NMU students fundraise to support Gazan connection

Students listen to Medicinal Plant Chemistry Club officer Josie Steed, in black, and MPCC President Rev Baluyut, in red, speak about their cause for fundraising at Northern Michigan University on Friday. (Journal photo by Alexandria Bournonville)

MARQUETTE — Two Northern Michigan University students raised funds to support the ability for civilians in the Gaza Strip to remain connected with the world in the midst of the Middle Eastern conflict.

Medicinal Plant Chemistry Club officer Josie Steed and President Rev Baluyut were in John X. Jamrich Hall on Good Friday selling propagated plants — plant cuttings placed in water to encourage new root growth — for $3 each.

Steed said 100% of the proceeds will be put toward purchasing eSIMs communication devices for Gazans. Anyone in the world can access an eSIM via phone regardless of network shutdowns in the area.

“Israel’s government has repeatedly cut off (Gazans’) access to communications and they are in a very critical situation now as far as not having enough resources,” Steed said.

CNN reported that Israeli forces fired on a United Nations convoy carrying vital food supplies on Feb. 5. The news agency further reported earlier this month that at least eight people were killed in an Israeli strike on an aid distribution truck in central Gaza. Similarly, National Public Radio reported that over 100 Palestinians were killed in late February when Israeli troops approached a food truck in a threatening way, according to Israeli officials.

After seeing these incidents, Steed felt the safest way to provide assistance for Palestinians in Gaza were through eSIMs, saying, “I felt this was a way to give help without causing anyone to be put in danger.”

The pair will be supporting Connecting Gaza, a grassroots effort founded by Egyptian journalist Mirna El Helbawi, that can be accessed at gazaesims.com. The site allows anyone to buy a virtual SIM card with a custom amount of data which will be connected to the phone of someone in the Gaza Strip.

Steed said the website allows her to identify who received the eSIM, allowing her to ensure the SIM card is used. She also follows those people on Instagram to watch real-time updates of the situation in Gaza.

“I used to live in Egypt, so I had friends that were from Palestine living in Egypt that were already refugees,” Steed said about why she is so passionate about this cause. “… I just don’t want to see my country funding violence towards civilians in collective punishment.”

Steed also said, “If you’re confused why people are so concerned in America about Palestine, then you should look into the cause and the history.”

She recommended a good starting point as internet personality John Green’s video about Palestine from his educational YouTube series, Crash Course.

While this is the first pro-Palestinian event hosted by the Medicinal Plant Chemistry Club, other events in support of Palestine have been hosted by the Asian Student Union on campus, which Baluyut co-leads.


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