The Gaza 5K races raise funds to support UNRWA’s community mental health program which provides counseling to children in Gaza facing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma. UNRWA delivers direct aid and development to over 5 million Palestinian refugees. They have awarded over $402.5 million in micro- finance loans to Palestinian refugees, according to their website.
The Chicago race took place on April 29. UNRWA was joined by US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), Palestine Children Relief Fund (PCRF), Arab American Institute and other sponsors.
UNRWA hosted a race in New York earlier this year and raised more than $198,000. The UNRWA team is in the process of planning three additional races to take place later this year in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Houston.
“The race helps children over the age of 10 have now lived through three rounds of violence, many losing family members and friends—others losing their houses, so this program is essential for providing children hope for the future,” said Abby Smardon, Executive Director of UNRWA USA. “Beyond the fundraising, the Gaza 5K events raise awareness in the U.S. about the situation Palestinian refugees face, which is hugely important to increasing understanding and advocating in support of the right of Palestinian Refugees. It’s so important for people, particularly people in the U.S., to know that Palestine refugees are people who are deserving of dignity, who are deserving of our support, and who are deserving of their human rights—like all people across the world.”
Chris Kooy, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who first witnessed the injustice of Palestine in 2015, won the Chicago race.
“We stayed in Jerusalem for a week. It was an eye opening experience to see how people lived in the West Bank. I thought this would be a perfect way to get back in shape and help a good cause,” Kooy said.
Photos taken by Hareth Yousef.