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A day in the life of HelpAge in Gaza

19 Oct 2009

HelpAge's Emergencies Programmes Coordinator, Margaret Chilcott, reports from Gaza, where she's scoping out areas for potential HelpAge projects:

Today I had an interesting trip to the furthermost fishing village in Rafah, abutting the Egyptian border. The locals call it the "Swedish village" because it was set up by the Swedes in 1965. 700 people live here and most are related to each other.

We met this 70 year woman, who is a mother, grandmother and great grandmother to many of the people in the village. She had an interesting tale to tell. She was 15 when she had the first of her 11 children. Her first husband died, and her second husband left her when she was just 40.

She is still active and has worked all her life to bring up her children, keeping pigeons and chickens in her backyard to feed the family and sell locally.

The fishermen were telling us that there used to be around 1,850 fishermen along the Gaza Strip, now there are only 400 because the Israeli blockade of Gaza has reduced their fishing waters down to three miles, which is not enough for all of them. They will be in trouble if they go beyond this as the Israeli gunboats continually patrol the area.

Their lifestyle and diet enabled the fishermen to be the healthiest of the Palestinians, but over the last few years this has changed because of a shortage of work. The statement we kept hearing was that they just want to have their sea back so they can earn a decent living again.

While we were talking to the villagers, three cheeky children stole our large magnetic HelpAge sign from the car bonnet. When the older men found out about it they were furious. They felt dishonoured because their guest's car had been violated.

One young lad spoke up and said he knew who did it. The next thing kids were scampering everywhere and finally it appeared folded in four and was handed back to us.

Not sure what's going to happen to those kids... we didn't stick around to find out.

Judging by what we saw and heard today, this village and the ones surrounding it could be a good area to run a livelihoods project for older people. We are working through the possibilities as they are some of the neediest along the coast.

Read more about HelpAge's work in Gaza

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Margaret Chilcott
Country: Australia
Job title: Emergency Programme Coordinator

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.