What you did for refugees in Gaza this Ramadan

What you did for refugees in Gaza this Ramadan

This year, UNRWA USA supporters raised over $1.1 million to feed approximately 7,500 refugee families in the Gaza Strip over the course of Ramadan and the rest of summer months

This Ramadan, we asked our American community of supporters -- people of all faiths and backgrounds -- to raise awareness and funds to the situation facing refugees living in the Gaza Strip. 

We asked supporters to put themselves in the shoes of a refugee family in the Gaza Strip: Everyone over the age of ten in your family has lived through three Israeli military assaults on the Gaza Strip and continues to face unimaginable trauma. One or both of your parents are unemployed. Eleven years of total land, sea, and air blockade has limited your family from leaving Gaza for a decade. 40% of families are food insecure. 

You feel trapped. 

This year, the situation deteriorated further following the deathly violence perpetrated by the Israeli military along the northern border of the Gaza Strip. According to UN OCHA and WHO, 137 Palestinians were killed and some 14,800 were injured, including 3,943 by live ammunition gunshots. A majority of these Palestinians were refugees who work for or receive services from UNRWA, and many were children and youth. 

Amidst this violence, UNRWA worked to address the most pressing humanitarian needs, and UNRWA USA supporters raised funds to support one of the most essential needs -- food. Over the course of Ramadan, you and your fellow Americans raised over 1.1 million dollars, enough to feed approximately 7,500 refugee families in the Gaza Strip.

20 Instagrammers bring together followers from around the world to support UNRWA's food assistance program during the month of Ramadan

Beyond the dozens of supporters that hosted an Iftar for Gaza event, and the thousands that donated to the Ramadan campaign, 20 Instagram influencers chose to use their public platform to raise awareness and funds for Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip. 

Over the course of one month, they shared information and photos on the situation unfolding in the Gaza Strip, the increased need, what UNRWA does to support over 1 million refugees in Gaza, and how their followers could help provide meals to refugee families through UNRWA's food assistance program. 

These influencers shared personal videos, stories, and photos to demonstrate why they believe in the cause throughout the one-month long Instagram campaign.

This is what Fatima said at the outset of the campaign, urging her followers to take action for refugees this Ramadan. 

Other Instagrammers shared how the US funding cuts have affected UNRWA's ability to provide services to Palestine refugees, why they personally care and believe in supporting Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip, and how their followers can get involved in UNRWA USA's work by donating to feed a Palestine refugee family in Gaza for the entire summer. 

Our Ramadan campaign may be over, but you can continue to stay involved in UNRWA USA's work for Palestine refugees by taking the next steps:

Iftar for Gaza around the US: 30 days, 35 iftars, $125,700+ raised, 839 refugee families in Gaza fed

Iftar for Gaza around the US: 30 days, 35 iftars, $125,700+ raised, 839 refugee families in Gaza fed

Why UNRWA food assistance is needed

The Gaza Strip has been under an illegal blockade for eleven years, and unemployment and poverty levels are at record highs. As a result, nearly one million of the 1.3 million Palestine refugees in Gaza rely on UNRWA food assistance to meet their basic daily needs. 

A $150 donation can provide enough flour, rice, whole milk, oil, chickpeas, lentils, and protein-rich sardines to feed a family for the summer.

Iftar for Gaza 

For the second year, UNRWA USA supporters chose to narrow the gap between the US and the Gaza Strip by bringing the thoughts, experiences, and struggles of Palestine refugee families into their homes and around their dining tables. 

Iftar for Gaza means feeding more than just those around the table; it's bringing together friends and family to ensure that Palestine refugees meet basic food needs through Ramadan and for the entire summer. 

find your iftar: where iftar for gaza events were hosted across the us

 UNRWA USA supporters hosted Iftar for Gaza events all across the country -- from picnics to potlucks to restaurant-catered dinners, Americans got creative to feed more than just those around their tables!

UNRWA USA supporters hosted Iftar for Gaza events all across the country -- from picnics to potlucks to restaurant-catered dinners, Americans got creative to feed more than just those around their tables!

This Ramadan, UNRWA USA supporters held 35 iftars across the United States, raising over $125,700, to provide UNRWA food assistance to more than 839 of the most vulnerable Palestine refugee families in the Gaza Strip. From New Jersey to California, New York to Texas, Maryland to Pennsylvania, these hosts and attendees showed Palestine refugees that Americans care and care deeply.

