UT prof seeks help for two Gazan families

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk

If you can’t wrap your mind around 30,000 people dead in the Gaza Strip, how about three? Can you conceptualize and help the three young people pictured here?

The parents are Khalil and Sahar Abushamalla. Their children are:

  • Nour, 24, who was top in her class in achieving a bachelor’s degree in law from Al-Azhar University. Nour wants to do graduate work outside of Gaza with the long-term goal of becoming a diplomat.
  • Muhammad, 23, graduated from the same university with a bachelor’s in translation. He was then hired by the Jawwal Telecommunications Company in Gaza. After his graduation, Muhammad spent 18 days in Egypt where he viewed a vast new world of opportunity. He aspires for graduate study there as well as landing full-time employment in the IT sector.
  • Nesma, 21, has been a top student in computer engineering at Al-Azhar. She was due to finish her degree and graduate at the end of this year, after which Google has committed to hire her as a web developer. It is impossible for her to do this now in Gaza.

Spencer Olmstead Ph.D.

Dr. Spencer Olmstead is interim department head of Child and Family Studies at UT. In an email to colleagues, Olmstead said he had agreed to share Dr. Brian Barber’s request broadly, “as those he has formed deep meaningful connections with through his work are in perilous circumstances.”

Barber (see Betty Bean’s story here) met Khalil Abushamalla 30 years ago when he was researching the effects of violence on youth. Barber has followed Khalil through college, marriage to Sahar and the birth of their children. Both parents held jobs but are unable to work now.

The family has relocated twice in the past six months, first from their apartment in northern Gaza when the Israeli government asked civilians to move south. They moved into Khalil’s childhood home, along with other kinfolks. Then the Israelis asked for a second evacuation. Now they live in a tent near the sea with nowhere left to go. Both previous residences have been destroyed.

Barber has established a GoFundMe to evacuate this family – at least the three children.

A second GoFundMe supports the Abushawish family.

Brian Barber writes: “Briefly, I’d like to explain some details about the costs that are included in the campaigns. For decades, there have been only two pedestrian crossings in and out of Gaza, both rigidly controlled. The northern crossing (Erez) into Israel has been closed since October 7, and likely permanently so. It is the crossing that I have always used for my annual stays in Gaza since 1995.

“The southern crossing (Rafah) into Egypt, therefore, is the only route out of Gaza. A wealthy Egyptian who owns a travel company has been allowed to corner the market on exits from Gaza. The current price is $5,000 per person, simply to walk across the border with Egypt. Then, the company charges hundreds of dollars for the bus journey to Cairo.

“At this moment, I’m actually in Cairo, having brought some supplies to Gazans that have made it out. These costs are more than any Gazan can afford, especially when bringing an entire family across.

“I would greatly appreciate any support you can offer these two highly respectable families as they seek to provide continuing educational opportunities for their children. If you are not able to offer financial support, simply sharing the campaigns with your networks would be very valuable.”

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today Inc.


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