I am beyond excited to announce that we are formalising a partnership that will ensure one of my fondest goals shall be achieved, that of a youth exchange between the children of Gaza and those of Europe. I am even more excited because we are focusing on the youth of Gaza as well as Belfast and Free Derry in the North of Ireland. These kids, ages 15 to 18, all know what violent conflict is about, and all of them deserve a chance to play with and understand their brothers and sisters from distant but all too similar conflict zones.

The measure of our success

Our success will be measured in smiles and laughter and the building of bonds akin to creating a cherished extended family… and we will succeed.

I have wanted to do this for years, giving serious motivation to youth workers in an attempt to make it happen, trying through volunteers to get a program written up and funding to make it so. But with all that I was doing I simply had not managed to secure the right partners and funding, until now that is.

Myself and my partners are now entered into an agreement in principle with Mr. Maamon Hashem Khozendar, a prominent businessman and philanthropist from Gaza. As a resident of Gaza, Mr. Khozender is also witness to the atrocities committed by Israel against the 800,000 plus children there. His people are providing logistical support in Gaza and my team are partnered with people in the North of Ireland who are doing the same. In Gaza and Ireland we are working to identify eight youth to be part of our first exchange.

First we plan to fly the kids from Ireland to Gaza (via Egypt), or possibly carry them on our convoy from London to Gaza in July of this year. After roughly two weeks of educational tours and fun based activities with four youth from Gaza, all will return to Ireland for similar activities there. Mr. Khozendar will be providing the facilities and funds in both Gaza and Ireland and we have high hopes that the program will soon be expanded; which indeed it will if support from people of goodwill is what I think it will be.

I would love to see 50 or 100 children at a time for each exchange, but we shall start with eight kids, and work our way up from there. Plans are flexible, but again we are looking at two weeks in Ireland, two weeks in Gaza, with ongoing support to facilitate continuing communications and hopefully, regular reunions.

If you live in the North of Ireland and wish to nominate a child for this exchange or support this project in meaningful ways, please contact me at 1worldcitizen@spamarrest.com. Together we are going to do something truly special and everyone will get to see the initial results by July at the latest.