Past Projects


ORFA Record of Activities 2003-2014

Oxford Fun Run 2013

Eleven runners representing ORFA took part in the 5K Oxford Fun Run in University Parks on 11th May. We had runners from Eynsham and Oxford, with several Oxford Brookes students also taking part. The runners wore ORFA Tee Shirts with our logo during the run. Overall those running have so far raised over £600 for ORFA through sponsorships!

Four ORFA runners before the race

The ORFA team at the start:

Runners in action!

Andrew Smith MP congratulates the ORFA team at the finish and joins us for a photo:

The ORFA t-shirts in the colours of the Palestinian flag with ORFA logo on the front:

Youth Visit from Ramallah, 2011

From 19th to 31st July 2011, ORFA organised a visit by a small group of young people, four children and two youth leaders, from Al Amari Camp, Ramallah. The children were aged 13, two girls and two boys (Lara, Basant, Mustafa and Mohammed), and the leaders were a young man of 21 (Mohammed, who came on the first kids' visit in 2005) and a young woman of 20 (Akka). They had all taken part in the video training in Al Amari, which ORFA helped to set up, and while here they had a few days training with Oxford Film and Video Makers.

The young people arrived in Oxford on the 20th July, when they enjoyed a picnic in University Parks, and on the 21st they visited the Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museums. On Friday 22nd they had a tour around BBC Oxford TV and Radio Studios:

After this they went punting, and ended the day with a reception in a house in north Oxford:

On Saturday morning they visited the Ashmolean Museum. The central picture is a view of Silwan in East Jerusalem, by Bomberg.

The older ones then visited a debate on human rights at the BMW Mini Plant:

On the Sunday they all went to Bournemouth, their first ever visit to the sea:

They had video classes from Monday to Wednesday:

On the Tuesday evening they went to a Ceilidh organised by the Woodcraft Folk. Here they met young people from the West Bank and Gaza who were also visiting Oxford:

On Wednesday evening they went to a Barbecue at a large house in Abingdon:

On Thursday they took a tour of Oxford:

and in the afternoon met the first ever Jewish Mayor of Oxford, Elise Benjamin at the Town Hall:

This was followed by a visit to a street theatre:

They visited London on the last Friday:

And ended with a meal out with lots of supporters on Saturday. What a packed programme!

Here are some of their comments after they returned home:

Mustafa: "I didn't expect that one day I will visit a place in Europe. I liked everything. I still talk to my friends about England. I enjoyed the sea because it was the first time I saw the sea. I enjoyed the warm swimming pool in Antha's house. I hate working but I enjoyed the workshop because we learned something new."

Mohammed: "My ambition was to go outside Ramallah but flying in a plane is a strange thing to me. I liked it! I enjoyed playing football in the big green park. I enjoyed the sea for the same reason as Mustafa. The workshop was fun because we made the models, and after that we saw it as video."

Lara: "I spoke english with people in England. I realized that they can understand us with many mistakes in my english, which motivated me to support my english. I liked the house that we stayed in. It is amazing. I liked the second part in the Flash workshop because I drew something and I could make my drawing move."

Basant: "I missed mum so much, but I forgot her when I saw the care from the people in Oxford. I liked London and Big Ben. I tell my friends that I visited the place where Prince William had his wedding party. I enjoyed making models in the workshop."

Akka: "I liked everything. England is a wonderful place. I don't think this trip will be repeated again. I liked responsibility which broke the barrier of fear in my life."

Mohammed: "I need days to talk about Oxford and ORFA's people, those people who gave us a lot of their time just to help the Palestinian people. I met new people and felt as if I was with Palestinian people. I went London and felt like a stranger, but when I went back to Oxford it felt like home. We hope to see you all in Palestine. Palestine needs people like you."

More on Facebook and YouTube.

