This isn't the first time Team Olive Gaza has run and fundraised for the NYC Gaza 5K, so what brings them back every year? UNRWA USA spoke to team member Yasmin Elachi who enthusiastically gave us her family's unique, heartwarming, and intimate connection with Gaza and UNRWA's work. 

Members of Team Olive Gaza (in no particular order): Khalid (captain), Yasmin, Dalia, Fatena, Dina

Members of Team Olive Gaza (in no particular order): Khalid (captain), Yasmin, Dalia, Fatena, Dina

[UNRWA USA]: Why is your team fundraising for the kids in Gaza?

[Yasmin Elachi]: We're fundraising because many of us are first-generation Americans of Palestinian, and specifically Gazan descent. We're reminded every day that our parents and family struggled growing up as children in Gaza. We're doing it especially for our mom's family, who are refugees from Yaffa (1948). Hearing about their childhood and our mom's stories about how as a child, she recalled the UNRWA food rations her family would collect weekly really became ingrained in our identities.

[UNRWA USA]: Why is mental health is an important issue to you and the rest of your team?

[Yasmin Elachi]: Many people struggle with mental health -- for a long time, and still for many, it is a taboo issue. Now more than ever, we recognize how someone's mental health can lead to a downward spiral physically, mentally, and emotionally for not only the person struggling with mental health but those around them as well. If we can help children navigate, or at least provide some of the tools, at an early age, we believe it will have an everlasting positive impact on that child's future. 

[UNRWA USA]: Do you have a message you'd like to share with your fundraising competitors?

[Yasmin Elachi]: InshAllah you beat us so UNRWA can reach way beyond their goal. :) 

What makes this meaningful is the world is its own global community. We all need to help each other regardless of ethnic background, religion. At the end of the day, the priority should be humanity — giving the children of Gaza a fighting opportunity to feel as they are equals and not less than any other human. We come back every year because we believe in the global community — we believe in humanity and that everyone, including the children of Gaza, deserves to be treated and shown that they too are part of this global community.
— Yasmin Elachi, member of Team Olive Gaza