From left: Ghada Khoury, Amr Al Masri, Mohammad Tahboub, Nadia Al Shadhir, Shaima Tahboub, Simon Lam, May Buhaisi. The team leaves for Istanbul on Monday for the charity drive. Image Credit: Courtesy of Simon Lam

Dubai: The majority of people who witness injustices carried out against their fellow humans get sad sometimes, even if only for a moment. However, that sadness can soon dissipate when the flicker of selfless humanity soon disappears like a puff of smoke.

And then there are those who once touched are changed forever and can’t help but take action to make a difference.

On Monday, 16 cyclists will travel from the UAE to Turkey to join 19 others to form the Cycling for Gaza team (C4G). Their mission is to cycle 350km in three days across the Mediterranean nation from the city of Bandirma to Istanbul, to raise awareness and a total of £200,000 (Dh1.2m) for the Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) charity. The money will go towards three medical projects on the Gaza Strip and Palestinan refugee camps in Lebanon.

Pedalling for peace

C4G was founded in London by a group of concerned individuals in the wake of the 2009 war on Gaza. The first cycle, in 2009, was from London to Paris.

“The idea I think is to one day cycle into Gaza,” said Nadia Al Shadhir a cyclist from the UAE chapter of C4G.

Al Shadhir is British-Iraqi and has been living in Dubai for more than four years. Upon her move she left behind a high powered career in banking to take a job at a non-profit organisation with a mission to alleviate poverty through the development of microfinance. She is also founder of the Walk for Iraq initiative. She is no stranger to charity cycles, having participated in four to date, with C4G and Gulf For Good.

“It [cycling for charity] really makes me feel content and at peace because I just picture the people that I’ve seen and most recently out in Palestine and how they keep to themselves and try to smile as much as possible,” she said. “I see this vision of them being happy and I am at peace knowing with my efforts I will change a life.”

On the right note

“I am doing this to raise awareness at what’s happening in Palestine, which all started when I visited Palestine at the start of this year, which was a wonderful experience in which I saw the suffering of the people,” said Simon Lam, 29, who is from Hong Kong.

“I joined C4G because it’s great that Arabs get involved with these awareness campaigns but it’s more powerful to have someone from a completely different nationality join the same cause.”

The piano teacher has lived in Dubai for five years and is a self-professed lover of travel. He was introduced to C4G while teaching at a Palestinian refugee summer camp in Lebanon last year.

“Being from an Asian background before coming to Dubai I didn’t know much about what’s happening in this region,” he added. “To try and explain it to people back home is quite difficult because there are lots of misconceptions about what is happening here in the Middle East.”

Mohammad Tahboub, 28, is co-chief organiser of this year’s C4G. Born and raised in Dubai to Palestinian parents, he said he got involved with the initiative in 2011 and has been hooked ever since.

“It was my sister who told me about C4G last year and I immediately said ‘Yes! I want to be a part of this’. It was spontaneous interest nevertheless strong as I am about to go Turkey for another 350 Kms charity ride,” he said.

“My immediate interest comes from association with the Palestinian cause. It also stems from the fact that we cannot be in 2012 and still accept that human beings, from all walks of life, are treated with such injustice — through siege, racism, second-class educational programmes and healthcare, travel and import restrictions.”

To donate to the C4G initiative log ontowww.justgiving.com/Cycling4Gaza2012

The three projects

This year’s Cycling for Gaza team who are to begin their 350km, three day cycle across Turkey on Wednesday 24 October aim to raise £200,000 (Dh1.2m), for three Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), a registered UK charity. The three projects aim to:

  • Ensure safe and quality antenatal, delivery and postnatal services to expectant mothers on the Gaza Strip.
  • Fund primary UK trauma care training and community based non-medic training to medics and volunteers on the Gaza Strip.
  • Support maternal and child health care projects in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.