Media Training Project, 2010/11

Proposal to support media training in Al Amari Camp

During a recent visit to Ramallah to join in the olive picking harvest, ORFA representatives discussed the possibility of setting up a long-term media training programme with residents of Al Amari, building on the success of the video workshops, which took place with groups of young people on previous visits. The aim is to support a one year community-based media training course in Al Amari, which will act as a pump-priming project to facilitate the creation of sustainable, locally managed media resources in the camp. A group will learn video making skills and aim to produce a short film. If successful, further funding is likely to be forthcoming from sources in the West Bank.

Based at the Women's Programme Centre in the camp, and working with Idioms, a film making unit in Ramallah, participants will be encouraged to engage in new and diverse forms of creative self-expression. The aim is to develop confidence in communication, information technology and team working; foster community cohesion, and help mitigate the community's sense of isolation. Moreover, these skills may have potential economic value for employment opportunities in a range of different fields.

This project extends and develops the work of ORFA both in Ramallah and Oxford. It will replace the previously discussed youth visit for Summer 2010 and we are planning that it will lead to a small group visiting in 2011.

The full proposal is available in pdf format. We have raised more than two-thirds of the budget, and hope to start the project in the early summer. Further contributions will be gratefully received.

You can make a donation in support of this project to ORFA through PayPal, from your credit/debit card or PayPal account.

Youth Visit to Palestine, 2008

Our main project for 2008 was a Youth Visit from Oxford to Palestine. The report below is from Tony Richardson. Here is a BBC Oxford interview with Tony and Laila about the trip.

22nd July: Arrival

The 9 young people from Oxford and 5 accompanying adults arrived in Israel safely.

23rd July: Jerusalem

In the morning we looked around the religious sites and historical buildings in the Old City. In the afternoon we went to the Burj Al Luq Luq Social Centre, in the Muslim part of the Old City. The director of the centre and large numbers of the young people were away demonstrating in another part of east Jerusalem, where the Israelis were knocking down a house. We were shown around the centre, which is the only largish area of green and space in the old city. Some Palestinians with international help built the centre there to counterract the Israeli plan of using the land to build a settlement in the Moslem quarter. As it is there is a small settlement nearby. The centre is mainly for children, with sports facilities and a library space to do homework. Also training for women, and for handicapped people. The homes are so crowded this is a vital service.

24th July: Ramallah

We arrive at our hotel, right next to our main destination: Al Amari refugee camp. We were taken to the camp's Womens Centre, where we were met by children who had visited Oxford through ORFA in previous years. The UNWRA Director of the Camp made a welcoming speech, as did the head of the Boys School. We had some food and drink provided by the ORFA supporters in the camp. Then the young people took us on a tour of the Camp, stopping at several houses for tea and cakes. We rounded off the day with Ice Cream in Ramallah.

25th July: Jericho

14 of us and 20 Palestinians from the Camp, mainly young people, headed off by coach towards the Dead Sea. We arrived at a checkpoint, approximately half a mile from the beach. Our coach was stopped, and the Israelis took all the Palestinians' IDs for checking. We became apprehensive when we saw Palestinian cars being turned around. Meanwhile coach loads of Israelis, as well as streams of their cars were going past us. They came back, and said the IDs were OK, but they were not letting Palestinians go to the Dead Sea. Remember this is about two miles from a 10,000 year old Palestinian City. An area that the Palestinians have always bathed in. When we got out of the coach to argue they gave a variety of reasons. They said come back Monday, they said we could get a pass from the Israeli DCO, which is closed on Friday, and they said that the Palestinians would steal from the Kibbutzim. The soldiers said we could go to the Beach, but no Palestinians. All of this on illegally occupied land. The road that we had come on is the main road to Jericho, and the Israelis have declared that they are going to forbid Palestinians on that. They will then have to go on small roads through the mountains. The coach then went to Jericho where we went in a leisure park which has a pool. A swim was followed by a barbecue and a rest in the shade. It was about 45 degrees. We all enjoyed a ride in a cable car up to an ancient Monastery, over the top of the excavations of the ancient walled city. Some then went on a bike ride in Jericho City. Then home.

