2019 YEAR IN REVIEW
ACHIEVEMENTS AND IMPACT
If 2013 was the year of our birth and the setting of our agenda, then 2019 was the year that saw us move beyond the role of start-up to become a major and impactful organization that has made a meaningful difference to Israelis and Palestinians in the area of health.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. We faced a number of significant issues that were beyond our control, such as the decision in 2018 by the Trump Administration to remove funding to the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, which had a flow-on effect on our projects. (See ‘Trump’s Jerusalem Hospital Cuts To Hurt Innocents’). Despite the difficulties this caused, we remained committed to our core values.
Here is a snapshot of activities undertaken in the past year by Project Rozana in realizing our mission of providing Transport, Training and Treatment to the Palestinian communities of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
The three Project Rozana-funded services (Road to Recovery and Humans without Borders in Israel and Green Land Society for Health Development in the West Bank) are services that bookend this important initiative in healthcare. They are providing the means by which Palestinian patients can access Israeli hospitals for vitally-needed medical services. The support for a West Bank service to connect with services in Israel necessitated the need to create an overarching brand – it became known as ‘Wheels of Hope’.
In addition to ensuring daily patient transportation, the NGOs organize rehabilitation and fun days in the summer for Palestinian child patients and their families, taking them to resorts in Palestine and/or beaches and resorts in Israel. These activities combine to help change the narrative from a focus on conflict to an emphasis on cooperation and building better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.
As a daily bridge builder, the Wheels of Hope program is as much about the recovery of trust and mutual respect among Israelis and Palestinians as it is about physical recovery of the sick.
ROAD TO RECOVERY (RTR)
Project Rozana International signed a three-year agreement with Israel’s well-respected NGO Road to Recovery in January 2019 to continue to provide the much-needed transportation of critically and chronically ill children and their caregivers from the border checkpoints to 13 Israeli hospitals. Project Rozana is now the major funder of Road to Recovery.
An Israeli volunteer driver with a family being transported to hospital from the checkpoint
GREEN LAND SOCIETY FOR HEALTH DEVELOPMENT (GLSHD)
Following the success of the first year of GLSHD’s volunteer driver program, Project Rozana International increased its annual support to GLSHD enabling it to expand the free medical patient transport service in the West Bank. The aim is to provide transport to every patient in need of this service, from home to the check-point and back (with a handover to volunteer drivers working with Road to Recovery and Humans without Borders on the Israeli side of the checkpoint). By the end of 2019 there were 150 registered volunteer Palestinian drivers in the program. Between them they drove almost 100,000km involving over 3,000 transfers and 321 patients (see table above).
GLSHD volunteers assist Palestinian patients in the West Bank
SUMMER CAMPS AND FUN ACTIVITIES
In addition to ensuring daily patient transportation, the Wheels of Hope NGOs organize rehabilitation and fun days in the summer for all Palestinian child patients and their families, taking them to resorts in Palestine and/or beaches and resorts in Israel. The volunteers make sure that all the children are taken care of, in the pool or beach, in the playground, during lunch and during the entertainment. These activities help change the narrative from a focus on conflict to an emphasis on cooperation and building better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.
A fun day requires a major effort and considerable funds to cover transportation and entrance fees, food, entertainment and hiring of toys and equipment. All reports indicate that the get-together, the refreshments, the pool or sea, good food and entertaining clowns, are the obvious and visible elements of the program that give great joy to the guests. However, the subtle threads of true friendship between Palestinians and Israelis surface everywhere, and this is the beauty of all three of the Wheels of Hope programs.
INTERVIEW: RUBA DWAIK- TRANSPORTING THE VULNERABLE
Ruba Dwaik (pictured above) is manager of volunteer drivers at Hebron-based NGO Green Land Society for Health Development. This critical service is helping Palestinians access Israeli hospitals, often for life-saving treatment. We sat down with Ruba to discuss her role and what the future holds.
PR: How difficult has it been to attract volunteer drivers?
Ruba: The real challenge is to reach potential volunteers. For this we need an intensive social media outreach, radio coverage and other forms of publicity. The next challenge is to motivate these potential volunteers.
To do this we try to involve them in one of our organized trips, so they are encouraged to participate. In some cases we find people who want to help but don’t have a car.
PR: What are the main reasons that people choose to become drivers?
Ruba: Some of them want to help when they have relatives who are sick. Some are related to children or patients who died and want to contribute to honor people who helped their family. There are some who feel for the first time that they are doing something valuable for society. We also have volunteers who are already taking a patient, and would like to take another one with them.
PR: Why do some people choose not to be drivers?
Ruba: Lack of backup in case of accident. Or concern that police will intervene if transporting someone in a private car. Some are concerned about the risk of complication with a vulnerable patient while transporting them. For others, especially young people, the difficulty they have of meeting early morning appointments. There are some people who become emotionally involved and find it hard to deal with sick children. Another factor is an inability to meet fuel costs without subsidy.
PR: What do the drivers know about Project Rozana and its mission?
Ruba: Usually we inform our volunteers about Project Rozana. And we educate them about the key areas where it is involved in building bridges between Palestinians and Israelis through health. This is transporting patients, treating the patients in Israeli hospitals, and training Palestinian health workers.
