A Derry man is to make an arduous overland journey to bring football equipment to the impoverished Palestinian children living in a Lebanese refugee camp.
Eddie McBride and his colleagues from the Derry to Palestine group have been busy organising the trip and are now trying to raise enough for a minibus to transport it in.
They have been liaising with a man who lives in the Shatila camp called Akim, who has been actively trying to get resources for the thousands of children, many of them children, living there. A Real Shantila Football Club has been set up, while there is also moves towards creating a girls’ basketball team.
A group of Palestinians from the West Bank, who were in Derry this week, gave the project the thumbs up.
Eddie and four other local men- JJ Crockett, Eanna O’Donaghaile, Danny Doyle and Derek McChrystal- travelled to Gaza four years ago in an ambulance full of medical aid and educational resources as part of a convoy of 220 other vehicles from all over Europe.
The same group are behind this new convoy, which will see Eddie driving the minibus, joined by two other groups from Cork and Belfast driving vehicles containing pre-school supplies and other aid. They plan to set off on July 26th.
Ballymoor FC and the Bloody Sunday March Committee have been among the many who have donated support and equipment.
Eddie said that the Palestinian refugees in Shantila, which has now doubled in size due to people fleeing from the violence in Syria, were the “forgotten people”.
“We have been told that it is worse than the conditions in Gaza and we are looking to bring some light relief. Their nearest football pitch is 5 kms away and we want to leave the minibus so they can travel to and from there and maybe use it to help them make a living.”
The convoy will travel for three weeks through France, Spain, Greece and Turkey and by ferry to Tripoli and then on to Shantila.
Anyone who can help provide funding towards the mini bus or trip is asked to contact Eddie directly at 07763155681. There are charity boxes around local bars. The Rocking Chair Bar will host a fundraising Stars In Their Eyes event on July 6th, with tickets £3, while the Long Tower Youth Club are currently organising a Football Blitz.