26th July: Ramallah Old City

A walk round the Old City was followed by a talk on the history of Palestine, in Al Madabura's Offices. After eating, the young people went back to the camp and held a video training workshop. We wound up the day in the old market.

27th July: Arura Village

Our transport took us to the North Ramallah village of Arura. This is a gloriously beautiful village, with the hillsides covered in olive trees. The only problem is that you have to go through a checkpoint to get here, and the best road is Settler only. A tiny settlement controls the ability of several villages to travel. The roads the Palestinians have to use are so narrow you can hardly pass. Some of these roads were built by the British in the battle with the Ottoman empire. Some money comes in to the village from the gulf for clinics and schools, and some exiles build new houses, but this masks the dire poverty of the villagers. They have been well organised, and have jointly created a community centre and hold other activities. We were welcomed by kids' dances and a tour of the village and its facilities. Some of us even went into the new police station. There the man in charge said that he has to ask permission of the Israelis to go to the next village. The Israelis raid the village every night, and this is meant to be a Palestinian area. If the Israelis meet them on the street they order them to go back to their station. In the evening there was a party for two girls who had passed their exams. The women danced separately from the men. When much of the village had gone, and it was just family and us, it became mixed. We went back late having been given a great welcome.

28th July: Bethlehem

Off in our taxis on the Palestinian route to Bethlehem. It is a long winding, narrow road, with potholes everywhere, but we had no difficulty at the checkpoint. We went to Aida refugee camp. We met our hosts, the Lajee Centre, again a good example of Palestinian self organisation. For a small camp (4000) it is very impressive. It provides many training and education services, etc. The deputy Director described the situation of the camp, and gave examples of Israeli oppression. It is overlooked by settlements, and by Rachel's Tomb. The wall has been built along its edge. There is so much shooting that the girls school has had to change its entrance, and brick up its windows. As an outsider it seems to me this is the worst situation of a camp that I have seen. We then toured Bethlehem University, where the new registration was taking place. Then through the market to the Church of the Nativity. We had a tour around this, and headed home. For the young Palestinians with us this was their first time in Bethlehem.

29th July: Bir Zeit University.

Members of the student council took us on a tour. We saw the International Summer Camp, where people from abroad can come for a fortnight, do work in villages, and learn about Palestinian life. We were given a talk about the Arabic Language Courses available to foreign students, and had a meal in the canteen. Then back to the camp for another workshop.

29th July: Ramallah

We were given a talk about the work of the Palestine Red Crescent Society, the local version of the Red Cross. They do a huge quantity of medical work for Palestinians both in Palestine and the diaspora. They provide the main ambulance service as well other medical and community services. Some of our people agreed to give blood. In the afternoon after Bir Zeit the group visited Arafat's grave. In the evening we had a meal in the El Bireh Municipal Gardens.

30th July: Al Amari Camp, Ramallah

Our group gave video workshops for a Camp women's group and youth group. The young Palestinians then gave a Dabka Dance workshop. We visited a number of the people's houses for tea etc. In the evening we had a talk on the divisions in the society between the City and the Camps.

31st July: Al Amari Camp, Ramallah

Two more video workshops. Visit to the city, plus food provided by young Palestinians. More visits to people's houses. One house had on all its floors 43 people. One had a father in prison for 15 years, another for 18 years, another a brother for 18 months. On the way back to hotel we had to bypass the main Camp road because it was taken over by an all male wedding party.

1st August: Back to Jerusalem

Leaving party in the morning with several camp dignitaries. Gifts given out. Emails exchanged. Wonderful Palestinian food provided by the women of the camp. Into taxi and back to Jerusalem, on our way home.

