Why I Run the UNRWA DC GAZA 5K…Take 4…

Today I ran in the GAZA 5K in Washington, DC! It was a privilege to be participating my 4th consecutive year in the DC run.

Similar to the previous years, it was a beautiful experience. There were about 500 runners that raised over $160,000 for this critical cause! The Gaza 5K raises funds for community mental health care programs to serve Palestinian refugee children struggling with various mental illnesses like depression and PTSD from the trauma of the regional conflict.

I appreciate those who have donated to this fundraiser (and through me) over the past four years. Thank you so much for supporting UNRWA and my own fundraising.

This was a critical year for the DC Gaza 5K because, as you know, the United States Government recently decided to cut all funding to this crucial agency working in Palestine, which was about a third of the UNRWA budget. It’s devastating, but not surprising. Actions and inactions by the US Government for decades depict the lack of will to recognize Palestine’s right to exist, right to statehood, and the fundamental human rights of Palestinian citizens, not to mention the innocent Palestinians caught in the crossfires of war and conflict. Various sources note that Gaza will be unlivable in just a few years.

The Gaza 5K run is one way to combat this travesty and send the message to our Palestinian brothers and sisters that there are people around the world that do care about their grievances, struggles, and freedom.

Yesterday, when I went to pick up my packet for the Gaza 5k at the DC Sultan Quboos Cultural Center, I told the UNRWA personnel there that I was excited this was my fourth year participating. A kind young lady then asked me if they could film a response from me as to why I have participated all these years. Unfortunately, I had to respectfully decline. I was disappointed, largely because I disappointed someone so kind, but also because I should have been able to do something so simple, after participating 4 years, and even writing about those experiences. But despite all my speaking engagements during my academic career, my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) still gets the best of me. It is partly why, I am briefly sharing my thoughts here, in writing, about why I have supported this cause for the past several years.

Last year I wrote a post about why I run in the DC Gaza 5K:  http://www.warrioretkqueen.com/why-i-run/.

The post already explains why I am involved in this fundraiser at a personal level. Sometimes your intentions for promulgation of a cause is questioned if there is a personal connection to it and I find that a bit unsettling. In addition to the fight for Palestinian freedom and justice, which is something very near to my heart, I am also a staunch and passionate advocate for mental health awareness, mental health issues, and stopping mental health stigma in our communities here and abroad.  

Other than some of the organizers, I don’t really know anyone participating in the run. There are some familiar faces you see. But I’ve sort of been just a “face” you find “in the crowd.” I guess with my depression and anxiety, I seemed to be okay with experiencing such things on my own and taking these moments to reflect on the big picture. Sometimes I prefer it that way. But I think over time, you realize it may be nice to sometimes get a cheer, a clap, or a smile spared for you when you cross that finish line in a 5k, especially a 5K that means so much to you…. Over time, you begin to feel the gravity of your solitude and ‘independence,’ and yearn to find some “community” or “connection” amid your “confusing intersections.” Over time, your “Miss Independent” lifestyle can no longer be sustainable. Sometimes I wish if there is someone out there who truly feels me on this, just give a shout out and let me know you are there.

Nevertheless, being a “face in the crowd” for this “Gaza 5K community” once a year, has helped me in my journey to fight my own illness and betterment of my own mental health. Being able to step outside yourself and engage in something greater than yourself, is sometimes difficult when you are immersed in grief and depression. But from my experience and understanding, it is a key ingredient to support survivors of mental illness, sexual abuse, suicide, etc. And it is difficult to express the significance for me, to be a small part of the cross-cutting movement for mental health of children in a war zone, particularly for Palestine, a people who have suffered enough.

With this, the DC Gaza 5K, has also become integrated into my journey to achieve my doctorate over the years.

And I hope, by this time next year, the finish line I cross will not only be “My Year 5” of the DC Gaza5k, but also my doctorate degree. And I hope you will see me running through that finish line, as Doctor Warrior Queen ETK, Godwilling. A warrior, ready to take on anything and everything, despite everything.

And Godwilling, Inshallah, I hope I am able to give more to UNRWA efforts in Palestine in the future, beyond what this DC Gaza 5K has given me. It is amazing how giving hope to others in their struggles, helps develop a sense of hope within you, that you never thought existed. It is why I have found my “home” in the field of development.

Thank you for reading. Please do take the time to learn how you can support UNRWA efforts here: https://www.unrwausa.org/


“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” – Khalil Gibran, The Prophet


Peace, Warmth, and Blessings,

Your Elsa

Warrior KQueen

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