On the move for decades and still no home

The challenge

Housing shortage and high rents are a big problem for many Holocaust survivors and immigrants in Israel; 80.000 of them even live below the poverty line. Many of them have been on the move for decades because of antisemitism or economical challenges or both.

The solution

Amigour provides apartments at low rents and with care services, as well as social and cultural services in the Amigour senior facilities. The residents should live as independently as possible for as long as possible and enjoy the community and fellowship with others. Since many elderly people in Israel live in miserable conditions, there are long waiting lists for accommodation. Amigour is expanding and planning new projects throughout Israel to offer these people a dignified retirement. See the ‘About Amigour’ below for  more information.

Crowdfunding Campaign

From September 13 to 15, 2020, an online 48-hour crowdfunding donations marathon take place in Switzerland and Europe for Amigour, a wonderful aid project for senior citizens in Israel. Let’s Help Israel’s seniors with Am(ig)our! The goal of the team ‘Freunde Israels’ is CHF 10.000. Everyone can participate and every contribution, every donation, every shared message counts.

The donations will be doubled

And every franc donated is doubled by sponsors, which are churches, companies and other major donors. If you donate CHF 500, CHF 1000 will be credited. Invite your friends, relatives, church members and other contacts to join in. And donate with Amour what your heart gives you!

How do I donate?

On IBAN CH29 0900 0000 8003 0297 4 or PostFinance Postcheck Account 80-30297-4 of Keren Hajessod Switzerland, mention as purpose: “Freunde Israels Amigour”. Or with credit card here.

About Freude Israels / Freunds of Israel

We are an international network of Christians who support Keren Hajessod, Israels national non-political fundraising organization, that works globally with a focus on narrowing the social gap in Israel. It is about projects that serve all ethnic, cultural and religious groups in Israeli society. www.freunde-israels.ch.

About Amigour: retirement homes worth living in

Housing shortages and high rents are a major problem for many senior citizens in Israel, especially Holocaust survivors and immigrants from Russia. Keren Hayesod finances apartments in the Amigour senior citizen facilities at affordable rents and with care services. The residents are to live as independently as possible for as long as possible and enjoy the community with others. Amigour offers a wide range of social and cultural services to improve the quality of life of senior citizens: Hebrew and computer courses, lectures, excursions, theater and choir groups. Many activities are offered in cooperation with schools, soldiers and local volunteer services, and some are initiated by the residents themselves. In this way, the elderly people are part of the community, they are socially integrated and feel valued.

Some examples of leisure activities
(program depends on COVID restrictions)

  • Excursions: Seniors with physical disabilities spend a day at the zoo.
  • Caps for children with cancer: Some seniors organized a handicraft group to knit caps for the little patients of the oncological children’s ward of the Rambam Hospital in Haifa.
  • Fashion show: As an afternoon event some ladies planned a fashion show. They showed their elegant creations on the catwalk, and as mannequins they could be seen.
  • Theater Afternoon: For one afternoon, two prominent actors (Yaakov Bodo and Monika Vardimon) entertained Holocaust survivors with songs and sketches in Yiddish.
  • Shabbat: Every Friday evening, residents and staff teams meet to celebrate Shabbat together.

Information sheet in German

Marketing & Charity

The purpose of Marketing is to address client needs in a profitable way, by exchanging products for revenue and loyalty. Less fortunate people often do not have the means to provide for vital basic needs. Therefore, Philip van den Berg sees it as a social duty to highlight selective humanitarian projects on his marketing blog. This concerns projects to which he has a special relation and knows the responsible people personally.

When your body is in a permanent lockdown

The COVID-19 outbreak during the first half of 2020 made us all more aware of two things: what it is to live with uncertainty and limitations and how those who became seriously ill, suffer and struggle to survive. Many have been severely impacted by the lockdown of the economy, as the sick have been affected by ‘lockdown ‘of the body.

When it strikes you

Earlier this month was ME/CFS Awareness day. I only knew this concerned ‘disease’ but didn’t realize how severe it was, until a friend diagnosed with ME/CFS posted her moving story on Facebook. It stands for: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Patients experience continual and long-term fatigue that worsens after physical or mental activity. Millions of people suffer from it but only 1 out of 5 are correctly diagnosed. When ME/CRF patients rest or sleep, they are not refreshed. They have problems with thinking and concentrating. They experience structural pain and dizziness. One can only imagine how hard this is must for them both physically and mentally. Also in COVID-19 times, as research suggests that the immune system is involved in ME/CFS and as it can weaken the immune system.

