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UTTER HERO: Bushey resident travels to Gaza to help victims

 Published on: 18th March 2024   |   By: Annabel Stock   |   Category: Uncategorized

A Bushey resident’s mission to provide food to Palestinian victims was thwarted after being blocked entry into Gaza.

Nick Balen joined Watford based charity Food For All over 20 years ago, and during his time volunteering for them has travelled all over the world delivering emergency meals to victims of war and natural disasters.

His journey to Gaza, however, was not as successful as hoped. The charity decided that driving to the region in their van from the UK, as they usually do, would be too difficult. Instead, they flew to Cairo on January 5 and hired a van there, alongside the extra equipment needed to set up one of their kitchens.

A week later, they were forced to turn around. The group were unable to obtain a permit from the Egyptian army, required for entry into the Sinai Peninsula, which leads to the Gazan border.

Speaking to BUSHEYnews, Nick explained that he moved to the UK from his native Croatia after fleeing the conflict there in the late 90s. He soon joined Food For All, delivering food to vulnerable people in North London six days a week – something he says he loved doing. He said:

“Having experienced war in Croatia, I know what it is to lose everything.”

After volunteering for the charity full time for seven years, Nick married and had to put volunteering on the back burner while he prioritised working and providing for his family. Now, Nick works as a lorry driver, delivering kitchens for a joinery and spends his precious holidays travelling around the world cooking for thousands of people. Nick’s work is entirely voluntary and done from the ‘[kindness] of my heart.’

Back in January 2005, Nick travelled to Sri Lanka to help victims of the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, cooking for around 2000 people every day for over two months. More recently, Nick travelled to the Polish border to cook for over 2000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing the conflict. In their improvised, emergency kitchens, which have the capacity to provide 20,000 meals a day, Nick and the other volunteers cook largely vegetarian food including curry, rice and dahl.

Speaking of his motivation to dedicate so much of his free time to helping others, Nick said:

“It’s not political, I don’t go to these places to support one side but to support human beings.”

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