The Southern California chapter of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) held its tenth annual Helping Hands banquet/fundraiser this past weekend in the Anaheim Hilton Hotel in Anaheim, Ca. Titled “Hope is A Beautiful Thing”, the event attracted a capacity crowd and featured outstanding speakers and entertainment.
Palestinian embroidery and olive oil from Palestine were available for purchase during the evening. Pictures of the children aided by the Chapter were also displayed, and their stories were told in the program booklet.
Khaldoon Khaireddin, the Secretary of the PCRF Southern California chapter, was the Master of Ceremonies. He welcomed the attendees and, after an excellent meal was served, began the program. He spoke of the 40 day Israeli siege of Gaza and of the dead and injured men, women, and children in that beleaguered nation. The physical destruction is beyond comprehension. Through all this the PCRF has been on the ground rendering aid, indifferent to the attendant risk associated with being in a war zone.
Mrs. Lily Karam, the President of the chapter, was introduced and praised for her selfless dedication to the PCRF. She spoke briefly of the organization’s work and thanked the attendees for their presence.
Two awards were given. The first was the Suhaila and Musa Nasir Humanitarian Award. Dr. Nasir is the Chairman of the Board of the Southern California chapter of the PCRF. He is also the Chairman of the Board of the parent PCRF, and Mrs. Nasir is on the Board of Directors of the parent PCRF. Dr. and Mrs. Nasir have been selfless in their devotion to and work for the PCRF. Countless children have had their health restored or, if that was not possible, have had their lives greatly improved through the diligence and devotion of this special pair. The couple was praised from the podium in the early portion the banquet/fundraiser.
This year’s recipient was Anthony J. Ellis, a Senior Clinical Prosthetist at the Shriner’s Hospital in Los Angeles, a site where many of the children brought to the United States by the PCRF have been treated. When Mr. Ellis accepted his award he gave credit to his mentors and to his team.
“It is the children that make it possible”.
The Huda Al-Masri Humanitarian Spirit Award was given to Dr. Khaled Abughazaleh, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who has worked with the PCRF since 2005. His wife accepted the award as Dr. Abughazaleh was in the oPt bringing his life enhancing surgery for the benefit of needy children.
The late Huda Al-Masri was a social worker who was the soul of the PCRF. Her love for Palestine and her depth of devotion for the children in need made her a beloved figure. She was the wife of the PCRF CEO, Steve Sosebee. The award is given to a person whose humanitarian spirit has embraced that of Huda’s.
Farid Shalabi was introduced as A Friend of PCRF. He described himself as a Palestinian and a proud Palestinian. He praised his father who was forced to leave Palestine in the middle of the last century and who taught him and his siblings to “love God and love Palestine”.
Mr. Shalabi spoke of a new project – a web site in the process of construction. This web site, which will be ready in mid or late November, will sell Palestinian goods.
Musical and comedic presentations were made. A particularly touching moment occurred during the former when the musical ensemble led the audience in a rendition of Mawtini Mawtini , an anthem of the Palestinian homeland. The entire audience stood, clearly moved by this. Non Arab speaking attendees were able to sing along phonetically by reading the phonetic Arabic and English translation in the program booklet.
Indeed, the love of Palestine and its people was a sub theme of the evening.
Dr. Renna Hazboun is a hospital dentist who specializes in Dental/Oral and Maxillofacial surgery. She has completed three team trips for the PCRF to the oPt. She specializes in the treatment in hospital of special needs children. Dr. Hazboun gave her presentation against a visual background of her work.
Dr. Hazboun has also taken part in five missions with a UCLA Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Team.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Robin Kelley, the Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor of U. S. History at UCLA. Dr. Kelley is an accomplished author and a member of the Advisory Board of the U. S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. He is also active in the BDS movement.
Dr. Kelley began by saying that he would be expressing his opinions, not necessarily those of the PCRF. He spoke of Zionism and racism and how these were and are connected to what African Americans have had to endure.
“When you say ‘free Palestine’”, it is more than words: it is action. He called for an end to the occupation; a return to the 1967 borders; removing the Apartheid Wall; an end to settlements, and the Right of Return.
Dr. Kelley also spoke of the essential role of BDS in making this move forward.
The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund is the world’s largest children’s charity that provides free medical care for children in the Middle East. PCRF regularly sends teams of medical personnel to the oPt to teach medical professionals as well as to treat the needy children there. The medical treatment is free of charge.If the children cannot be treated optimally on site they are transported, free of charge (usually with a companion) for treatment in another nation. In the United States the children spend their time at the home of Arabic speaking host families when their hospital stay is over. Volunteers take them to the required out patient appointments.
The PCRF has also provided aid to Syrian children and Palestinian refugees in Syria. This summer the focus was on Gaza with PCRF workers on the ground providing medical and humanitarian aid even as Israeli attacks surrounded them.
The PCRF has established summer camps for poor and disabled children. It has a program which provides fitted wheel chairs and a program that provides eye glasses.
The PCRF established last year the Huda Al-Masri Pediatric Cancer Department in Beit Jala Hospital.
To read more about this amazing organization – and the foregoing covers only a part of its work – or to make a donation, please access their web site at: www.pcrf.net.