22 July 2010
7,500 children in Gaza today simultaneously bounced as many basketballs, putting them on track to set their second world record in two years as part of UNRWA's Gaza Summer Games.
Today’s record of 7,203 balls dribbled more than doubles the previous record set in 2007 in the United States, where just over 3,000 balls were bounced.
John Ging, UNRWA’s Director of Operations in Gaza, took a cautious approach, noting that a final verdict from the Guinness Book of World Records is expected in the coming days. “But certainly we know the figures and the chances look good,” he said.
Mr. Ging expressed his gratitude to his staff and local partners, as well as the three donors to the Summer Games: the Finnish Government, the European Union and UNRWA’s largest donor, the United States. But the biggest thanks and congratulations were reserved for the children of Gaza, “without whom this could never have happened".
Messages of support
For the past month, people from around the globe have been sending in messages of support via UNRWA’s Facebook page. Video messages were also sent by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and National Basketball Association superstar and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Pau Gasol.
"Your dreams and hopes are as real as anyone else's" said the NBA star. "Given the chance, you can achieve the impossible."
The messages were displayed for the children as they practised for the event, and certainly seemed to boost morale. "I hope one day I can fly from this airport to the world as a member of Palestine's national basketball team", Salma Hassan, 11, told reporters.
More records on the horizon
But the area’s young people are not content with smashing one world record this summer.
Later this week, Gaza's kids are expected to set a separate world record for the number of kites flown simultaneously – a record they themselves set during last year’s Summer Games, when nearly 4,000 kites were hoisted in the air.
“Two world records in a week is surely another world record in itself,” Mr. Ging marvelled, calling on children around the world to send their support to their counterparts in Gaza as they gear up to best their performance from last summer.
UNRWA’s Summer Games, now in their fourth year, engage more than a quarter of a million refugee children across Gaza in such activities as sports, arts and crafts, theatre and drama. As the largest recreation programme for Gaza’s children, it is providing 1,200 summer camps for the duration of the Games, which run from 12 June through 5 August this year.
Watch NBA star Pau Gasol's message: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3KKblprJuk&
Join UNRWA on Facebook: www.facebook.com/unrwa