Postscript

When we went to Ramallah on Wednesday 30th a couple of us saw and photographed a funeral cortege. This was a demonstration of people on foot and cars accompanying the body of 10 year old Ahmad Hasam Musa to his home village of Ni'lin. He was killed on Tuesday when throwing stones at Israeli soldiers after a demonstration against the Wall. I now learn that this cortege itself was teargassed by the Israelis when it reached the village. So much for regret for killing a 10 year old boy. Imagine this had happened to a Jewish funeral the whole world would rightly see any such action as obscene. As we left Ramallah on Friday the 1st August we learnt that Al Amari Camp's water had been cut off. Throughout August this happens for varying periods of time. But it is never cut off for the settlements and all the water is Palestinian but controlled by the Israelis. We all arrived home in England on Saturday safely.

Al Amari Teaching Resources Project

Al Amari Camp was created in 1949 on a 9 hectare plot of land, and an estimated 8,805 people now live there. It is situated between two major Palestinian cities, Ramallah and Al-Bireh, considered to be the richest in the Palestinian territories, and the economic and social disparities between camp residents and city dwellers are stark. Overpopulation places great pressure on the camp, which suffers extreme lack of space and resources. The UNRWA school serves approximately 2,200 pupils. The constrained conditions also mean that children are forced to play in the streets and alleys of the camp, putting their lives in danger. The lack of resources makes it difficult for students in the camp to compete with their peers in Ramallah and Al Bireh, especially in preparing for access to any higher education.

The project has two components:

  1. Teaching Room: Educational provision in Al Amari is weak and over-extended, and pupils are desperately in need of extra tuition, especially at secondary level, so that they may be eligible for university. Two English teaching programmes have already been established in the camp for 34 girls at 12th grade. Given the limited facilities, the classes are currently held in the sewing room in the Women's Community Center. With the Women's Center as implementing partner, ORFA seeks funding to establish a new teaching room in the Center which will serve the whole camp. The Center has a large hall on the third floor, part of which could be walled off and used for different school courses, as required. The funds would be held by the Center, and the room would only be used with the Center's authority and approval.

  2. Media Resources: During the 2007 visit to Oxford by children from Al Amari, money was raised to support the making of a participatory video by the students, with help from media and IT groups in Oxford. Workshops were held on basic filming and editing techniques, and students took DVD copies of the film back with them. Both students and teachers expressed great interest in developing a small media unit in the Teaching Room, so that young people in the camp and beyond could continue to explore the possibilities offered by digital video. Apart from being a useful and enjoyable training experience, the chance to link people's experience with the world outside is clear in the context of current restrictions on Palestinian lives. Use of the equipment will be supervised, and the project will be in charge of the two teachers who accompany the visits to Oxford, one of whom is chair of the Women's Center.

The outline budget is £4722, made up as follows:

Teaching Room:

Walls (aluminium) 25 sq metres, and decoration 1143
Teacher's desk & 25 student chairs with writing surface 564
white board, lockup cupboard & shelving 200
subtotal 1907

Media Resources:

1 computer, with simple editing software 500
2 video cameras, 2 tripods 1000
Gun Zoom mike, hand-held mike 200
Bags, fire wire, other incidentals 115
Projector 500
Contribution to running costs for first year 500
subtotal 2815

You can make a donation in support of this project to ORFA through PayPal, from your credit/debit card or PayPal account.

Children's Visit, 2007

Project Outline

Final Programme

Detailed Report

Oxford Mail Article

As in 2005, we brought a group of eight children (4 girls and 4 boys) aged 13-16, with two accompanying adults, from Al Amari refugee camp in Ramallah to Oxford for a fortnight in 2007. The project gave the children the opportunity to broaden their horizons, move without barriers and break their sense of isolation. This visit was both educational and allowed valuable time away from their difficult routine:

  • by creating links with schools and youth groups, arranging visits and making contacts that they took back with them;
  • through workshops with the Pegasus Youth Theatre Summer Project;
  • by giving them practice in English to help them in their future life, this visit also motivated them to carry on developing their English after their return.

