Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei’s third tour of the US in November 2018 got off to a jittery start when Israel subjected the Gaza Strip to days of bombardments just as he was preparing to leave, permits in hand.
With his departure delayed, he was unable to be present at California State University in San Bernardino on November 13 to speak about the frightening reality confronting Gazans – ‘Living Under Complex Trauma: On Borders, Violence & Militarism.’ Instead, he was live streamed from Amman.
When he finally arrived on the west coast, Dr. Yasser immediately hit his stride, with talks at churches, a community center and a university in Portland, Olympia, Seattle and Spokane.
Here is how Cindy Corrie described the November 16th event she helped arrange in Olympia, the state capital of Washington:
“We filled a room at The Olympia Center with guests that included mental health providers, former members of a Rachel Corrie Foundation delegation to Gaza, local activists, a staff member from Congressman Denny Heck’s local office, and more. Dr. John Van Eenwyk, a colleague of the late GCMHP founder, Eyad Sarraj, and a visitor to Gaza over the past several decades, joined Yasser in conversation.
“We heard about the challenges to Yasser’s travel to the U.S., obstacles at Erez checkpoint for all Palestinians, about what has driven the extended Great March of Return in Gaza this year, and how the Gaza Community Mental Health Program is continuing to support the mental health needs of the confined and threatened Gaza population as conditions under Israeli occupation and siege continue to deteriorate.
“It was a short one-hour, lunchtime visit, and questions for Yasser could have extended indefinitely, but guests reported that this brief but thoughtful and most human connection was enough to bring them closer to the people and realities of Gaza. Our smaller community generously supported the funding effort for the new GCMHP facility, and we were delighted that at least one mental health provider attending came away interested in joining a medical delegation to Gaza.”
The tour maintained its rapid tempo after Dr. Yasser flew to the east coast during Thanksgiving week. He spoke about conditions in Gaza, trauma and resilience at well-attended meetings at Boston University, Boston College and the Harvard Medical School.
A house party in his honor brought GCMHP a big stride nearer to its goal of raising sufficient funds to finish its new headquarters.
As Dr. Yasser explained in his fundraising appeal:
“While we are doing our best to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians, we are also building for the day when Palestine will be free. Our new Center in Gaza City now stands ready to be furnished and equipped. We are now seeking to raise the final $110,000 that is needed to put the building at the service of the community, and hope to move into it in March 2019.
“It will contain our community mental health center offering counseling and therapy, our training and research department which enhances the capacity of hundreds of health workers each year, play rooms for the treatment of children, our publications unit and administration. The building will enable the $80,000 which we pay each year for rent to be spent directly on programs and treatment.”
Dr. Abu Jamei’s final talk in Cambridge MA took place at a spirited standing room only cultural celebration, ‘Gaza’s on My Mind.’ After being given a warm embrace by the community, he flew to Washington DC. There he participated in interviews and a round-table discussion, and held meetings with government representatives at which he described what the 11-year-long siege and current devastation in the Gaza Strip means for the mental health of Gaza’s residents.
We are pleased to report that by the time Dr. Yasser arrived home, the generous $20,000 matching grant offered to the GCMHP by the United Palestinian Appeal (UPA) had been fully met.