PR: Has the experience changed how the drivers perceive Israel and Israelis?
Ruba: From our observation, yes this has happened. One of our drivers, Ahmad, was injured by the IDF. Since he learned about Project Rozana and joined the volunteer service, he is dealing well with the Israeli drivers who receive and return his patients at the checkpoint.
Also, we hold fun days for volunteers at Murad Tourist Resort near Bethlehem. Both Israeli and Palestinian volunteers meet and realize that the most important thing is to be partners in making children happy and smiling.
PR: How many of the volunteer drivers have personal experience of the transport service, either as patients themselves or through family members who have used or are using the service?
Ruba: We have nearly 150 volunteer drivers. 16 of them had been involved in the past with patients who passed away.
PR: So if currently the number of drivers is 131, looking forward, how many do you anticipate there will be in five years’ time?
Ruba: We hope that in five years we will have 1,000 volunteers.
PR: How has involvement with the transport service impacted on the reputation of Green Land?
Ruba: This service has put Green Land on the map of active NGOs in Hebron and the West Bank. We are working in a sensitive humanitarian field that is needed every day of the year. It has also expanded our public profile well beyond Palestine.
PR: What is your personal experience of working with Project Rozana?
Ruba: Being the coordinator and later, the manager of this project made me realize how close we are with patients and their families. We know how important it is to be a real friend during the hard times, with no other interest than to help a human in need. So we feel we are one family who understands each other. Also, the thanks and appreciation we get from patients and their families has become our main source of pleasure and satisfaction. That is a very addictive feeling!
PERITONEAL DIALYSIS ASSUTA HOSPITAL-AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPITAL (AVH)
From January to December 2019, state of the art training in Peritoneal Dialysis was delivered to physicians, nurses and dietitians from Augusta Victoria Hospital by the team at Assuta Hospital, Ashdod. The Project Rozana two-year grant covered the medical, academic, research and training activities for the six trainee doctors in 2019 and will cover the planning and organizational requirements to launch the Peritoneal Dialysis service at AVH in 2020.
Training occurred every two weeks. The training provided Augusta Victoria Hospital with the capability of treating and delivering Peritoneal Dialysis to patients in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. All the logistic and regulatory work was undertaken so that both adults and children from the West Bank will be able to start Peritoneal Dialysis during 2020. Assuta doctors will continue supporting the trainees, mainly by visiting AVH and doing patient rounds together, as well as by working together on conference presentations.
Assuta Hospital – AVH Peritoneal Dialysis team and guests
BINATIONAL SCHOOL OF PSYCHOTHERAPY (BNSP)
The BNSP was established in 2016 to train Palestinian and Israeli child psychologists in the latest strategies and techniques for dealing with children in the region suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The BNSP opened as a Project Rozana pilot program in 2016 with a grant from World Vision Australia. The first cohort comprised eight Israelis and eight Palestinians (six from the West Bank and two from Gaza). The success of the pilot and the resulting professional and personal outcomes encouraged Project Rozana to submit an application in 2019 for funding under the EU Peace building Initiative (EUPI). The awarding of the EU grant represents 80% of the funding needed for the next 40 months, with the balance to be provided by Project Rozana. It is estimated that the funding will allow for 60 Israeli and Palestinian psychotherapists working in the field of child and adolescent mental health to complete the WHO-accredited course. The new course is due to begin in October 2020 under the leadership of Prof Esti Galili-Weisstub of Hadassah Hospital and Dr Shafiq Masalha, a Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University lecturer.
Prof Galili-Weisstub and Dr Masalha with the first cohort in 2016
Project Rozana has been a strong supporter of Dr Guy Hidas, Director of Pediatric Urology at Hadassah Hospital, who has been undertaking life-saving treatment of children requiring Disorders of Sex Development (DSD) surgeries. DSD is one of the most medically and socially complex of the genetic disorders seen within the Palestinian population (and Israel’s ultra-orthodox Jewish population). Babies born with this condition may have characteristics of both sexes or external genitals which are severely malformed or cannot be clearly defined as male or female.
Dr Hidas and his team successfully undertook multiple operations on a small number of children requiring treatment in 2019. Project Rozana has raised funds to provide these surgical outcomes for Palestinian children born with these conditions. DSD surgeries are difficult topics in a conservative society, particularly in the more remote villages of the West Bank. The Palestinian health system doesn’t have the expertise or the resources to deal with these, whereas Israel is a world leader. We know that the impact of the surgery on the child and his or her family is significant, as it enables the patient to look forward to a normal and happy future.
Dr Guy Hidas
YEAR ON YEAR GROWTH
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Achievements, Impact, Projects
- Project Rozana At Parliament Of World Religions
- The Wheel Deal – US Launches ‘Adopt-A-Driver’ Campaign
- Israeli And Palestinian Healthcare Volunteers
- Project Rozana USA Opens New Chapter
- Project Rozana Canada Endorsed By Major Donor
- Launch of Australian Medical Training Program
- ‘Wheels of Hope’ Transportation Initiative Launched
- North America Speakers Tour
- Australia Speakers Tour
- Israel - Italian Embassy Presentation
- Parlor Meetings