Annual Review – from the 2014 Annual Report & Acounts

The following is extracted from the 2014 Annual Report  just published by the UK Friends of Abraham’s Path.

Click 2014 Annual Report & Accounts  to download a copy of the full document or here to read the Statement of Public Benefit.

Review of the Year

A journey in Jordan 

Our second UK-led journey took a mixed-age group of 12 people on an adventure to walk in northern Jordan, partly on the most well-established segment of the Abraham Path (first developed by a party of Jordanian and British students from Yarmouk and Leeds Metropolitan Universities in 2008, led by the API t team in north Jordan) and partly on new trail territory that has just opened up all the way north to Pella. It was a beautiful four days walking in varied landscapes from the hills of Ajloun down to the Jordan valley. However, for many of on the trip, arguably the most poignant memories arise from our three days of community service at the end of our walk. We spent one day in an ecological park helping prepare a garden and filling plastic bottles with sand to make a bird hide wall; then two days with Syrian refugees – at a tented village in South Amman and visiting some abandoned shacks near the border now housing ten families. A short account of the visit is given at the back of this report and there is a longer, very detailed account on our website.

A visit to the uk

In a turn of the tables, the UK Friends played host in May to a group from the Middle East in 2014. Four media students from Jenin University and their teacher Dr Rola Jadallah arrived in London for a packed week of activities. Coming from a very restricted background at home, they were eager for every experience, from a trip down Oxford Street to attending a village Church for Sunday Service. UK Friends Anam, Brendan and Rukiyah took them on a series of whistle stop tours around London while Louise provided beds and breakfast at home. Thanks to a generous donation from another UK Friend, we were able to fund their stay here – and we hope to have repaid at least some of the hospitality we experience on our trips to their home towns.

Student trip to Israel and Palestine

For the second year running Leeds Metropolitan University (now renamed Leeds Beckett) ran a student volunteering and walking trip to Israel and Palestine.  We were delighted to see this journey establish itself with on-the-ground leadership from Oriel Kenney as well as the student volunteering office. A re-design of the previous year’s experience to bring a little more balance refined the trip and it again achieving good support from the students. A detailed account of the trip by one of the participants is given at the back of this Report

Schoolchildren waving to walkers (left); media students from Jenin on the South Bank in London 

Outreach and education

With such good Path resources now available from the API’s online guide, The UK Friends decided it was time for a re-build and to focus our website on outreach.  We now have a simpler, easier to update website with a special page of the names and faces of people who are willing to talk to prospective travellers about their experiences and to help encourage self-organising travellers.

We were fortunate enough to attract a grant from SOAS to fund an intern to help us with outreach and even more fortunate to recruit Masters student Mia Tamarin to the role.  Regrettably the outbreak of conflict between Gaza and Israel just as Mia started with us led to a decision to postpone until a more auspicious time the direct outreach programme we had planned in order to recruit more Friends.  Instead Mia focussed on building a solid set of data for the future, supporting a traveller survey and research work being led by the API and organising in Leeds an information and celebration event for the end of her internship. With a lot of volunteer help, for which we are extremely grateful, this was a great success and had given us many new Friends who we hope will join us on future journeys.

Donations and funds

In the year ended December 31st 2014, the charity received donations of £4,295.

These donations have been used, primarily to fund the following:

  • Work on the UK Friends’ website
  • An information and celebration for the public held in Leeds
  • A visit to the UK for students from Jenin University
  • Programme work by the API and local partners in the Middle East, including support for hospitality and guide training

During the year we established with HMRC gift aid refunding. This enabled the charity to match fund a grant from SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) for employing a student intern on a variety of community research and outreach projects.

We would like to thank all our donors for their great generosity which makes this possible.

We will continue to work with API to attract donations in the UK for our stated purposes.

Future priorities

The significant step forward made by the API in providing in-depth resource for travellers – including the extensive online guide with downloadable maps – means that some of the work of the UK charity will be rethought in 2015.  Our priorities are primarily outreach and education, journey design and helping support programme work in the Middle East.

The Path itself has gone through a time of change and challenge. On the one hand there has been extensive development and growth – there is nearly 1000 miles of trail to be walked now and countless connections have been made between diverse Middle Eastern communities and international travellers. The Path has attracted support from major international funders such as the World Bank, notable stories in the media (including being voted the No 1 new trail by National Geographic Traveller), and the attention of the international travel market.  On the other hand, the horrific outcomes of conflict – not least the Gaza War, which broke out literally as the Leeds Met students started home from Israel – has been a major setback to tourism and travel in the region.

So it is difficult right now to encourage and to lead the kind of journeys we hope British travellers will want to make:  journeys that deepen appreciation of this wonderful part of the world; journeys that connect us with the region’s endlessly hospitable and kind people; and journeys of self discovery as we face ourselves in the light of the reality we find when we visit.  However that IS our mission: it is unchanged and we will continue to seek ways to deliver.

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