14 February 2003

All ship shape approaching Ashdod

The Dove and Dolphin mission to Gaza is nearing the end of its voyage to the port of Ashdod in Israel.
This incredible journey – fuelled by humanitarian ambition – will put tonnes of food, medical supplies, clothing and raw materials directly into the hands of the people of Gaza.
Arrival in Ashdod is expected to be late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, Israeli time.
David Halpin, expedition leader, is thoughtful and thankful as their boat – the M V Barbara – gets ever closer to Ashdod, where the cargo will be transferred to waiting lorries.
He has a team on the ground recently arrived from the UK which has made sure all documentation is in order and local rules and regulations complied with.
They have also arranged the transport and made contact with distribution networks in Gaza.
David is grateful for the work they have done and for the efforts of his wife Sue.
She has been kept very busy back at home in Devon, securing certificates, handling queries and dealing with hundreds of letters, phone calls and emails wishing the mission success.
Donations have also been coming in.
Well over £20,000 has now been donated, which offsets the £95,000 David and Suee have spent from their own resources to charter the boat and buy its cargo.
From the M V Barbara off the southern coast of Crete David thanked all those who had helped smooth the way for this “citizen to citizen” venture.
He said:
“All the certification is now right. We will have hard copies of some waiting for us in Ashdod, to replace faxed copies which are not acceptable.
“The authorities in Israel are being co-operative in every respect. I have been heartened by their response, understanding the sensitivity of the moment.”
On board the Barbara the real nature of the mission is foremost in everyone’s mind.
People, says David, can be forgiven for imagining potential problems in what is a tense area in tense times.
He says:
“I keep reminding the group that what we are doing is unexceptional; i.e., taking much needed food and clothing to the poorest children with the complete co-operation of citizens in Gaza.”
They intend to waste no time once they reach Ashdod.
Lorries will be loaded as early as possible on Sunday and the convoy will head off for the Gaza border, where the cargo will be transferred to local transport.
Networks on the ground in Gaza will then distribute the goods to those in need via village elders.
“I understand from our team there that our arrival will be during a local festival where people traditionally give little presents to each other. That’s a happy coincidence which I regard as significant,” said David.
By Wednesday the Dove and Dolphin’s team’s work will be over. They will have achieved what they had set out to do and show that people working together can help and support each other – despite being thousands of miles apart.
They expect to fly home on Thursday at the latest.