Children living in Oxford also gained from this an understanding of life in Ramallah. A further outcome was that the two accompanying adults improved their personal development and skills.

The 2-week visit took place from 20th July to 6th August 2007. Programme for the first week:

  • reception with the Lord Mayor of Oxford;
  • school and other youth group visits;
  • sightseeing in Oxford and London.

The second week was a cultural week in collaboration with the Pegasus Youth Theatre Summer Project:

  • meeting local children including refugee children;
  • attending workshops (dance, music, drama);
  • participating in a performance on Friday August 3.

Mayor of Ramallah's Visit, 2007

Press Release

Fifteen months ago, Janet Michael won her place as the first woman mayor of a West Bank city, in Palestinian municipal elections that were agreed as free and fair by EU monitors. She is an independent, and a Christian, who won support from Hamas councillors. She said: I am not a politician. They are normal people, and we all want to run the city the best way we can for the benefit of the people.

Janet Michael was given a warm reception by town and gown when she visited Oxford on 8-10th March at the invitation of ORFA. Oxford Town Hall hosted her three times: a reception by the Deputy Mayor, Mary Clarkson; a public meeting as part of International Women's Festival; and a meeting with the Lord Mayor, Jim Campbell. At St Antony's College, Oxford University, Dr Eugene Rogan, head of the Middle East Centre, supported her call for an end to the Israeli occupation, "our main problem", as she put it, so that people in Ramallah and the whole of Palestine would be able to live a normal life. She spoke at Oxfam, and to BBC Oxford TV and radio.

Janet Michael told of Palestinian women coping with traumatised children. Their lives have been made worse in the past year by the economic blockade imposed by the US, Israel and the EU since Hamas was elected to run the Palestinian Authority - a whole people punished for electing the wrong lot. And she described how the Wall, built by Israel, is separating people in Ramallah from their land. They cannot even build a sewage plant on the outskirts of the city as the Israelis, who control the area, will not give permission.

Ms Michael was in the UK for a week, also visiting Birmingham, which has its own twinning initiative, and London for solidarity events, where she met with Prof. Hassassian, Palestinian Delegate to the UK. Her visit to Oxford highlighted the benefits of people here learning at first hand about life under occupation.

Janet Michael (right) with Councillor Caroline van Zyl at a reception in Oxford Town Hall given by Deputy Mayor Mary Clarkson, March 8 2007.

Children's Visit, July 2005

Children from the Al Amari refugee camp visited Oxford from 6th to 20th July 2005, on a 'trip of a lifetime' organised by ORFA. We are grateful to our main sponsors for this project:

Here is a short report by Jenny Stanton of Oxford PSC and ORFA, with photos.

"My eyes hurt from all the green". That was the comment from one child at the end of their first day in Oxford. Those of us in the Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association (ORFA) who had visited Al Amari, one of three refugee camps around Ramallah, could understand completely. The camp is a maze of narrow alleys and dusty pockmarked roads, overshadowed by concrete houses built ever upwards, as the refugees and their descendants are not allowed to built beyond the limits of camps marked out in 1948. This was one reason we had planned this two-week visit: to give a few children a glimpse of another world. There were eight children, four boys and four girls, in the group, mostly aged fourteen or fifteen; and two adult leaders, Ramadan and Refa. We had planned the visit over a period of more than a year, with several visits (self-financed) by members of ORFA to Ramallah to discuss details and help arrange visas, plus much fundraising and planning of the programme at this end. As ORFA has been going for three years, there are active people at the Ramallah end too, who helped particularly with the selection of the children. We were often asked about this. Criteria were: that the children had not been abroad before (bar one who had been to Jordan to visit relatives); they could speak some English; they came from the poorer families in Al Amari; and they had enough confidence to relate well to people they met here, and act - as Ramadan said - as young ambassadors for Palestine.

