Annual Earthstewards Gathering 2005

Harry Troelstra from the Netherlands, one of the key organizers for the PeaceTrees/Gathering in Bethlehem has been keeping a diary since his arrival in Bethlehem. Here are those entries on a daily basis.

Thank you, Harry, for bringing this event home to so many of us who dearly wish we could be there physically, but for many reasons are not able to attend. You know our hearts and prayers are with you all.



June 14th, 2005

So what happened today? I think the best way to report it would be to start from the end and working my way backwards. Though this is rather unconventional, I've opted for this as it is slightly different and I think that the most important events of yesterday took place at the end of the day.

After dinner, whilst still sitting at the table drinking coffee or hot chocolate (why not in this temperature!), we engaged in one of those wonderful conversations in which we solved all major problem of this world and especially those of the region we are currently in. Furthermore, on this occasion we seemed to agree unanimously on most that was being said so the whole thing was peaceful and very satisfying. And sitting together like this really helped to get to know each other a bit better including those who had arrived earlier today: Trish, Palden and others.

In the afternoon five of us went over to meet the Mayor of Al Khader. Ibrahim felt it would be helpful if he met a couple of us. Our visit also served the purpose of talking to the Mayor about the opening ceremony of the Peace Trees project on Monday and the project in general. We were welcomed by the Mayor's secretary and were lucky that, after about five minutes, the mayor actually arrived and was willing to talk to us for a while.

For me this was the first opportunity to get a feeling of the real and significant support for our project and what to expect from the local government in terms of support. And thankfully, after a while, the Mayor really became involved and enthusiastic. He envisioned an ongoing five-year project that would result not only in trees planted in the farms near the school and in the stretch of land separating two roads. He also nicely suggested the implementation of an irrigation system to keep the trees along the road alive. No doubt he is a supporter!

His enthusiasm led him to suggest the realisation of a public park in the future. Sadly, he said he would need funding and cheekily suggested if we Internationals could come up with an idea for funding! It's rather poignant that children in this part of the world don't really have a haven where they can play and unwind; something that is taken for granted where we come fromů

In the morning we finally worked our way through the programme for the two weeks of the project. The next two weeks will be pretty dense! During most of the time, two parallel programmes will be running (Peace Trees and something else) and we think that we will have about 50 people (25 internationals and 25 locals) here most of the time. And then we are hoping to get the occasional visitors who will join us. I am so happy and grateful that we will have the help of a group of miracle workers that consists of cooks, cleaners and those who can share their tree-planting expertise with us.

So at the end of yesterday I started to realise just how much work still has to be done before we actually start the project. The tasks are not complicated as such; it is just the "To Do" list is endless! Well, I guess I have found my niche as I'm good at making lists and worrying about them. And what I'm not really taking into account is that the number of people here is growing day by day. And if each one of them offers a helping hand, we'll be just fine I suppose.

There is just one more thing I'd like to share with you. You are probably aware that water is scarce here. The supply system is something that needs some explanation. The school is located on a hill anyways but the reservoirs storing rain water during the wintertime, are located underneath the second building of the school (still under construction) which is situated further down this hill. The water is pumped up from the reservoirs to the top of the main building (5 storeys high) and heated with the aid of solar panels on the roof. A second pump then creates additional pressure (gravity is responsible for the rest of it) so there is running water everywhere in the building: a great system that operates manually. Which means that it starts with someone turning on the pump to pump water to the top of the building and after a while turning that pump off (only so much water can be stored up there!). Then all of us start using water until, you must have guessed already, all the water is used up. And the water always seems to run out while I'm having a shower and worse, just after I have soaped myself. Well, such is life!

Greetings,
Harry

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