Here’s how Umar, a 1 year old Londoner, held his birthday party in Gaza – giving 35 kids an unforgettable day and Umar some very special keepsakes for when he is older.

Umar’s mum and dad decided they wanted to combine celebrating his first year with giving kids in Gaza some much needed respite from their circumstances. And so the concept of a celebration in Gaza was born. We selected a community centre in the south of Gaza, in an area that has been particularly badly hit by the recent war. And then we held a party – to celebrate both Umar’s life, and the life of 35 children in Gaza.

Amidst the cake eating, game playing, picture drawing and some pretty raucous singing, kids were told stories about Umar’s life and that of his family. In exchange the children in Gaza shared messages and pictures for Umar.

Such exchanges are so important for kids in Gaza – it tells them that the world has not forgotten them. And a party, in the midst of death, destruction and poverty, reminds the children, their parents and their communities that hope for the future is not lost.

Umar’s mum recounts the story for us:

“Our son’s first birthday was coming up- huge milestone for us all. On one hand like all parents, we wanted to make a big deal of this special moment. On the other side the bloodshed in Gaza was still very fresh in our minds. It just did not seem right for us to go all out and celebrate when so many children had suffered in such a brutal manner. But we were able to merge the two thoughts thanks to Hope & Play.

With all the suffering in the world, it is not possible for most of us to go about our day not doing anything about it. But apart from our regular contributions, we ought to always remember these war-torn children (many of whom are orphaned) during other times of the year.

I have gone through these pictures again and again, tirelessly, and every time something new awaits discovery- a child’s infectious smile, excitement shown in their eyes, anticipation of cake cutting, a message scribbled in Arabic, gratitude. We’re so grateful!

Thank you Hope & Play and everybody involved in bringing this together. We are forever indebted.”

And we are indebted to you, Umar’s mum! If you’d like to hold a party for your child’s birthday in Gaza, please look here for more details.