8 March 2024

Illawarra dietitian cooks more than 100 meals to raise money for those in Gaza crisis

| Keeli Royle
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Heba with some of the meals.

Heba spent five days cooking and preparing meals to raise money for UNICEF. Photo: UNICEF Australia.

An Illawarra dietitian has cooked, prepared and packaged more than a hundred meals to raise funds to help those in Gaza receive desperately needed humanitarian aid.

Heba Hassanin decided she wanted to join the cause and fundraise for UNICEF Australia’s Gaza Crisis Appeal after feeling helpless and overwhelmed by the stories she was hearing from across the world.

“I’m Egyptian and quite in contact with the people on the border and I see the stories coming from there and know humanitarian support is not getting in and it’s devastating,” she said.

“You feel like there’s nothing you can do so it’s just a little bit that we can actually do; hopefully there is a way to make it reach them over there.”

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After using her cooking skills to host a successful dinner event for UNICEF’s Ukraine appeal in 2022, Heba found a way to get more people involved and raise more money this time around.

“This time I was thinking to reach more people it’s going to be much easier if I make the meals and deliver – with the busy world we live in, it’s just going to make it easier to distribute the meals and they can have it in their own time,” she said.

She dedicated five days to her efforts, preparing and cooking 50 servings of Egypt’s national dish, Koshary, on the first weekend and 50 meals of the Middle Eastern dish Musaka’a the following weekend, along with 10 vegetarian versions.

And she said while cooking could sometimes seem like a chore, this was a different feeling.

“It can feel like more of a duty than a joy but the amount of energy that I got on the day was incredible and I was so happy cooking and everyone said the food was amazing and I think it’s the amount of love you put into cooking; I had a great feeling.”

She sold out of meals and has raised almost $1800 for the cause, with family, friends and total strangers supporting her.

“Actually I sold more than what I expected,” she said.

“Lots of the people who donated were not after the meals at all – they were like, ‘If you have leftovers that’s fine but if you don’t that’s not a problem’.

“They were actually very supportive; it was great.”

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The funds raised go towards UNICEF and their partners’ ongoing work at the Gaza Strip, which includes delivering medical supplies, food tents, blankets, hygiene kits, bottled water, fuel for the operation of critical water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) facilities, water treatment essentials, and mental health and psychosocial support.

“We are so thankful to Heba and fundraisers like her who use their skills, efforts and time to help those who need it the most,” UNICEF Australia CEO Tony Stuart said. “It’s this generosity that allows UNICEF to provide humanitarian support in places of the world such as the Gaza Strip where the delivery of aid is a matter of life and death.”

UNICEF is calling for an immediate, long-lasting humanitarian ceasefire to end the killing and injuring of children, including the safe release of all hostages, and the unimpeded passage to distribute aid to the people of Gaza.

To support Heba’s campaign for UNICEF visit her fundraising website.

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