaza.

“I have never been to Palestine, which is my home, but I was raised in a household where we all follow what is going on and Palestine was always very dear to my heart,” said Ms Abu Chaaban, 27, who was born in Germany and raised in the UAE.

“I wanted to give back to my country.”

She has taken part in two rides – Turkey in 2012 and in Germany last year – and had the chance to meet volunteers from all over the world.

“We were all driven by the same cause but we all had different motives,” Ms Abu Chaaban said.

Although unsure if she will be riding this year, she still intends to collect donations from people not taking part to reach the $250,000 target.

Since it was founded in 2009, Cycling4Gaza has raised more than $1.1 million to support vulnerable Palestinian communities.

Last year, the organisation joined up with PCRF to launch Reach Gaza, a programme that provides medical treatment to children by sending experienced medics to the occupied Gaza Strip, or sending children abroad for treatment.

With the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza killing more than 550 people in two weeks of fighting, the resources to help children will be stretched, said Ms Alaraj.

“The situation is very dire. This is very similar to what we saw in 2009 when Cycling4Gaza first started,” she said. “There is more need now for treatment and for attention and emergency medical relief.”

The ride will be the volunteer group’s sixth event, having held similar trips in the UK, France, Italy, Jordan, Turkey and Germany.

“We choose routes that are as easy as possible, as flat as possible,” Ms Alaraj said. “It is a bit of a push but everyone can do it with a bit of training.”

The deadline to register for the ride is August 4. Donations can also be made at the group’s website cycling4gaza.com

vtodorova@thenational.ae