Sunday, 15 March 2009


[Photos: both taken at Alderhey Children's Hospital. The people besides our 2 guests (and John Lennon) are Nahida, our Bil'in group member, Moya Sutton, Executive Nurse, Gina Shaw, senior nurse and member of our Bil'in group, and Richard Brown, Head of Equality and Diversity.]

Visit of Two Palestinian Women to Liverpool: 5-8 March 2009

The eagerly awaited visit of Najat and Wasfia from the West Bank has now come and gone and all those who prepared the visit and met and accompanied the women are left with a really positive sense that we achieved the maximum possible out of the visit and that we are now launched on the path of multiple community involvement that will lead to a significant expansion of the twinning links in a variety of creative ways. This was our primary aim. Another important aim was to maintain and raise our own commitment by allowing our members to hear at first hand about life under occupation and meeting women who told their moving stories. Our third aim was to enable the women to experience directly the support that exists for their cause and the warmth of concerned people here. They need that support very much as it’s easy to feel isolated in their constant daily struggle. We achieved all of these aims.

The women had a fairly punishing schedule, especially on the Friday, and we have identified the lack of relaxation time as the chief fault in the planning. In making a schedule of visits for them we had been guided mainly by what we knew of their professional interests and their programme was as follows:

On Thursday soon after arrival by train from London they met a group of medics in a member’s home, followed by a meeting in the Liverpool Mosque with a large group of Moslem women.
On Friday they spent the morning and had lunch at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital where they were shown around and met patients, nursing staff, children and staff in the nursery, a chaplain and several senior members of staff. The afternoon was divided between the Sure Start Children’s Centre in Kensington and the Greenhouse after-school project in Toxteth. They were then whisked over to Manchester where the PSC group wanted to talk about becoming a twinning group themselves. They arrived home shattered at midnight.
On Saturday they joined our monthly vigil on the steps of St. Luke’s where there was an opportunity for individuals to chat with them and where they were interviewed by a reporter from the Liverpool Echo/Post.
At 3pm they led a seminar for International Women’s Day at the celebrations at Liverpool University Student Guild which was followed by a farewell meal at the Sahara Restaurant for members.
On Sunday morning before leaving for the second stage of their journey in Pendle, Lancs., they spoke to a gathering after Mass at St. Helen’s Church in Crosby. A nice touch here was that the priest welcomed them from the pulpit in Arabic.

So what were the new initiatives that came as a result of the visit of the women?

1. The group of doctors is planning to co-operate with the medical department of Bir
Zeit university over the primary healthcare needs of the Bil’in district to
establish where they can have a useful input.
2. Alder Hey Hospital is very keen to take initiatives at all levels and in a variety
of ways. More discussions will take place between senior staff and management.
Initial responses are that the nursery would like to supply toys and equipment to
Najat’s village nursery which has nothing in the way of equipment and not even
enough chairs for all the children. Conversely the hospital would like an input
from us about handling sensitive cultural issues with Moslem families as well as an
input into the arts programmes for the children.
3. Kensington Children’s centre were also keen to develop links with the services for
pre-school children in the Bil’in.
4. The Greenhouse Project gave the women a DVD of their teenage dance group and
we shall ask the national twinning visit going from Britain to Palestine in April if
they will bring back a video of dabka dancing from Bil’in.
5. The Manchester visit resulted in a decision by Manchester PSC group to twin with
the city of Nablus, following the example of Manchester University which is
already linked to An-Najah University in Nablus.
6. Several students at the University of Liverpool want to establish direct email
links with students from Bil’in and a list of email addresses has been sent over to
find individual ‘penpals’.

Please get in touch if you have any more ideas you’d like to pursue – the possibilities are almost endless and the rewards at both ends are great.

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