Artists join forces to help family flee Gaza

Leading members of the Irish art world are contributing work to a sale that’s being held in the city this Sunday to help fund visas for 19 members of one family so they can leave Gaza for the safety of Egypt. They are relations of Mohamed Alkurdi, an art graduate of ATU Galway, who was at home in Gaza when the war broke out and who witnessed the devastation being inflicted on his homeland and its people. Now back in Galway, he tells JUDY MURPHY how his friends here have rallied to help his family in their hour of desperate need.

When Mohamed Alkurdi describes life in Gaza before the current war, it sounds far from perfect.

People had to cope with daily power outages as the electricity supply was curtailed, while unemployment was at 40 per cent, public transport was limited and travelling into and out of the area was difficult, due to Israeli security checkpoints.

But his extended family lived in a lovely home in the north of the territory, where they grew much of their own food, while his father lectured in a local university.

This week, sitting at the kitchen table of his friends’ home in Galway City, Mohamed says simply: “It was difficult before the war, but now people want our old lives back.”

However, this quiet, dignified man knows that won’t be happening any time soon. At present, his family are sheltering in Rafah, 19 of them in an abandoned garage with no heating, electricity, running water or sanitation.

And Mohamed’s priority is getting them to safety.

“Just to get them across the border, into Egypt,” he says.

Supported by the loyal friends he has made since moving to Galway in September 2022, he is working hard to achieve that.

The young Architectural Engineering graduate moved here to do a Master’s at ATU Galway, funded by a government project known as the Irish-Palestine Sponsorship Programme.

A few weeks ago, some of the friends he’d met since then suggested setting up a GoFundMe campaign to help with the cost of exit visas for his family. Initially, he wasn’t sure it would work, but they’re a determined group and, so far, have raised almost €30,000 of the €80,000 required.

That’s just for the visas, Mohamed stresses, adding that when his relations reach Egypt, they can work to rebuild their lives.

“As long as they are safe, we can figure everything else out after.”

Most of the funds raised so far are from individual donations – almost 450 of them.

But this Sunday, April 21, a major art sale is taking place in Galway City, followed by an evening of music, readings, Middle Eastern food and a raffle, all for this family.

The sale includes work donated by some of Ireland’s finest artists, all doing their bit to help this young man and his family – including his 12-year-old brother and seven nieces and nephews, who have witnessed horrors no child ever should ever see.

Pictured: Eva Bourke and Miriam de Búrca sorting through some of the paintings and prints that have been donated for Sunday’s fundraiser for the Alkurdi family. PHOTO: JOE O’SHAUGHNESSY.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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