Worldwide ME/CFS Awareness day

May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who founded modern nursing, was Worldwide ME/CFS Awareness Day. Its purpose was ‘to highlight how you can support the millions of people who suffer from ME/CFS’. Action days are great for the moment, but the need continues. Therefore regularly support the ME/CFS cause, as for patients the lockdown is permanent.

How can you help?

Every now and then, turn your day into ME/CFS Awareness Day. Impacting the worlds starts with yourself. Educate yourself and make your environment aware, donate for medical research support, and just be there for those affected. Read the CDC-page on how to help and especially the below testimony of my friend Lisa (I took the liberty to adjust her title a bit).

Some useful links

2 minute clips: What is ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)How does it feel to live with ME/CFS? Patients describe what it’s likeAbout ME/CFS (CDC website)Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (wikipedia)ME/CFS Awareness Day



[tl;dr: ME is a *itch. Support the fight against this freaking illness. The people in charge don’t.]

I can’t believe we still have to say this: ME/CFS is real, people.
It can knock down anyone. Anytime.
And once it does there’s no getting up again no matter how positively thinking or strong-willed you are.
As of now, there’s no cure. Nor any approved treatment.

This illness will destroy your nervous system, your immune system, your energy metabolism, your hormone system; you’ll be a broken battery that can only be charged to 5 or 10 percent, depending on your ME stage.
Every activity — talking to a friend, brushing your teeth, or even just thinking — will cost you. And the cost is called CRASH (or PENE, post-exertional neuro-immune exhaustion),
and yes, it is what it sounds like.

You’ll also develop weird intolerances to all sensory input — light, sounds, smells, movement — and find your brain in a thick and scary fog.
A bed or couch in a dark, quiet place devoid of people: your new habitat.
You won’t be able to stop shaking your head when realizing a never-known diversity of pain and an ever-growing symptoms list.
5, 15, 30, 50, 70… Are you even alive anymore?
ME will probably not let you die (just yet), but it sure will make you lose your life.
You’ll even lose the person you used to be.

And while you are waiting and searching for a diagnosis for years or even decades, no one will believe you.
Most people will ignore you.
Others will say you’re just lazy, or quite the opposite, that you’re just overworked, that you’re exaggerating, that you want attention, that you must be suffering from a psychological trauma or depression; they’ll tell you it’s all in your head — even family members, friends, colleagues, and most of all your doctors, and you’ll see a ridiculously large number of them, because you’re desperately trying to find out what’s wrong, as you know, YOU know:
you’re NOT lazy,
you’re NOT just overworked,
you’re NOT AT ALL exaggerating,
the LEAST thing you want is attention,
you DON’T have a psychological trauma,
you NEVER had a depression,

Then, if you’re lucky, you’ll get the diagnosis. Finally! Right?
Not really: there will be no social, financial, medical, or emotional support.
Just a stigma.
And just like that you’ll become one of the #MillionsMissing.

Because research isn’t there, yet.
The amazing ME experts, and there are few around the globe, know what a devastating disease this is and have gathered lots of evidence of organic dysfunctions in ME patients (like we have killer blood that destroys healthy cells (and not just our own) — crazy stuff).
But they don’t fully understand the cause, yet.
They are fighting time.
And they call out for governmental funding for their life saving research.
But while millions go missing, politics have remained silent.
So instead of getting much needed recognition, a secure livelihood and medical care, we have to fight on all fronts.
Although many of us can’t even get up anymore.
Or speak.
Or write.

We cannot wait for politics to come around. So here’s what everyone can do to help:

• This might seem simple but: if you meet someone with ME — believe them. You might not fully understand their suffering, but don’t just dismiss them.
Help sufferers close to you with daily stuff or much needed research, because everything (getting info on your disease, finding medical explanations, educating the public, preparing for grueling lawsuits after applying for disability) lies completely on the ME people’s already broken shoulders.
Support the PR by spreading the message about the severeness of ME.
Keep your eyes open for further info (and, if need be, confirm that info with ME sufferers. There are too many misconceptions about the illness floating around).
If you are close with any doctors or nurses or are one yourself, educate them/yourself how (NOT!) to treat ME people. Incredibly much damage has been done in the health sector.
You can also donate to any of the following great organizations:
for Germany: Lost Voices, Fatigatio, Deutsche Gesellschaft für ME/CFS
international teams: OMF (esp. MayMomentum)
There are many more.

