It is hard for me to describe what my time in Gaza has been like so far. I find myself using the same old superlatives over and over- “amazing”, “incredible”, and “fantastic” are the ones that seem to keep popping out. Not very descriptive or articulate of me.

But there are a few others that come to mind which I am still trying to get to the bottom of, because they feel a bit unlikely- “home-y”, “familiar”, and “comfortable”. As someone from Tennessee who has lived in the UK for a few decades, you may refer me back to my dictionary. But this is the way that the people in Gaza have made me feel; like I was being welcomed back by friends and family after being away.

Enough about me- let me tell you about the people I have met and the (amazing, incredible, and fantastic) Startup Weekend we had. The participants were some of the most highly-educated, skilled, and talented people I have seen at any Startup Weekend. The youngest was just 13. Fifty percent of the attenders were women. Lots of those women were the developers, designers, and computer scientists in the room. They were all eager, ambitious, committed to learning and to building something viable and scalable.

Around 160 people attended, with 31 teams making it to the pitch on Sunday night. We had business models that filled a gap in the market in Gaza with things that might be available elsewhere but not here, social impact startups that solved problems for disabled people, and fun startups that made everyday chores easier and better.

There is so much to say about my brief four and a half days there, so I will break it down into chunks and send a few of these blogs out over the next little while. But most importantly I will say this: Gaza is not what is shown in the news. Don’t just take what is fed to you. Reach out and read out and find out about all the people just like you who live in Gaza wanting the same things: a safe and healthy family, an education, a good job, a peaceful country, and maybe most importantly, freedom. But don’t take my word for it. You can have a look at my facebook page and see all my new friends and hear what is important to them. You can read the stories of some of the incredible people I met at about their lives like Do’aa Mohaisen and Khaled Al-Ostath. I’ll bet you will find someone who sounds a lot like you, or your son or daughter.

In my next blog I will tell you about the unique team at Mercy Corps andGaza Sky Geeks who managed to put this massive event together, and about some of the challenges that people in Gaza face that are perhaps not just like yours.

Author: Startup Liz