[UNRWA USA]: Why is your team fundraising for the kids in Gaza?
[Team Hi Guys]: To share why we are fundraising, we need to go back to the story of our family, our connection to UNRWA, and how this race -- even up to the name of our team -- is a testament to my father, Ziad. This is our story.
Have you ever imagined Super Mario without his mustache, hopping off the stacks of cinder-blocks arranged into buildings, banging on corrugated tin roofs with a tightly wrapped sandwich in his left fist and a stick in his right? That's Ziad at 7 years old. Except maybe he had a mustache then, too.
Ziad is our dad -- or Ammo Ziad (Uncle Ziad) to you!
His family was exiled from Palestine, and so our dad was born in Lebanon. But try as you might, you'd never find a paper from Lebanese authorities claiming that little baby with milk in his mustache as their own. In exile, in his camp of birth, you know who claimed him? UNRWA.
UNRWA is a vital lifeline for over 5 million registered Palestine refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Refugees unto their fourth or fifth generation depend on UNRWA for their life and livelihood. Many are stateless and depend on UNRWA for the services a state would provide: school, health, job support, vocational training, and public services.
More than 70% of Gaza's residents -- 1.4 million people -- are Palestine refugees. UNRWA serves all of these people, more than half of them kids, little Ziads. 261 schools, 271,900 students, and hundreds of health clinics, providing vital life- and mind-saving services in the face of aggression, oppression, and brutal occupation.
So when President Trump withheld $300 million from UNRWA's operating budget, it directly affected this generation of Ziads.
In true Ammo Ziad fashion, he responded to this decision with cheek and self-assurance, and said exactly what we'd expect: Hi, guys.
[UNRWA USA]: Why is mental health an important issue to your team?
[Team Hi Guys]: Camps like Ziad's haven't disappeared. They've only grown. They're still in Lebanon, in Syria, in Jordan, the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip too. And while Ziad may have gotten out of the camps where he grew up, there are so many little Ziads running around the camps, catching pigeons and torturing their teachers.
And in Gaza, those kids are also dealing with the aftermath of regular Israeli military assaults -- not just because almost 70% of Gaza's population are refugees, but because Israel's frequent assaults on Gaza have imposed a serious impact on kids who wet their beds in fear, kids whose classmates have disappeared, kids who live with ongoing PTSD, which makes getting by day to day a reality that you and I probably can't comprehend.
[UNRWA USA]: Do you have a message you'd like to share with your fundraising competitors?
[Team Hi Guys]: Eat our dust, guys.