Run for Palestine Shines
On the morning on September 17th the city was heavy with fog as I drove my minivan to meet Jen at the office. Although the air war as thick as soup and the grass was dewy, it was the kind of day I knew would turn out nice.
I had been asked to introduce Glia during Run for Palestine, a fundraising event with proceeds going to a maternity ward at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza.
On my drive over, I practiced my mini-speech. I didn’t feel nervous but I wanted to sound prepared and professional so it was worth it to say it out loud a few times to an audience of no one, prior to an audience of many.
As I pulled up to meet Jen I could tell she was excited. She mentioned she had gone to bed late and woke up early fussing over details for the day. I laughed a little as I noticed my two main contributions: two crisp white tablecloths and empty minivan. We grabbed the rest of the gear and loaded up.
The visibility on the roads was already beginning to clear as we headed toward Greenway Park. Our conversation was positive and lively, so much so that we missed the entrance and had to turn around. When we finally made it to the lot, we could see peaks of vendor tents, a food truck, and a crowd of runners in blue shirts already starting to congregate. We wandered away from the van and were greeted by a lush soccer field and smiling event organizers ready to help us find our way.
We were introduced to Nehal Al Tarhuni, the event coordinator. I quickly decided her highlighter-like, pink shirt was a thoughtful gesture so people could locate her in the sea of blue. I could tell this wasn’t her first time organizing an event of this size. She, too, greeted us with a smile and thanked us for coming. Her clipboard signaled to us that she was busily getting organized so we left it at that and found our space.
Our booth was among many vendors setting up their goods to sell or share. I instantly felt a sense of community and was hopeful participants would be able to quickly make the connection between Glia’s presence and the Palestinian cause of this event. Any concerns evaporated almost immediately as we continued to be welcomed by more smiles and friendly faces.
It took us less than half an hour to set up. The booth looked great. We took some photos and Jen and I both wore our logo proudly. We even had a few moments to sit, chat ,and grab a bite to eat before the first guest arrived at our booth. We watched as the stage was erected in front of a bright white goal post. By now the sun had really done its job burning the fog off the field. Aside from the occasional pesky wasp, the day was shaping up perfectly.
The first visitor was a young nurse. He happily explained that he knew about Glia and Tarek Loubani, Glia’s Medical Director and Founder. He wanted to know if there might be any employment opportunity with our organization. He went on further to describe his education both in Canada and Gaza, and his interest in working in our Gaza office. I was delighted to engage him. We exchanged contact info and I promised to follow-up.
From there, the visitors trickled in slowly. We were greeting other vendors, volunteers, and participants. Quite a few had heard of our work before and wanted to stop and chat to see how things were going.
Each one had different questions, and I answered them as thoughtfully as I could, while Jen scribbled down notes as I spoke. As Glia’s Community Manager, Jen is determined to engage our guests with the most accurate and current information on our international work. I suppose I realized in that moment that my years of exposure and experience with Glia gave me a bit more confidence to speak to what was happening in Gaza, although I had never been there myself.
As the race time drew nearer and the field began to fill with more blue shirts, we continued to entertain patrons at our booth. Often the conversation would start with an inquiry about Tarek’s whereabouts. Someone would cautiously ask, “Doesn’t Tarek Loubani work here?” or “Is this the same thing that Tarek Loubani is a part of?” I would smile, appreciating Tarek’s glowing reputation, and explain that he was working up north that weekend. Then the inquirer’s smile would fade just a little and they would nod with a mix of disappointment and understanding. At first, I wasn’t sure what to do. How could I compare to his reputation within the Palestinian community, especially as he was a member himself? I pivoted. I introduced Jen and myself, and asked the patron what they knew about Glia. As it turned out, most people were as excited about Glia’s work as they were about Tarek and the conversation flowed easily.
As we reached the middle of the day, I checked the time and knew I had to leave shortly. Islamic Relief Canada had now taken the stage, reporting on all the good endeavours that would come as result of the funds being raised that day. Together, these donations will help purchase equipment such as; examination beds, blood pressure devices, ECGs and more, ensuring a protective and dignified environment for pregnant women and their newborn babies in the Gaza Strip. I quickly realized that I wouldn’t have a chance to introduce Glia since I had some other commitments happening in the afternoon. I was a little disappointed, but we had already had so many genuine conversations with people that had dropped by to meet us, I felt confident that I had spread the message about Glia well.
Shortly after, I wished Jen good luck as the blue shirts took to the starting line. I crossed over the field thinking about how much I wish I could have stayed to enjoy the sunny day and inhale the energy of the crowd that came out to support a wonderful cause.
When I got settled back into my minivan, I said my mini-speech anyway, for an audience of no one:
“Glia is a company that makes open source medical devices often using technologies such as 3D printing. We are very excited to be here at Run for Palestine. It’s an event we’ve wanted to get involved with for a long time and I’m glad we finally here.
I started working with Glia in 2014 and at the time I knew very little about Palestinians, Palestinian culture or Palestine itself. And over the past 8 years I have gotten to know a few important things. Palestinians are hardworking and very intelligent . They’re kind, they are generous, they are warm and very passionate people – and I know the people of Palestine deserve access to the same medical care that we all have here in Canada.
I think it’s fantastic that Run for Palestine and Islamic Relief Canada are able to partner together to bring better medical care to Al Shifa Hospital. Glia has many wonderful connections with the folks at Al Shifa and we try to help ensure the doctors there have the medical equipment they need.
If you would like to learn more about us, please come say hello at our booth. Thank you so much for being here. And thanks for having us. “
I hope it would have resonated with the blue shirts on that sunny field. The only place you can speak from, is the heart.
Executive Director, Glia
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