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A Palestinian pupil has told of his pride after his Dubai school raised Dh35,000 in only four hours to support embattled people in conflict-hit Gaza.
Al Salam Community School celebrated the culture, art and food of Palestine on Friday to help bring in crucial funds for the UAE's ongoing Gaza aid campaign.
Yara Sheiko, 14, said the initiative was an important way to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis brought on by the Israel-Gaza war.
“As a Palestinian, I'm very proud and honoured that this was a success. We felt the need to spread awareness and to help raise money for this cause,” he told The National.
“Everyone in Gaza is my family. I felt that Friday was a great platform to share my culture as a Palestinian.
“It means a lot that this school helped raise more than Dh35,000 by setting up donation boxes and giving us the opportunity to volunteer and organise them.”
Kifaya Khan, principal of the school, said they worked closely with The Emirates Red Crescent and the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to support the Tarahum for Gaza campaign, which translates in English as Compassion for Gaza.
“We have a significant proportion of our community that has been directly affected by the events in Palestine and we wanted to support the people in Gaza,” Mr Khan told The National.
“More than 700 people from our school joined those from the wider community to attend the event.
“We ensured that it was held with dignity despite the wider sombre context.”
The occasion was ticketed, with the school organising arts and crafts workshops, stalls, activities, and food.
People could purchase individual tickets for Dh30 or family tickets for Dh100.
Mr Khan said the school’s pupils proposed the idea while parents led proceedings on the day. He added that organisers wanted to extend the work done by senior pupils in October after they were praised for leading the drive for donations.
He added that the event had raised an amount “beyond target” and the response had been “overwhelming”.
“We’ve been raising money through other channels, and it's been nowhere near the same amount,” Mr Khan added.
“This was an overwhelming response from our community and we didn't expect the event to be so successful.
“Credit goes to everyone for supporting it. There was definitely a wider feeling of wanting to help out and to be involved.”
At the event, restaurants sold food and donated profits to the Emirates Red Crescent, while workshops were also organised.
There was a stall dedicated to Tatreez, the traditional Palestinian embroidery, with a table showcasing its different forms and a workshop organised for children. There was also a session for bracelet-making.
Sarah Khawaja, a Jordanian mother of a nine-year-old and four-year-old pupil at the school, said the event highlighted Palestinian heritage and culture.
“It showcased the beauty of the country while at the same time raising funds,” she said.
“We had poetry being recited by children talking about Palestine and its beauty.”