Jeremy Corbyn MP meets the kids from Al Amari at the House of Commons

Accommodation was obviously a big issue as we had a tight budget. Our aim was to place two children with each of four families, preferably with teenage kids. However, the girls' mothers stipulated that their daughters must be accompanied by Refa all the time and must stay with her at night, which caused changes in our plans. Special thanks to Paul who vacated his bedsit for a week, and Niki who took all five into her house the second week. Thanks too to the other Niki and Tim and their families who put up two boys each. Dave found a soulmate in Ramadan who liked walking everywhere, smoking and talking about philosophy late into the night.

Al Amari children and Oxford friends at Cotswold Wildlife Park

The ORFA treasurer, Delphine, worked wonders with securing discounts, and she, Lana and Miriam organised an amazing programme, with input from many supporters. Tony had asked the children, while interviewing them beforehand, what they most wanted to do and they had said: 'See the countryside, and Big Ben.' So they had a weekend in the Cotswolds at Luke and Jean's big house, a trip to the wildlife park at Burford, and a night camping at a farm. In Oxford itself, we took them around colleges; to meet a sixth-form politics group; to a Woodcraft Folk barbeque; and to Brookes University where they excelled on the climbing wall! The City Council gave us free entry to the ice rink and swimming pool, and the Lord Mayor hosted a reception. There was a lunchtime meeting with Oxfam workers, a tour of the BMW factory, and wonderful feasts hosted by a Lebanese restaurant and by local people in their homes.

At Jean and Luke's house in the Cotswolds

For the two days in London, Shama, a London teacher, organised two school visits, a turn on the Millennium Wheel, an Aquatic Boat Tour, a picnic in Regents Park with prayers at the Central Mosque for those who wished, and a visit to the Science Museum. The group visited the House of Commons and met with Jeremy Corbyn on the same day that many of us from PSC were there for the lobby about Israel's WMD.

Picnic at the farm

The children also went to Brighton, thanks to Tariq who took care of them there. It was their first time of seeing the sea. For each event, two or more ORFA members accompanied the group, as well as Ramadan and Refa, who really needed a holiday at the end. The whole process was exhausting, exhilarating and rewarding - and that's just speaking for those of us at this end. We felt that many people who would not usually be drawn into Palestine support work were attracted by the children's visit, and that it generated enormous goodwill on both sides.

Punting

ORFA is separate from Oxford PSC though membership overlaps, and serves a complementary function. Those in PSC who doubted the effectiveness of all the effort put into this trip were won over when they saw it in action. The City Council, while not officially involved in ORFA, proved supportive. We also gained local press, TV and radio coverage, and reached many people throughout Oxfordshire who had never previously heard of us. Young people in particular joined in helping with activities and enjoyed meeting the children. As for the three Muhammeds, Hussan, two Do'as, Sara and Nasreen, we think they will remember this trip for the rest of their lives.

Al Amari children in discussion with sixth formers at Cherwell School

Will we do it again? Certainly, though perhaps not in such an intensive way. We recommend having children this age, who can communicate - though without Ramadan's excellent English, things would have been much harder - and chosen for outward-going personalities as well as coming from families in need.

N.B. The group from Al Amari met up with children from Dheisha camp, Bethlehem (who were visiting Cheltenham) twice: at Burford Wildlife Park, and at the House of Commons. It would have been very difficult for them to meet up in the West Bank.

Weekend in the Cotswolds.

Weekend in the Cotswolds.

Visiting the BMW Mini manufacturing plant.

Taming the ice.

Discussion at Oxfam.

Guided tour of the Ashmolean Museum.

Parliament from the London Eye.

On the beach at Brighton.

Boat trip on the Isis.

At the Burford Wildlife Park.

At Cherwell School.

At Cherwell School.

On the climbing wall at Oxford Brookes University.

At the evening farewell party.