By Susan Schwartz, MMNS
The deteriorating situation in Gaza and the West Bank, particularly the former, is at the forefront of humanitarian concerns and focus. The children are the most seriously affected as is invariably the case with all national tragedies. While many organizations work to alleviate the suffering, perhaps no group does more than KinderUSA (Kids in Need of Development, Education and Relief).
KinderUSA held a successful annual Ramadan Community Iftar this past Saturday evening in Los Angeles at the Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation. The event was for the children of Palestine and was titled: â€œNurturing Children, Supporting Farmers, This Ramadan and Beyondâ€.
The event attracted many repeat visitors and some new faces as Muslims and non Muslims alike broke the Ramadan fast with milk and dates followed by a Middle Eastern dinner.
Dr. Laila Al Marayati, the Chair of KinderUSA, began the program with a reading of the Holy Quâ€™ran. Dr. Al Marayatiâ€™s young daughter read from the Holy Quâ€™ran, and her mother then translated.
Dr, Al Marayati presented KinderUSAâ€™s program for the Palestinian people. This program included support for farmers who labor under the burden of Israeli destruction of their land and the uprooting of their trees. KinderUSA also supports women who are heads of households because their husbands are dead, disabled or in Israeli prisons. Gift baskets with fresh items are given to residents. Ninety percent of monies donated go directly to charitable purposes.
Further KinderUSA now works in Gaza with children who suffer from Cystic Fibrosis. Dr. Al Marayati spoke of the devastating aspects of this disease and of the specialized care that is needed.
In discussing the work of her organization, Dr. Al Marayati also spoke of the work done in Pakistan in the wake of the recent devastating floods; of the work done in Lebanon, and the work done in the United States when Hurricane Katrina struck.
KinderUSA also works to establish playgrounds in Palestine. In addition to the obvious benefits of play, these playgrounds offer children traumatized by occupation the chance to work out their fears through physical exercise.
In a new addition to the projects of KinderUSA, Yes Theater in the West Bank has been added. Working with War Child Holland, Yes Theater gives children an opportunity to deal with their war experiences in a healthy way.
Dr. Al Marayati introduced the keynote speaker, Ramzy Baroud as volunteers moved through the attendees with baskets to collect donations.
Mr. Baroud is an author, a journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of Palestine Chronicle.
â€œWhy are we here?â€, he asked. â€œWhat unifies us?â€ He answered his own query by saying that we are the first line of defense for Palestinians in refugee camps. â€œOur strategy is to empower them.â€ Mr. Baroud dismissed as absurd the idea that Hamas is responsible for the situation in Gaza.
Mr. Baroud suggested that it would benefit scientists to study the Palestinian people in an effort to understand their endurance and resilience in the face of Israeli occupation. He referenced the situation in Jenin when the residents refused aid after the Israeli massacre despite their needs. The aid was offered by USAID, and the residents of Jenin knew full well that the US was Israelâ€™s sponsor and therefore complicit.
â€œWhat a compelling speaker he isâ€ said one young woman after Mr. Baroudâ€™s presentation.
KinderUSA was founded in 2002 by physicians and concerned humanitarians to alleviate the suffering of children in Palestine and beyond. KinderUSA makes no distinction with regard to race, faith or ethnicity in its ministrations. KinderUSA is a 501(c)(3) organization with offices in Brussels, Belgium and Dallas, Texas.
To learn more about the far flung work of KinderUSA and to donate, please access them at: www.kinderusa.org.