A Cork based gym owner is currently aiming to raise €30,000 to open a community gym for the residents of a refugee camp in the West Bank, Palestine. Ainle Ó Cairealláin, originally from west Belfast and living in Cork is the owner of the personal training company ACLAÍ (Bishop Street, Cork), and creator of the popular Rebel Matters Podcast is leading the campaign to open the training facility in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem. Ainle made 2 trips to the West Bank in 2018, ran the Palestine half marathon, and established a connection with the Lajee Centre, a community based cultural organisation that serves the people of the Aida refugee camp. The Palestine Community Gym project came from a late night discussion with the founders of the Lajee Centre about the most common health problems experiences among refugees at the camp. Commenting on his trips to Palestine he says:
“I went there to learn more about what life is like for Palestinians in the West Bank. Life is made very difficult for the Palestinian people because of the extent to which the military occupation hinders every aspect of day to day life. From limited access to water, lack of health facilities, no freedom of movement, and very cramped living conditions. In the Aida refugee camp there are over 5500 refugees and health problems such as diabetes, mental health, and blood pressure are very common. Over the last 6 years we have established a very effective model of training and developing health with ACLAÍ, and we want to build this new facility for the people of Aida so that they can get the benefit of the work that we have done over the last number of years too”
ACLAÍ first opened its doors in 2013 to the people of Cork and has since established itself as a leading provider of personal training in Ireland, becoming well known for their work in providing inclusive opportunities for participation for people with disabilities, working with national and international athletes, and integrating community development events such as book club meetups, communal lunches, and movie nights with their high standard of professional personal training.
“This project is about more than just building a gym. It’s about providing a safe place for people to meet, and to look after their health. This project will give career opportunities to young people in the camp, help combat the most common health problems experienced in the camp, and serve as a self-sufficient health and wellness program. Most of all, it's about the people who are living under heavy military occupation in the Aida refugee camp gaining a small slice of personal independence in the face of very oppressive living conditions.”
The first phase of the project is the fundraising to cover the cost of equipment, renovation of the allocated space at the Lajee Centre, and installation of the gym. The fundraising goal is €30,000. The second step is to bring 5 young people from the camp over to Cork for one month in July, so that they can be trained in ACLAÍ, and learn how to implement the health and wellness program when they return to Palestine as Coaches for the new facility. The third step being the installation of the gym and implementation of the program in August 2019.
The project has already gained popular support from many well known Irish artists and musicians through the #Tunes4Palestine campaign including, Hermitage Green, Tara Breen, KNEECAP, Moxie, Finn Harper, Benedict Morris, Clare Sands, and Emily Flack, with Conal McDonagh even posting a tune on the uileann pipes in support of the project from the Great Wall of China!
To support this project, go to the GoFundMe page (www.GoFundMe.com/WestBankGym, or come along to one of the fundraising events, the main one being The Gym Jam which will be a full day of music, food, and entertainment at ACLAÍ on the 20th of July 2019. If you would like to host your own fundraising event for this project, you can get in touch through firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the progress of the Palestine Community Gym on Instagram (@paletsinegym), and Facebook, and the hashtags #Tunes4Palestine, and #PalestineCommunityGym