20 February 2003

Mission accomplished

Mission accomplished. Brave men come home.

- meet the Dove and Dolphin team tonight at Heathrow
- or tomorrow (Friday) for interviews/photographs in Devon.
- hear what they want to do next.

Background and up to date news story follows.

My contact details below.

Paul White

Six brave Englishmen arrive at Heathrow airport tomorrow night after getting aid through to malnourished and embattled Palestinians against heavy odds.

Battling against heavy seas, suspicious officialdom, nervous border guards and being close witness to aggression on the streets, they completed their humanitarian mission as planned.

All six are volunteers. Mission leader David Halpin – and his wife Sue – have paid for the whole expedition at a cost of around £95,000.

That has paid for food, medical and clothing aid, the cost of chartering a cargo vessel and all administrative and living bills along the way.

David and Sue were determined to show that a "citizen to citizen" approach could make a real difference.

No government backing, no religious group or politician involved. Just people to people.

And they did it. They have been with the cargo over stormy seas, through tense border posts and finally they have seen it reach the very hands that need it most.

In Gaza City and the refugee camp of Khan Yunis they have been in to local homes and with local families, with local organisers, directly distributing the goods.

One team member, John Maughan, described one incident:

"It came through grapevine that trouble had started we are all together at the time in minibus seen over by the local man who has set up the Gaza end of the project.

"He got us back to apartment in time and we could hear the attacks - which you have no doubt heard about - in the distance.

"Have just come from the site now where we were able to talk to locals about what actually happened."

When they visited the Khan Yunis refugee camp, David wrote:

"Today went to Khan Yunis which is a refugee settlement and saw what must be
the most hostile human habitation on earth. People are living in indescribable conditions."

Earlier, David Halpin described the aid distribution process.

"A local network of citizens here in Gaza and south in Khan Yunis have drawn up lists of the most needy families. All together about 2000 families will receive the 'packs' of food.

"It is evident that everything is being dealt with scrupulously by Adli Hammad, his friend Saleh and all their youthful helpers.

"All that I had discussed and requested over the 'phone with Adli is happening on the ground, including an emphasis on pregnant and nursing mums in the poorest families.

"We visited two families in the morning. The first was headed up by a young mum who was living in one room with her husband and seven children.

"The baby was about nine months old and he was sickly.

"Next sibling 'up' was hardly better. Four bottles of antibiotics were on the dresser. "The second family consisted of a vigorous Mum, her blind husband and 27 children!"

Four volunteers left Torquay in Devon on 1st February for the port of Ashdod in Israel, where they met up with the two more helpers who had flown out earlier as an advance party.

The team then went to the checkpoint at Erez, where they went through into Gaza. John Maughan described the process:

"Travelled by minibus to Erez passenger check point while lorries had to go to Karni checkpoint. Erez was extremely intimidating with teenagers bristling with guns on the Israeli side. Must be getting old.

"Had to walk with all our luggage down a half mile concrete alley… no man’s land littered with spent bullet cases - to Palestinian checkpoint."

Now they are on their way home with two colleagues who met them when they landed in Israel and have been with them ever since.

They are glad to be back. Glad to have done what they set off to do.

And they are talking about doing it again!


Dove and Dolphin Diary Date

David Halpin and his team of volunteers arrive at Heathrow airport tonight (Thursday) night, 20th February.

They are happy to be interviewed and photographed at the airport. Full details of how and where to meet them are given below but please contact the press office at Heathrow for the required permissions and passes.

The press office number is 0208 745 7224.

The party is due to arrive on a BA flight from Tel Aviv at approx 8.00 p.m. at terminal four.

We expect it will be around 8.30/9.00 p.m. before they emerge.

The party waiting to greet them will be carrying a small banner/flag bearing the Dove and Dolphin emblem. They will be at the terminal well in advance of the expected arrival.

Your contact in the greeting party will be Mrs. Sue Halpin.

Once interviews are complete, the party will travel back to Exeter in Devon by road, expecting to arrive between midnight and 1.00 a.m.

The party will then disperse.

Individuals will be available for interviews etc the next day (Friday) after approx 11.00 a.m.

Please contact Paul White Communications to make arrangements for interviews on Friday.