Goodwill hunting

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Goodwill hunting

After planning a charity road trip for nine months and losing 15 kilos, one local man is ready to raise some serious cash

By Mohamad Kadry

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Published: Sat 22 May 2010, 7:26 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:50 PM

They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. For Wissam Al Jayoussi, that journey will be more than 40,000 kilometers and will begin with the roaring engine of his tricked out Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Al Jayoussi is set to embark on an international Goodwill Journey that will see him ride from Dubai to London, all in hopes of raising enough money to build a school for handicap children in Gaza.

His goal: $1 million.

Beginning today, Al Jayoussi, 36, will board a ferry from Sharjah to Iran. His originally route had to be changed because officials in Saudi Arabia would not grant him permission to ride through their territory. The new plan will add more than 3,000 kilometers and an extra week of travelling.

As he winds through the historic Silk Road in Iran, the Palestinian-Jordanian will pass 36 capitals en route to the UK capital.

“The hardest part of the journey is already over,” he told City Times just days before his departure. “The process of getting entry visas into so many different countries has been the real difficult part.”

His Goodwill Journey actually began nine months ago after a chance meeting with the head of a charity called Hope and Play. Al Jayoussi, an avid adventurer, decided that the cause for disabled Palestinian children was one that needed more public awareness and support.

“According to statistics, more than 10 per cent of children in Palestine are disabled,” he said. “That number is astronomical and unacceptable.”

Although hundreds of millions of dollars are supposedly flowing into the Palestinian territories every year, people on the ground, especially in blockaded Gaza, have seen very little financial impact. That is why Al Jaoussi made it a point to use a trusted and transparent organisation to distribute the funds properly.

“When we came to choose which charity to work with, the first question that popped up was: where is all the money going?”

Hope and Play, which is registered in the UK, builds playgrounds for children in Palestine and Bangladesh. It does not charge administrative fees, like other aid groups, and are a non-political charity. Every dollar donated will be going to build the school in Gaza.

Although crossing over 30 national boundaries in a journey that will last at least two months has proven to be costly, Al Jayoussi will be handling every personal expense himself. With the help of many local organisations as well as hotels and bike shops, he has found that support comes in many different forms.

“Although not everyone can donate money, people have gone out of their way to donate their time and services,” he said.

“It really is a beautiful thing.”

Al Jayoussi has a history with charitable adventures. A few years ago he climbed the Himalayas to raise tuition money for 14 women in Palestine. For every metre climbed, a dollar was there to match it. The amount raised was enough to put all the girls through university.

“If there is conflict or money runs low, Palestinian girls are the first to be removed from school,” he explained. “They have less chances to complete their education because some families believe that she will be getting married in the future anyway, so what’s the point?”

Preparation for the two-month ride was exhausting, Al Jayoussi says. He lost more than 15 kilos of body fat and has been working hard with a personal trainer to increase his stamina.

But what will it feel like to ride alone on the back of a motorcycle for that amount of time?

“I have never ridden for more than three days but friends have told me that after one week on the road, you become a zombie,” he said while laughing.

“That is a real problem because riding a bike requires constant attention, both mentally and physically.”

His bike, a Harley Ultra Classic Electra Glide 2009, will be equipped with state-of-the-art gadgets and technology, all donated by local companies and bike shops. This includes a GPS and countless gizmos that will help make the ride safer. It also boasts four video cameras that will broadcast real-time footage to social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube.

“I won’t allow myself to get tired or discouraged during my ride,” he said.

“The most important thing is raising money and awareness for these kids. That will give me all the power I need.”

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