After some initial successful fundraising, the Northern Beaches Committee for Palestine, a project group of the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine (CJPP), succeeded in bringing out two young men from Gaza to Manly in late 2019 to learn how to establish a surf club along Australian lines. After training at the North Steyne Surf Lifesaving Club, Mohammed Saleh and Hasan Alhabil returned to Gaza, aiming to set up a club and a Nippers programme to teach Palestinian children about surf safety and swimming.
The Gaza Surf Project on the ground in Manly
At Manly’s North Steyne Club, in 2020, Mohammad and Hasan participated in patrols, undertook board and surf rescue training, gained CPR and first aid skills, observed Nippers to find out how to run a Nippers program and learned how to manage and administer a surf lifesaving club. They also undertook Bronze Medallion training with Mohammed obtaining his Surf Rescue Certificate and Hasan achieving his Bronze Medallion. With help from their many new surf club friends, they were able to appreciate and embrace the Australian surf lifesaving culture.
On returning to Gaza, their priority has been to establish a Nippers program. Initially, for kids aged six to ten, it will be open to both boys and girls, who will undertake all training and activities together. Co-ed programs such as this are very rare in Gaza, so that the Gaza Beach Nippers program will be breaking new ground. The next phase will be establishing a fully-fledged Gaza Beach Surf Lifesaving Club.
By supporting this project, we aim to provide the children of Gaza, suffering from sixteen years of the Israeli siege, with a safe place to play and to learn to swim. There are several drownings in Gaza each year. With high unemployment and mass poverty, surf lifesaving will not only keep people safe on the beach but provide an important outlet for youth involvement in sporting, social and community activities.