Hank & John Green announce Gaza fundraiser on TikTok; pledge to match donations

John Green, Hank Green, Jen Hattamer

“Yesterday, I found out about a thing called Operation Olive Branch,” Hank Green — a beloved internet creator and author — said in a TikTok video on Wednesday.

This thing he is referring to — Operation Olive Branch — is a digital volunteer effort organizing and supporting fundraising campaigns that help displaced Palestinians gain access to safety and support. And it’s an effort Hank, and his brother John Green, will now be supporting.

OOB is led by a coalition of anonymous volunteers who collect and verify mutual aid campaigns of hundreds of Palestinian families and share them through a (very thorough and color-coded) spreadsheet

These fundraisers, according to an (again, very detailed) FAQ page from OOB, “include campaigns from families regardless of their request, whether it be funds for medical aid, food, supplies of living, evacuation fees, or to rebuild their homes.”

The group’s aim is to take pre-existing fundraising campaigns — shared almost exclusively on GoFundMe — created and managed by families and get them in front of potential donors and advocates.

“I found out about this and I think it’s great,” Hank said in his video — which was broadcast to his over 8 million TikTok followers. 

So great, in fact, that he announced his own $5,000 donation to Ismail, a doctor working in Rafah. (John also donated $5,000.) He also shared that they will match those funds by giving another collective $10,000 to Save the Children — as well as a dollar-for-dollar match to Save the Children for any other donation given to Ismail’s GoFundMe.

This announcement follows a video (that has since been set to private) shared by Erin Hattamer, a comedian with a following of over 1.5 million followers on TikTok. In it, Hattamer identified herself as a fan and mutual follower of the Green brothers and called on them to support OOB.

Hattamer herself has been amplifying calls for assistance in Gaza and the work of OOB, leading her to create a type of “adopt-a-family” program, in which she leverages her connections with other TikTok creators to help families reach their fundraising goals. She calls it “Pass The Hat.”

Erin Hattamer
Photo courtesy of Erin Hattamer

“My philosophy is that not one person — me or anyone else — should carry the burden of speaking out,” Hattamer said in a TikTok. “It’s not just up to me, it’s not just up to you; it’s up to everyone.”

By creating a form for other creators — big or small — to get involved, she has encouraged countless TikTok users to spread the word about individual people and families who need help.

Hattamer’s approach has been working and has gained support from major creators, including Mercury Stardust, Paris Paloma, Chris Olsen, and more. 

But Hank and John’s support is especially meaningful, following Hattamer’s call to be more involved and vocal in their support of Palestine.

It’s worth noting that the Green Brothers have been donating to Gaza aid initiatives at larger organizations like Save the Children. In fact, during this year’s annual Project for Awesome fundraiser, they raised over $3.53 million, with 25% going to Save the Children.

Another 25% of total funds raised went to Partners in Health to treat tuberculosis — a disease that kills 4,000 people per day. The remaining 50% went to organizations chosen by fans and supporters.

Hank Green interviews Janti Soeripto in a livestream for Project for Awesome
Hank Green interviews Janti Soeripto, president and CEO of Save the Children, about Gaza on a livestream in February

During the Project for Awesome livestream, Hank interviewed Janti Soeripto, president and CEO of Save the Children. Soeripto shared stories of her recent trip to Gaza and the team’s ongoing efforts to provide aid to children in the region in the midst of life-threatening destruction.

“Actions do inspire hope,” said Soeripto. “For our colleagues to do whatever they can — to go out and distribute water, diapers, and food when we have it — it does inspire hope, for themselves but also for the people surrounding them.”

@hankgreen1 Replying to @Daniel Walker ♬ original sound - Hank Green

On TikTok yesterday, Hank also explained why he had been opting to support more established nonprofits in the area — until now.

“My focus has been supporting organizations that I know and have been on the ground working in Gaza for a long time, mostly Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders,” he explained.

He then goes on to explain the “tricky” nature of negotiating a border crossing — a call to action behind many of the GoFundMe campaigns that OOB shares. 

To flee the violence in Gaza, there is only one way out: Through the border to Egypt. To do this, Palestinians must work with travel agents and brokers to pay fees and bribes — which hover at a starting rate of at least $7,000 per person. This is more than twice the average annual income of a family in Gaza, according to NBC News.

Many are trying to evacuate their entire families. And an estimated 5.9 million Palestinians are now displaced, according to UNRWA.

Prior to Israel’s military escalation last year, the cost to cross the border was closer to a few hundred dollars, rather than thousands, according to NPR. These price increases, steep demand, and ongoing corruption have made it impossible for Palestinians to manage on their own, though Egyptian officials deny any allegations of bribery.

There are more than 12,000 active campaigns on GoFundMe for Palestinians in Gaza, largely raising funds for evacuation. Since October 2023, over $75 million has been raised, according to a GoFundMe spokesperson for NBC. 

(GoFundMe also has a “Giving Guarantee” policy that issues refunds to donors in the event of a misuse of funds, making it one of the more reputable options for mutual aid organizers and donors alike.)

But even after raising funds, Palestinians must ensure the smooth transfer of their money, wait in the backlog of the thousands trying to leave, and may even encounter further demands for payment.

So, Hank said, he worries about where the money is going when people donate to these grassroots campaigns.

“I spent some time looking into the complexities of these border crossings and also how the money functions, because if I’m going to ask people to give money, I want to make sure it’s not going to something that is not going to end up helping people,” he said in his TikTok.

And despite his best efforts to ensure the end result of every dollar donated, it’s complicated.

“But these are people who are trying to do the right things for their families, and so ultimately I’m like… you can just help,” he said. 

“You could talk about [and] think about how it’s complicated, but ultimately, the money is going to the people who are trying to do what is right for their families. So the right thing to do is to help them.”

A collage of three images on a GoFundMe for a doctor named Ismail Qunoo. The first image shows a male doctor in scrubs, sitting while studying a document. The second image depicts the same doctor administering care to an infant. The third image displays the doctor using a stethoscope on a child's chest. On the right side, the webpage details a fundraising goal of £75,000, with £55,825 already raised, alongside a list of recent donations.
Hank and John Green are helping raise funds for a doctor in Gaza via GoFundMe

The matching donation element of John and Hank’s involvement also illustrates the need for short- and long-term support to the people of Gaza. 

Funds from John and Hank that go to Save the Children will be available for the organization to “use that money now and in the future,” Hank explained, “because aid is getting through for the people who are not able to leave Gaza.”

With Israel’s latest invasion of Rafah, things are up in the air — including evacuations and aid availability. But with the support of a global network of advocates — like the Green brothers, Hattamer, and the people of OOB — there is a sense of hope.

“Through the OOB community, we’ve found that many people who had been asking ‘what more can I do to help?’ have found that answer through personally connecting with these families and supporting them directly,” OOB’s FAQ page explains, under a question about the importance of direct aid.

“Many who choose to participate in the social media community that has formed around this project have built genuine relationships with these families and are fundamentally transformed forever.”

Header photos courtesy of John Green, Hank Green, and Jen Hattamer

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