Here are some of the highlights: 

Burtonsville, Maryland

Anika and Aamir took the idea of iftar for Gaza and got creative with it, flipping the concept and hosting a "sahoor for Gaza" party instead. Sahoor, the pre-dawn meal Muslims consume prior to fasting, takes place early in the morning, so the couple invited their friends and family to their home in Maryland and treated them to a huge late night party that started at 1 am and went on until 4 am, featuring a local chicken and waffle food truck, shawarma bowls and wraps from Georgetown's popular Muncheez restaurant, a barista serving up various coffees drinks, teas, and fresh fruit cocktails, and complimentary t-shirts. The generous couple not only hosted a sahoor to remember, they matched all donations made to their fundraising page. Together, Anika and Aamir's community provided enough funding to assist over 190 refugee families in the Gaza Strip!

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Longtime supporter Lora, along with 21 friends and neighbors, came together at Sahara Restaurant -- a local favorite -- for a delicious meal of basmati rice, falafel, hummus, dolmas, shawarma, and fattoush salad. As they ate together, Lora reflected on her time in Gaza. She states in her blog piece encapsulating the event, "I had a flashback to many of the families in Gaza who served me wonderful meals — too numerous to count. I wish I could have bridged the miles and shared my Iftar with them."

While she couldn't physically offer the same meals to families in Gaza, Lora's efforts, along with the efforts and generosity of her energetic and passionate community, amounted to 16 families receiving UNRWA food assistance for the entire summer

Orange County, California

Two friends and entrepreneurs, Sara (A Little Bit of Lemon) and Lana (Olive & Heart), partnered together to host a Supper Club for Gaza in southern California featuring their favorite traditional Iraqi and Palestinian dishes alongside their close group of friends. One attendee encouraged her friends to attend and donate to their iftar event as a way to celebrate her birthday while also giving to charity. Lana reflected on the event in a recent Olive & Heart blog piece.

new york, new york

Our friends at Komeeda -- an organization that delivers creative cultural food experiences -- have been long-standing partners of our work assisting with the NYC Gaza 5Ks, hosting displaced dinners, and other outreach and fundraising events for Palestine refugees. And for the second year in a row, they hosted a charitable iftar to benefit Palestine refugees in Gaza at the Food and Arts Center in downtown Manhattan. The tickets to the dinner along with donations made during and prior to the event contributed to 65 families in the Gaza Strip receiving UNRWA food assistance for Ramadan and the rest of summer.

The event featured an impressive menu showcasing a molecular gastronomy interpretation of the Palestinian cuisine, including a lentil soup and basterma-wrapped dates, sous vide steak with cacao and Aleppo pepper, and halloumi cheese and blood oranges. What's even more impressive than the menu, is their passionate community service and dedication to empowering refugees here in the United States and abroad.

Bergen, New Jersey

Sara and Dina co-hosted an iftar together, renting out Maggianos Restaurant and filling it with their closest friends and family for an elaborate and beautiful Italian dinner. Sara and Dina each pledged to feed ten families and invited their friends to join them in reaching their total goal.

By the end of the night, they were able to collect enough to feed 51 families! Following the event, Sara and Dina continued to share their fundraising page on social media, and friends continued to donate, ultimately raising enough to feed over 58 families! Sara, a trained counselor, hopes to continue her efforts as a volunteer to strengthen UNRWA's Community Mental Health Programme in the Middle East.

Wilmington, Delaware

Mike and the Delawareans for Palestine shared a delicious meal in Wilmington while raising funds and awareness in solidarity with Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip. Together, these powerhouse community members of all ages gathered together for a memorable and rewarding afternoon. Watch their thoughtful video: 

new york, new york 

Ariella, Michelle, and a group of their friends came together for an intimate potluck dinner, hosted in their apartment in NYC. Together, they shared a meal and raised enough to feed four families in Gaza

san francisco, california

Time after time, Googlers Zanoon and Rhonda have stepped up and taken initiative to support Palestine refugees. Most recently, they showed tremendous compassion and thoughtfulness during a time of exceptional need for refugees in Gaza by successfully mobilizing over 200 fellow Googlers to raise a staggering $38,000 for Palestine refugees in Gaza. In addition to hosting a huge dinner at Google, they shared a presentation highlighting UNRWA's work in the Gaza Strip and the impact of the UNRWA food assistance program with friends and colleagues who otherwise may not have known about UNRWA's critical work for Palestine refugees. 

brooklyn, new york

In a cozy Brooklyn apartment, a group of friends from 8 different countries (along with a cute furry friend!) got together to break fast over a delicious meal, show solidarity with refugees in Gaza, and celebrate their friendships. In the process, they raised enough money to feed 7 Palestine refugee families in the Gaza Strip!

coney island, new york

High school students from Coney Island Prep have now hosted an iftar for Gaza two years in a row. This year, they made it even bigger and better, drawing students and teachers from all grades to participate and learn more about the situation facing refugees in the Gaza Strip. They hope to host another iftar next year, but until then, read about their successful iftar and what the event meant to them

Photos and highlights from other iftars around the US

Did you host an #IftarforGaza? 

