Report by Kathy Brooks
A Tuesday night in November and we’re discussing what to do for our next fundraising event. Someone suggests a sponsored walk. ‘I don’t think we’ll raise much money doing that’ says one sceptic. But the rest of the group think it’s a good idea – we might get 10 or 12
people on the walk and raise £400 or £500 – which would be great. So it’s agreed and we start to plan.
We form a sub group to decide on a route. Not bad considering that, at the time, we are a group of only 6!. The sub group suggests a 7 mile walk from Marsden to Uppermill taking in moorland, canals, railways and the industrial heritage of our area. 7 miles – about the width of the Gaza Strip. 7 miles – that we will walk in peace and solidarity with the Palestinian people. 7 miles – that we will walk freely, in sharp contrast to the Palestinians in Gaza who are prevented from leaving ‘the Strip’.
Once agreed, the sub group ‘test walks’ the route – several times. They note the terrain, timings, potential hazards and alternative paths in case of inclement weather (not unheard of in Saddleworth!). They make slight adjustments and the route is finalised.
We agree on a date, 10th May, and check that it’s not going to clash with any other local events – but still we miss the fact that it clashes with the Manchester 10k fun run. Never mind, one of our group will do the run and raise money for the Scholarship Fund.
Then our publicity machine swings into action (well, one women, a PC and a mailing list). We send out basic information about the walk – the date and broad details of the route. We get some replies and it looks as though maybe 14 or 15 people will be walking. Perhaps we can raise £600 or £700.
It’s now January and another Tuesday night meeting. Someone suggests that we read out a few poems when we stop for rest breaks along the way. That’s agreed and she finds poems that will speak to hearts and minds. Poems that are heartbreaking and inspiring in equal measure. Someone else says that people will need refreshments at the end of the walk. So we agree to put on tea, coffee and homemade cakes (we love to bake, as well as raise money).
More detailed publicity is issued, including a sponsorship form. We decide to send information to friends in Sheffield, Manchester and Huddersfield, as well as our usual supporters. We get more replies. Is it possible that there will be 20 people on the walk? How much money will we raise if that’s the case?
Three weeks to go – another Tuesday night meeting. What else needs to be done? We need to: organise lifts back to the starting point; decide where to read the poems; make arrangements for collecting sponsorship money and forms; carry out a risk assessment; obtain high viz jackets for the stewards; agree on who will say a few words at the start and end of the walk (and write those words); send out one more reminder about the event; agree post-event press releases; identify loo stops (not easy in open moorland); and dozen other small things. And, of course, we have to bake the cakes!
A week before the walk and it looks as though we may have 27 or 28 walkers – could we possibly raise £1,000?
The day of the walk. Dry and bright after a week of rain – relief all round. Marsden railway station, 10.30am and already 7 or 8 people have arrived. More come in cars, some from Sheffield, and the train arrives from Huddersfield. Soon there are over 20 of us and then the train arrives from Manchester. We now have 40 people on the walk, plus 2 running in the Manchester 10k fun run and 1 person doing a sponsored read. We can’t believe it!
We start the walk and soon we’re on the moors overlooking Marsden. There are people we’ve not met before along with old friends. People chat and admire the scenery. We listen to the poetry (some of us with tears in our eyes). We ‘guard’ the path as loo breaks are taken and continue walking and talking.
At lunch time we stop at the side of the canal. Some of us still have food left to eat, others make a side trip to buy ice cream from ‘Grandpa Green’s’. We start to collect the sponsorship money and have trouble keeping up – we must have raised more than £1,000. At the end of the lunch break we raise the Palestinian flag, much to the puzzlement of people having tea and coffee at the cafe.
Finally we reach the end of the walk and the promised tea, coffee and homemade cakes. We add up the money, and do it again as we can’t believe that we have already raised £1,900, and are on target to raise a total of £2,500! We hear news of our students and listen to their words written in letters sent to us just after Israel’s attack on Gaza last year. More tears. And then we tell people how much money we’ve raised!
But it’s not just about the money, important though that is. It’s about the people we’ve met, it’s about the exchange of ideas, it’s about friendship and solidarity, and it’s about all the individual conversations that we had about Palestine and the Scholarship Fund with our sponsors. But, ultimately, it’s about what all this means to the women we support and this is summed up by Heba in her letter:
‘‘I hope the Fund is able to help as many women as you can, especially given the financial difficulties that have resulted from the Israeli attack on Gaza. I hope that you continue with your efforts with people in Gaza especially women, given that women give society the most regardless of what Gaza is going through and they also need to continue their roles within their families. Our house was damaged and it became uninhabitable. Regardless of this we insisted on living and persevering to make our hopes and dreams come true. Again I would like to thank everyone who has made this scholarship happen.”
So thank you to everyone who made this event such an amazing success.
Catherine, Jacqui, Joy, Kathy, Michele, Sarah and Sue
Saddleworth Palestine Women’s Scholarship Fund.
Poems read on the walk were:
‘Snow’ by Simon Armitage – http://www.stanzastones.co.uk/
‘Oh Rascal Children of Gaza’ by Khaled Juma – http://smpalestine.com/2014/08/24/illustrated-poetry-oh-rascal-children-of-gaza/
‘The Deluge and the Tree’ by Fadwa Touqan – http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-deluge-and-the-tree/
‘Million Man March’ by Maya Angelou – http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/million-man-march-poem/