Project Objective: The aim of this campaign is to raise funds to open a volunteer gym in the Aida Refugee Camp in the West Bank to help improve the overall standard of life in the camp, and go towards fighting the large incidence of diabetes, hypertension, and mental health issues that exist in the camp because of the cramped living conditions and occupation.
How the Project Came About: My name is Ainle Ó Cairealláin, and I am the managing director of a small personal training company in Cork called ACLAÍ. We have been open for nearly 6 years, and a key part of our philosophy is to create positive change both in our immediate community and further afield. At home we have become quite well know for the work that we do to make our facility equally accessible for people of all abilities, and for putting on community based events in our facility on a regular basis, as well as our high standard of professional service. The West Bank Gym project ties in with creating a positive change outside of our immediate circle.
Last year, I went to West Bank on two occasions. The first time was in March, where I ran the Palestine half marathon, and met with different groups and activists around the West Bank. When I was out there it was all go, going from place to place and meeting with different people. It wasn't until I got home that the extent of what I had just seen hit me. I was depressed out of my head for weeks after the trip, because of the scale of oppression that the Palestinian people were living under. Attitude that point I decided that I was going to go back, with the view to coming up with some sort of creative or productive plan the that would help some of the people that I met while out there.
I went back in August, and spent most of my time at the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. The Camp is home to over 5500 Palestinians living under severe Israeli occupation. It has been described as ‘the most teargassed place in the world’, with the Israeli army using the camp as a training ground for new troops and firing massive amounts of tear gas at the residents, including children. During my time at Aida, I spent quite a bit of time at the Lajee Centre, which is an independent grassroots cultural centre that works for the betterment of the residents of the Aida Camp. Part of the mission of the Lajee Centre is to improve the health of the residents of the camp, which suffers greatly under the constant strain of Israeli occupation and oppression. High blood pressure, diabetes, and mental health issues are among the most common illnesses in the camp, and we want to do something to help them. This was something that got me thinking, as I could see that I could possibly play a positive role in helping with the health levels in the camp on account of the work that I have been involved in at home for the last 15 years.
A project that I discussed with one of the founder of the Lajee Centre, Salah, was the possibility of opening a gym for the people of the camp at the Lajee Centre, and helping them start a self sufficient health and fitness program that would combat the prevalent health problems that they are suffering with because of the conditions in which they must live.
For our small business in Cork, this is a massive undertaking, but we are going to do everything we can to make it happen, and we need your support to do it.
What We have Done So Far: To date, we have organised 2 fundraising events, both of which were very successful.
In December 2018, we held a pop up shop in ACLAÍ selling handmade goods from the West Bank, and raised overall €5000 on the day.
In February 2019, we teamed up with the Bang Bang Café in Dublin and KNEECAP to host a daytime gig at the famous Dublin Café. We raised over €500 on this occasion.
The project has 3 main phases, and I am asking for your help with the first one in particular.
Phase 1: Fundraising The first step of the process is the fundraising, which is why I am making this video. We need to raise a total of €30,000 for the project to cover the cost of equipment, renovation of the allocated room at the Lajee Centre, and installation of the gym. (Travel expenses for anyone going over from Ireland to help with the project will be paid for by each individual themselves)
Phase 2: Training Coaches The second step is to bring 4 young people from the camp over to Cork for one month, so that we can train them up in how to run the training facility for the people of the camp once it has been installed. Over the last 6 years at ACLAÍ, we have designed a training method that can be tailored for people of all levels and abilities, and we are going to teach an adapted version of this method to the young people that come over that will be specific to the equipment and space that they have to work in at the camp.
Phase 3: Installing the Gym and Programme The third phase is to source the equipment, and install the gym in the room that has been earmarked for the project, and put a sustainable and self sufficient health development program in place for the residents of the camp. A room on the bottom floor of the Lajee Centre has been earmarked for the gym. The room requires some remedial renovations and after the gym has been installed, we are going to put a self-sufficient health and fitness program in place that will be beneficial to people of all ages at the camp, with the 4 new coaches at the heart of helping people to stay engaged with the program.
This GoFundMe page is one of the fundraising avenues that we have set up to raise the money required for this project. We held our first fundraiser in December 2018 with a pop up shop at ACLAÍ where we sold handmade goods from the West Bank. The second fundraiser is a daytime gig by Belfast hip-hop trio KNEECAP in the Bang Bang Café in Phibsborough Dublin. In July 2019, we are hosting the second annual Gym Jam, where artists and DJ's from around Ireland will assemble to provide a great night of entertainment for the audience. We also have donation based massages happening at ACLAÍ every week thanks to our in-house masseur Billy.
We intend on starting the installation of the gym in August 2019, and have it finished by the end of the second week. There is a lot of work to be done between now and then, and I am already extremely grateful for all the help, support, and donations we have received for this project.
By supporting this project, you are extending the hand of friendship and solidarity to the people of the West Bank, and in particular the people who have been living under extremely difficult conditions in the Aida Camp for years. Please take the time to donate to this worthy cause, and share the details of the project on social media so we can make this dream a reality.