Share your photos and videos with us via email or using hashtag #IftarforGaza so we can feature what you and your community achieved together! Thank you for keeping Gaza in your hearts and minds and for continuing to show Palestine refugees Americans care. 

unrwa usa hosts iftar for gaza events in nyc and washington, dc

In addition, UNRWA USA held two experiential and interactive charitable Iftar for Gaza events in the United States, where hundreds of supporters from the area attended to demonstrate solidarity and provide UNRWA food assistance to Palestine refugee families in the Gaza Strip. Check out photos from the recent New York City and Washington DC dinners. 

World Refugee Day: Humanitarian workers, the backbone of UNRWA's work in Syria

World Refugee Day: Humanitarian workers, the backbone of UNRWA's work in Syria

World Refugee Day

Created by the United Nations in the year 2000, World Refugee Day (June 20) is meant to raise awareness about refugees and the circumstances they face. Today, we are commemorating the strength, courage, and resilience of millions of refugees worldwide, including UNRWA's staff in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, who are the backbone of UNRWA.

Something many people don't know about UNRWA is that unlike any other UN agency, UNRWA carries out all of its own work by a staff that is 99% Palestine refugees themselves. This means nearly all UNRWA's 30,000+ teachers, school principals, doctors, nurses, mental health counselors, engineers, relief and social workers, guards and administrative staff are refugees recruited locally to serve their fellow refugees.

UNRWA in Syria 

In places like Syria, where UNRWA serves half a million Palestine refugees, front-line humanitarian workers are risking their own lives to save others and alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable.

Dr. Sana’a Mahmoud Ayoub, a Palestine refugee from Yarmouk and UNRWA health worker, is one example.

Every morning when I arrive at work, I feel blessed because I can make a difference and help people who are in a greater need.
— Dr. Sana'a, UNRWA health worker and Palestine refugee in Syria

Like many others, Dr. Sana’a fled Yarmouk with her family when fighting escalated in December 2012. In spite of the difficulties of displacement and instability, she has never stopped assisting refugees in dire need of healthcare at the UNRWA Damascus Training Centre collective shelter in Syria.

 Dr. Sana'a, a mother and a doctor, listens to her patients of all ages at the UNRWA Damascus Training Centre collective shelter, Syria

Dr. Sana'a, a mother and a doctor, listens to her patients of all ages at the UNRWA Damascus Training Centre collective shelter, Syria

“My relationship with my patients goes beyond treating their pain; some like to share their journey and hardship. I listen to them and feel their sadness. Sometimes, the only treatment they need is words,” Dr. Sana’a adds. “Their stories are tainted with the violence they witnessed during the last five years. Their faces reveal strain and hopelessness, but you can still feel the strength and courage developed through the psychosocial support UNRWA provides them with,” she continues.

The 40-year-old mother of four contributes her time, talent, and efficiency to the service of Palestine refugees in Syria. Her busy humanitarian work schedule keeps her at times from spending quality time with family and friends. Her energy and capabilities have made her more than a medical officer. She is known by refugees as the compassionate caretaker and friend.  

Dr. Sana'a believes that it is vital for UNRWA to assist Palestine refugees, many of whom suffer from relentless misery and despair as the conflict intensifies. On her work experience with refugees, she tells us:

It’s very emotional because you see first-hand people living in extremely difficult conditions, but it’s also inspiring because you notice on the other hand how resilient and determined they are to keep going forward.

Despite all of the personal losses and the constraints faced on a daily basis, Dr. Sana'a and UNRWA staff continue to work with full dedication to support ongoing emergency operations and maintain high ethical standards while serving the Palestine refugees of Syria. 

Today, and every day, we honor, acknowledge, and thank Dr. Sana'a, her fellow UNRWA colleagues in Syria, and the more than 30,000 UNRWA refugee staff for their resilience and commitment to serving their Palestine refugee community across the Middle East.