As five young people from Derry jumped from a plane over Garvagh they could have no idea that their actions would be felt thousands of miles away in Gaza.
Danielle Ni Mhora (23), Darren Waterkamp (24), Eamonn Moore (27), Jason Curran (24) and James Harkin (25) are all members of Derry Friends of Palestine (DFP) and the money they raised from taking part in the sponsored sky-dive will go towards the ‘Irish Ship to Gaza Campaign’.
Danielle, a student from Creggan, said that she didn’t know too much about what was going on in the Middle East until she read about the sky-dive on FaceBook.
“I read on one of my friends’ page on FaceBook that Derry Friends of Palestine were looking for volunteers to take part in a sponsored sky-dive to raise money for the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign. I got in contact with Sinead MacLochlainn [DFP Chairperson] and the rest is history.
“To be honest I didn’t know a lot about what was going on between Gaza and Israel but as I started to read up on the situation I knew I had to do something.”
Eamonn Moore, who is also from Creggan, echoed the sentiments of his friend Danielle when he said that after watching a few documentaries on the situation in Gaza he noticed similarities with what happened in the North of Ireland during the Troubles.
“I’ve watched a few pieces about the Middle East and I couldn’t believe the similarities between what happened here and what is happening there. I remember seeing the British army on the streets of Derry when I was young and watching the documentaries made me see that the people of Gaza are experiencing something the same. I am a Republican but it’s not about that - it’s about standing up for others who are being oppressed. I think the reason we all jumped was because we care.”
All five were due to jump several weeks ago but because of poor weather the event was postponed until the following week. Galliagh man Darren Waterkamp joked that when the event was called off he thought it was a sign that he was not supposed to take part.
“We were all there [Garvagh] and we were ready to go but because of the snow it was called off. I was so annoyed because as you can imagine jumping out of an aeroplane is something that you have get yourself psyched up for - when it was called off I thought to myself ‘maybe someone up there is trying to tell me something’.”
He added: “It was amazing when we eventually did jump. It was one of the best experiences of my life and it’s even more satisfying when you think that the money we raised is going towards helping the people of Gaza.”
Last Friday human rights activist and film maker Iara Lee screened her film about the nine people who were killed by Israeli soldiers when they boarded the Mavi Mamara during the last aid flotilla in 2010.
“The film was so moving,” said Danielle. “After meeting Iara Lee and watching her film I felt so angry about what the Israelis had done. The people on board the ship were trying to help the people of Gaza but somehow it resulted in nine of them losing their lives. I was crying afterwards - it really hit a nerve with me.”
Eamonn explained that although the sky-dive is over he still plans on playing a significant role with Derry Friends of Palestine.
“There’s no going back now,” he explained. “If there’s anything I can do to help the people of Gaza I will. I have met some amazing people since getting involved and hopefully I can help to more in the future.”
Chairperson of DFP, Sinead MacLochlainn, commended the actions of the five young people and explained that the money they raised will go towards buying medical supplies for people living in Gaza.
“I couldn’t believe the enthusiasm and dedication that these young people showed. They are a credit to Derry and the money will make a difference in Gaza.
“Myself, my husband Gerry MacLochlainn and Charlie McMenamin will be on the Irish boat to Gaza. We will be representing not only Ireland but the people of Derry. We are determined to break the siege this time but we have been warned the Israelis have no intention of allowing the flotilla through.”
Sinead explained that news of the young people’s sky-dive had travelled all over the world.
“Friends from America, Turkey and Gaza have all contacted me to ask me how the young people got on. It’s a sign that the work we are doing is making a difference and is being noticed.”
Sinead, who National Chair of Irish Ship to Gaza Committee, said that she plans to meet with the Irish government to discuss the Irish involvement in the flotilla.
“We are trying to meet with the Irish government as soon as possible because we want reassurances that they will protect us against the Israelis. We are taking part in a peaceful aid convoy, we are taking medical supplies and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza - the Irish government should do everything in their power to make sure that we are safe and that we succeed.”