A source of Joy - Tour boat sets sail in Gaza


Raed taking the boat on a tour in Gaza

Graduated recently as an architect, Raed El-Shorafa, 27 years old, was facing the risk of joining the increasing numbers of the unemployed in Gaza. Despite his good average, the job opportunities are rare. “I had no income. I was a burden on my family. Future is ahead and I was not certain of my plans” Raed said.

Highlights

  • 25 small grants were provided through the MDG Joint Programme on Culture and Development, targeting women and youth
  • According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the highest number of domestic trips (62%) is in the Gaza Strip compared to 20% in the West Bank
  • The number of visitors to the Gaza Strip decreased by 90% since 2000
  • According to OCHA, unemployment in the Gaza Strip reached 41.5% during the last quarter of 2013
  • 57% of Gaza households are food insecure and about 80% of the Gaza population receive aid in the face of food insecurity and restrictions to economic and social growth

Under such economic, political and social circumstances, and with a family of nine, Raed decided it was time to take the initiative and try his chance of self-reliance. “Our house is located near the beach. In summer, one can enjoy and benefit from working there.” This was how Raed cleverly thought about building his own boat for tours in the sea.

Raed was granted USD 6,500 as part of the MDG Joint Programme on Culture and Development of USD 3 million. The project was implemented in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in partnership with other UN agencies including UNESCO, UNIFEM and FAO.

The programme interventions ranged from training, developing capacities in topics related to heritage protection, management and promotion, to piloting community based tourism initiatives in historical sites, and finally establishing a startup mechanism based on grants for the development of business activities.

In the grants component, UNDP tapped into the expertise of its poverty reduction programme (DEEP) that supported the drafting of a preliminary criterion for selection including business plan concepts for the grants mechanism for discussion with implementing partners. The grants were geared towards those individuals, male and female, who benefited through the various skills development courses being offered to support culture and tourism within the MDG Programme.

Raed designed, built and operated the boat by himself. He started his business as an attempt to improve his livelihood. Palestinians and the few international visitors can now enjoy a 15 to 60 minute tour in the sea. “It is a unique experience as it promotes domestic tourism inside the besieged Gaza”. Raed said “We are making use of the only source of joy we have: the sea!”

“I faced many challenges starting from the scarcity of materials needed to build the boat; I had to replace the materials by available alternatives in the market. The boat also encouraged many to follow my steps, which is good and competitive. The lack of fuel is a real challenge that is actually decreasing our profit.” Raed Said.

Currently, Raed is preparing for the next summer season, not only him but also another two workers assisting him. With an average income of 12,000 NIS (USD 3,500) a season, a driver and his assistant are looking forward to the summer of 2014. The salary they will both receive will help buy school clothes for their children and get ready for the month of Ramadan and Eid.

“We repaint the boat repeatedly, add attractive and beautiful designs, and we are thinking of adding a banana boat which will be the first in Gaza.” Raed explained. “The grant made me believe that one can start and do a business by himself. I can see a future ahead; I already built my own house, currently thinking about marriage, children, a larger business, a better life.”