Editor’s note: Some of the sources The Cougar spoke with for this story chose to withhold their last names for fear of retaliation.
Various university student organizations cooperated to host a fundraiser that raised over $55K to benefit the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund.
The Gala for Gaza was held Jan. 28, and was organized by Students for Justice in Palestine, the Young Democratic Socialists of America and the Student Government Association.
“The support of large student organizations reflects the large support that the Houston population holds for Gaza,” said industrial design junior Yasmeen A, leader of SJP. “I’m proud of what I saw. The collective generosity in labor, resources, and time commitment left me in awe.”
Tickets to the Gala were sold out days before the event. All proceeds went to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, a humanitarian nonprofit organization tasked with providing aid and medical care to Palestinian children.
Yasmeen claimed that the cooperation with other student organizations made planning and hosting the event much easier and that any challenges were mitigated by the community created around their cause.
“All these different organizations share the same commitment to ending the U.S.-Israeli-led bombing campaign on Gaza, which led to the development of the coalition,” Yasmeen said.
For many of these student leaders and organizers, the Gala was a success, surpassing their initial expectations of their goals.
“I think we were able to go above and beyond. SGA was initially discussing the idea of a fundraising event, but it wouldn’t have amounted to nearly as much if we hadn’t teamed up with motivated and experienced organizers,” said SGA Sen.Cody Szell.
The other organizations involved with planning were the Muslim Students Association, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Arab Student Association, the Ahlul Bayt Student Organization, the Palestinian Youth Movement and the Rice University chapter of SJP.
The Gala hosted various speakers, such as poet Fady Joudah and historian Ussama Makdisi, along with an auction of items by local artists, with all proceeds also going to the PCRF.
“To me, it has always taken huge amounts of courage in this country to speak about Palestine in the West,” Makdisi said during his gala address to student activists. “Your activism, as you may know in your direct experience, has been accompanied by disinformation and slander.”
The state of medical care in Gaza is strained, with millions of Gazans depending on weakened medical infrastructure for care, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Along with guest speakers, was a performance by the band composed of Palestinian, Lebanese, and Pakistani musicians named Zaytounat.
One of the biggest contributors outside of student organizations was the Arab American Community Center board, which provided resources and allowed them to use their venue at no charge. Palestinian businesses around Houston also sponsored the event.
Also in attendance was the Consulate General of Indonesia, Andre Omer Siregar.
“Seeing so much love flow from members of a diverse volunteer team, planning board, and food vendors brings light to a bleak time. Despite the small spark compared to the endless suffering of our people in Gaza and the West Bank, these spaces aim to reenergize the community not to give up,” Yasmeen said.