YOU really are a game changer. You can ultimately save lives by changing the conception of ME.

From our blue hearts to yours— THANK YOU. 💙

Clean drinking water for Oksibil in Papua

When water is bad for your health

Health blogs, health coaches and health authorities recommend us to drink two liters of water per day. Still 50% of the world population does not have access to clean drinking water [1] and annually close to 1 million people die from water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases. The lack of basic water and sanitation is estimated to cost $260 billion globally every year. [2]

When clean drinking water is not affordable

In West Papua, due to the high poverty, access to clean water is very low. In remote areas, like Oksibil in the Bintang mountain range, importing clean drinking water is not affordable, as its population of around 4000 people can only be reached by air. From 1970, five years after the area was opened to outsiders, to 1995, the dutch missionary Kees van Dijk worked in the area. He learned one of the six local languages, managed to earn the love and trust of the locals and started to represent them. This continued after he was asked to be based in the capital, Jakarta, in 1995. Still he regularly travels the almost 4000 km to Obsikil to help the locals.

Oksibil is situated in the Pegunungan Bintang mountains in West Papua at 1,307 m elevation and is only reachable by air – photo: Neneng Husein

Water, a gift from heaven

Fr. Kees is now trying to give what the people in Oksibil need the most: clean water. The country’s inspection agency Sucofindo (‘PT Superintending Company of Indonesia’) has declared the water in Oksibil unsafe for drinking. Geological samples in 2016 indicated that even at 90 m deep, only clay and dirt is found. Drilling this deep or even further is economically not feasible. As Oksibil on average has 400-500 mm monthly rainfall, collecting or ‘catching’ rainwater was the next option. A first Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) system with water storage in the ground was built, but this wasn’t resistant to earthquakes. Since 2017 three new earthquake-proof RWH systems with elevated water tanks have been implemented, but they are far from complete. And to serve the regional population minimally, two more will need to be added. After these RWH systems have been completed, the project can be expanded to other areas in West Papua.

Local ownership

To create local ownership and avoid operational dependency on sponsors, Fr. Kees, for building and maintaining the RWH System, insists on the “gotong royong” spirit of local community involvement. The locals help gather materials such as sands and gravel. Other materials like cement, pipes, filters, and storage tanks, have to be air-flown from the capital of West Papua, Jayapura, and especially from Jakarta. Due to the transportation, a sack of cement is 20 times more expensive in Oksibil than in Jakarta.

Water storage tanks, earthquake-proof elevated above the ground – image: Water for Papua

Helping the people of Oksibil

To build one RWH system, it takes 46 sacks of cement at a cost of US$ 4,000, pipes worth US$ 4,100 and a filter with a price of US$ 1,900. This sums up to US$ 10,000, excluding the cost of large capacity water storage tanks. To give the people of Oksibil clean drinking water, five RWH systems are needed. Dear blogreaders, tell your friends about this great project; all promotion and financial support are highly appreciated.

Contact and transfer information

Donations can be made by bank transfer only to: English-Speaking Catholic Mission, Neptunstrasse 6, 8032 Zürich, Switzerland; IBAN: CH 47 0020 6206 3632 1001 B, BIC: UBSWCHZH80A. Please mention as purpose “Donation Water for Papua / Fr. Kees van Dijk OFM“.

or to: Account Name: Van Dijk Cornelis G M; Bank name: Bank Mandiri; Bank Address: Kramat Raya, Jakarta; Account no.: 1230004105690; Country: Indonesia; Swift Code : BMRIIDJA

More information about the project can be obtained at www.facebook.com/waterforpapua and water.for.papua@gmail.com.

Oksibil is located at West Papua province, the far eastern part of Indonesia at its eastern border, south east of the Philippines and close to Australia. Indonesia from west to east measures 5,100 kilometres.

[1] https://www.solidarites.org/en/taking-aid-further/combatting-waterborne-diseases/

[2] https://cleanwaterfund.charity.org/

[3] https://www.wra.org.au/1609wpdcwater