Trust founder: 'Gaza conflict is dire'
PUBLISHED: 11:00 17 August 2014
AFTER food, water, shelter and love, education is one of the most important things a child can be given - and a Somerset man has helped set up a school in Gaza to provide that just.
But in recent weeks, the school - just like many others in the strip - has been hit by tragedy.
Weston is more than 2,000 miles away from Hamas-controlled Gaza, where more than 1,800 Palestinians have been killed in the war with Israel - including 415 children, according to United Nations figures.
John Angle and his wife Janet, who live in Axbridge, created The Hope Christian Trust 30 years ago to support communities ‘in lands of the Bible’.
The trust helped to found the Lighthouse School in the Zeitoun region of Gaza 10 years ago.
As well as providing education in a poverty-stricken area, teachers are given training and disabled children who are often marginalised are given the support they need.
The school for 250 pupils sits beside an area which has been devastated by missiles since the war began in July, as close as Weston is to Worle.
In the past few weeks, two boys from the school - aged nine and 11 - and another former pupil were killed by a missile while playing on their roof.
Retired vicar and teacher Mr Angle said: “The death of those two brought everything home. Houses have been destroyed and families decimated. The current situation is absolutely dire for the people there. It is a desperate situation.
“We don’t know of any other children who have been killed or parents have been killed but my guess is probably some have been. And because Gaza is a relatively small place and very family-orientated there will be a lot of children and teachers when school start with uncles or cousins who have been injured or killed.”
The school itself has been hit, and has a number of holes in the walls and on its roof. It is being used to provide shelter to people with nowhere else to go.
Mr Angle has visited Gaza three times this year, and also went after the wars in both 2008-09 and 2012.
He said: “The destruction was horrible then but from what I have seen on the TV, this time is far, far worse.”
As well as paying for the maintenance of the school, the trust pays for teachers and a social worker - who Mr Angle says will be crucial when the pupils and teachers return to school.
He said: “We are going to provide counselling for the teachers and we will be giving support to families who are in desperate need. But we will also be putting on a party and have some fun, buying them sweets and playing games.
“We will be taking them out to parks and letting them be children. We will do whatever we can to bring some normality and enjoyment to them.”
If you would like to help The Hope Christian Trust’s work in Gaza, visit www.spanglefish.com/hopechristiantrust