19 February 2003

Youngest team-member

The youngest member of the all-volunteer Dove and Dolphin team has proved invaluable – especially now intense work is under way in Gaza.
Twenty-four-year old Stuart Lawley is less than half the age of his three team-mates with whom he sailed from Torquay.
And he is many years the junior of two others who met the team when they docked in the Israeli port of Ashdod.
Expedition leader David Halpin has appreciated the way Stuart has meshed in with the team and been of real, practical help.
He told his wife Sue in a phone conversation:
“Stuart got on really well with the young folk in the crew and put up with us older folk on the boat coming out here and since we arrived in Israel and now in Gaza, having to hump around cargo, we have really appreciated his help.
“He has been great. A real star.”
The Dove and Dolphin team is in Gaza distributing food, clothing and medical aid to families in need.
The whole trip and most of the cargo has been financed by David and Sue Halpin, from Haytor in Devon, whose aim is to raise awareness of suffering – especially amongst families and children – and to show that something practical can be done about it on a “citizen to citizen” basis.
It is a humanitarian mission without any political, religious or government allegiance.
Stuart’s involvement comes through a Devon-based organisation called C-far which helps young adult offenders to “forge meaningful lives as worthy citizens.”
They take part in a 12-month programme called “life change” which involves a 11-week residential phase and nine months follow-up contact.
Each participant has access to a volunteer mentor who offers advice and guidance to help them achieve their goals.
Referrals to the scheme come from prison officers, probation officers and the courts.
Formed in 1997, C-far is a charity and can take 87 people a year.
The national rate for reconviction of young adult offenders is 75 per cent. Only 35 per cent of C-far participants re-offend.
That, says Susanne Watt of C-far, is an excellent achievement. And she is confident figures will improve as the scheme matures and monitoring systems improve.
Stuart’s involvement with the Dove and Dolphin will help him achieve his ambition of finding a career in international aid work, says Susanne.
“I think it will have opened his eyes to the way the rest of the world lives and motivate him to continue on the Life Change and develop a positive outlook for future.
“I spoke to David who assured me that everything was OK. It was at a poignant time when they were driving through a volatile area. They were all very nervous.
“I spoke to Stuart too and I could hear the concern in his voice. His words were that it was ‘very disturbing to see the deprivation and the alert that every one there was on’”.
No other rehabilitation scheme for young offenders has such a wide-ranging programme, says Susanne.

Extract from commentary from David Halpin in Gaza City. Tuesday 18th February.

“It was a day of many images both in the mind and the camera. The division, packing and distribution of the 50 plus tons of food started. A great deal of preparatory work has preceded this.
“For instance, a local network of citizens here in Gaza and south in Khan Younis have drawn up lists of the most needy families.
“All together about 2000 families will receive the 'packs' of food. The honey - which was sold to us at cost (a past and very amateur beekeeper knows that the true cost is higher) by the South Devon Beekeeper's Association has been declared to be of a high quality!
“Honey was at one time in good supply in Palestine and it is very highly regarded for its health giving properties in little ones.
“We took the specially printed 'Dove' food tickets to 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.
“The 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 (he had lost his first wife) and 27 children! I will explain more after this hurried e-mail.”