Wednesday February 19, 2003
A 3,000-mile mercy mission led by a retired British surgeon to provide humanitarian aid to the one million Palestinian's living in Gaza - featured in Society last month - has almost achieved its goal.
Vital supplies of food and medical equipment were being distributed from a cargo ship yesterday directly to children and families in need. And expedition leaders hope their trip will inspire others to do the same, making "citizen-to-citizen" contact without the involvement of politicians, or religious organisations.
The success of the Dove and Dolphin mission marks the end of a dream for David Halpin, the 62-year-old orthopaedic surgeon from Devon. He set sail with his crew from Torquay two weeks ago and arrived in the port of Ashdod, in Israel, in the early hours of Monday morning. The 55-tonne cargo of flour, cheese, milk powder and medical equipment has been taken to Karni, in Gaza where it is being distributed by village elders.
Speaking from Israel, Halpin says: "There have been lots of complications and delays, but the end is in sight and soon the cargo will be in the hands of the people who need it most. We've had some bad moments - the worst being a force nine gale in the Bay of Biscay - but our gifts are arriving at a time when thousands of children on the Gaza strip are going hungry. I hope I have done a little to ease their pain and highlight human rights abuses."
Halpin and his wife, Sue, have so far spent £95,000 on the mission, but have received donations of around £25,000. He says he will continue to highlight the plight of the Palestinians. "I am determined the connections with the west country and Gaza will continue and I hope to register Dove and Dolphin as a charity working for the Palestinian people."