It’s another early start for the Love Hope Strength team. It’s Sunday but here in Tel Aviv it is the equivalent of Monday morning back home and so there is a lot of traffic on the road as we make the journey to Nazareth to join Dr. Amal and her team for the Arab Donor Drive.
The drive has been organised at the request of people in the community who called Dr. Amal to see if they could join together to find a donor for the local Doctor (who 55 years of age), and has been diagnosed with Lymphoma. The doctor needs a transplant to live and despite having 10 brothers and sisters not one of them is a match. The doctor is very revered in the community and has done a lot to help the local residents who obviously respect him so much.
As soon as we arrive just after 11am we are greeted by Dr. Amal and introduced to all the volunteers who are all so friendly and already signing up people who have come early (The drive doesn’t officially start until 12). Dr. Amal introduces me to the Doctors wife who explains that her husband is too ill to attend himself.
Dr. Amal introduces Jules and I to the team and within seconds, the guitar is out and we are all joined together singing Love Hope and Strength. It”s beautiful to be signing in harmony with people from all walks of life, faith and denomination, and an open demonstration of the power of music to bring people together.
I tell everyone why I am here and that I have come with the support of others. As a show of solidarity, I ask them all to sign the guitar that I will also decorate with the names of all the people who have written to pledgee support from far away. I have received so many emails from people all over the world offering their support and wanting to come back next year. It has been quite overwhelming knowing that Jules and I are not here alone. Jules and I set to the task of writing all the names on the guitar which takes a long time.
All the while people are streaming in to sign up the the marrow registry. There is no fear on these peoples faces only hope, hope that they may be THE ONE. Dr. Amal tells me of the incredible suspicion that she came up against when she first started to do drives amongst the Arab peoples. It was not an easy path to get the registry started but step by step she made the inroads that stimulated awareness and then, once she had found the very first match and a life was saved, a momentum started to build that I can feel today. Dr. Amal’s work in setting up the world’s first and so far only Arab Donor Registry, is being recognised by others too and on October 18th she will travel to Minneapolis in the USA to receive a prestigious award for ‘Outstanding Contribution’ from the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP).
As the day progresses the mayor of Nazareth turns up to thank Love Hope Strength Foundation for it’s support. He is very gracious and warm in showing his appreciation. I sing some songs in the courtyard and all the while more and more people arrive, they all want to shake my hand and take a picture. Dr. Amal and the team are constantly asking if we have everything we need and Russ Kendall takes Dr. Amal to be interviewed and to tell her story for the camera. The news channels from Israel arrive and there is a buzz about the place as the call to help save a life is answered.
The whole volunteer team takes a break while a beautiful lunch of fresh vegetables, hummus and salad is provided for everyone by local suppliers and it is another manifestation of the strength that comes when a community pulls together in one direction. The guitar is produced and we all gather in the courtyard for a communal singing session. With voices raised the communal spirit embodies all I could hope for from the three words that represent our charity. Love. Hope. Strength.
It is soon time for us to leave and head back to the UK and it feels sad to be packing away the guitar and saying our goodbyes.
There are tears in the eyes of all of us as we take our last hugs and head for home. One thing is for certain though we will be back and next time we will not be alone. I will sign off now and leave you with the words of the lady who inspired this whole mission Dr. Amal Bishara.
Hi Mike and Jules
Hope that you had a comfortable flight back home and you had some rest after such an intense week in the holy land.
I am very happy that you could come to a donor drive to see and feel the atmosphere in these drives, where the community, young as well as old people participate and work hard in order to recruit as many donors as possible despite the surrounding and financial conditions.
All of us in the Hadassah registry and those who participate in the drivee in Nazareth appreciate your efforts and support, all were happy to host you both. Your inspiration and kindness and beauitful smile, made this day cheerful despite the situation of our patients.
We recruited 1405 new donors on Sunday, will ship them to be tested this week.
Thanks for the music and songs, that we enjoyed very much. Thanks for such a fruiful co-operation with the media that covered the drive and the Arab Donor Project.
Wish you and your family good health and happiness.
See you in the Holy Land in 2014
Mike Peters 2013