By Susan Schwartz, TMO
The Palestine Childrenâ€™s Relief Fund (PCRF), through its Southern California Chapter, held a highly successful â€œHealing Handsâ€ banquet/fundraiser this past Saturday evening in Anaheim, Ca. The PCRF is the worldâ€™s largest childrenâ€™s charity providing medical treatment to children in the Middle East.
The event featured as keynote speaker Palestinian activist and expert, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi. Dr. Ashrawi gave an outstanding presentation, interrupted often by applause. This was her second appearance as keynote speaker for the PCRF. Her credentials are great in number. To mention a few: She made history in 2009 as the first woman to be elected to the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, a position she holds to this day.
She founded and became the Chair of the English Department at Birzeit University and became Dean of the Faculty of Arts.
As twin screens in the dining room showed pictures of children helped by the PCRF, outstanding presentations took place on the stage.
When the President of the Southern California, Lily Karam, was introduced, she began her speech by asking rhetorically why she and her fellow chapter members worked so tirelessly. Her answer was â€œfor the childrenâ€. When she ended her speech, she again made her, and inferentially the chapterâ€™s, emphasis. She does not see ethnic or national groups and certainly not religious distinctions. Ms Karam sees only children in need.
Two awards were presented during the event. The first was the Suhaila and Musa Nasir Humanitarian Award and was presented to the Barakat family. The Barakat family of Southern California has served not only the PCRF but many other groups and individuals through their philanthropic efforts. The award was presented to the family patriarch, Adil Barakat, whose motto beautifully expresses the work of the family. â€œBlessed are those who are most useful to others.â€
Dr. Musa Nasir is the Chairman of the Board of the PCRF and, with his wife, Suhaila, has been the spirit and the guiding light of the organization.
The second award, the Huda Al Masri Humanitarian Spirit Award, was presented to Dr. Vincenzo Stephano Luisi of Italy. He and his daughter founded a PCRF chapter in Italy. He has performed over 300 life saving cardiac surgeries in Gaza and the West Bank and also in Italy. He took to the podium and gave a moving speech telling of his love for the Palestinian cause and the joy and satisfaction he took in working with the PCRF missions to Palestine. â€˜In the Palestinian territories I am called Stefan.â€
The Huda Al Masri Humanitarian Spirit Award is named after the late wife of the PCRFâ€™s CEO, Steve Sosebee. She was the heart of the PCRF during her all too short life. When Mr. Sosebee took the stage he paid tribute to her work and acknowledged her as the guiding spirit. Earlier this year the PCRF opened the Huda Al Masri Pediatric Cancer Department in the Beit Jala Hospital.
Mr. Sosebee also told of the growth of the PCRF nationally and internationally over the past year including the opening of new headquarters on the West Bank, Gaza, and Lebanon.
Dr. Anna Cuomo, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Shrinerâ€™s Hospital for Children in Los Angeles, was also acknowledged for her contributions to the PCRF both in Los Angeles and on medical missions to the oPt.
Musical and comedy entertainment were also presented.
Readers will want to access the entire body of work of the Palestine Childrenâ€™s Relief Fund by accessing its web site at: www.pcrf.net.
The PCRF is based in Kent, Ohio and is a 501 (c)(3) non profit and non political organization dedicated to a humanitarian mission. This past year the PCRF has opened the above referenced Pediatric Oncology Department. The PCRF also began a campaign which it named appropriately â€œHealing Heartsâ€ to provide life saving open heart surgery for children in Gaza.
The organization sends medical missions to Palestine to treat on site children who cannot be adequately treated locally. These missions also provide teaching experiences for the medical personnel there. If the child cannot have optimum medical treatment in Palestine, he or she is transported to another country. All of this is free of charge to the patient and to his or her family.
The PCRF also provides mechanized wheel chairs, eye glasses, a summer camp for disabled children, and a Womenâ€™s Empowerment Program.
PCRF in Lebanon has also taken on the daunting task of treating seriously injured children from Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Damascus.
To learn more about this organization or to contribute to their work, please access their web site.