By Susan Schwartz, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
Anaheim–The devastation in Palestine is reported regularly in the media and is most tragically limned when the suffering of children can be seen. It is not possible to be inured to such suffering when it is inflicted on societyâ€™s most innocent victims. Hunger, disrupted education and daily violence pale when the spector of a sick or injured child appears.
The Palestine Childrenâ€™s Relief Fund (PCRF), founded in 1991, is one of the leading childrenâ€™s relief organizations in the world. While the PCRF has the Arab children of the world as its purview, its primary focus is in Palestine.
The Southern California chapter of the PCRF held a highly successful banquet and fundraiser this past weekend at the Anaheim Hilton in Anaheim, California.
The event, the third for the PCRF, was titled Healing Hands. When the attendees entered the dining area they saw some of the work of the PCRF on twin screens and heard the beautiful voices of youth singing Palestinian songs.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, was given a standing ovation when she entered the room. Dr. Ashrawi has few peers as a spokesperson for the Palestinian people. She is the recipient of many awards as a humanitarian and warrior for peace and justice. They include, but are not limited to: the Olof Palme Award; the Sydney Peace Prize, and the Defender of Democracy Award.
She is an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Counsel, Jerusalem District. Her address captivated the audience, her passion and expertise illuminating her words.
After the welcoming remarks by the PCRF CEO, Steve Sosebee, Lily Karam, the President of the Southern California chapter, took to the podium and addressed the audience.
After an excellent meal, Steve Sosebee presided as Master of Ceremonies. He introduced PCRF activists from the audience and presented awards to local PCRF officers. Also featured in the eveningâ€™s program was Palestinian born Nizar Wattad who read his poetry as well as two poems by Dr. Ashrawi. A visual presentation of the work of the PCRF was narrated by Dr. Alexander Zourous, a frequent and dedicated volunteer in Palestine. He is Chief of Pediatric Surgery at Loma Linda (California) University Childrenâ€™s Hospital.
Midway through the program two young people sang a medley of beautiful and haunting songs. The music seemed a perfect fit to the story of pain and suffering in Palestine and brought tears to the eyes of many who listened.
During the appeal for funds the audience gave generously. â€œI canâ€™t think of a better causeâ€ said one young woman.
The PCRF sends medical missions to Palestine to make diagnoses, to treat injured or sick children and to perform surgeries that include (but are not limited to): plastic and reconstructive surgery; orthopedic surgery; scoliosis and spine surgery; ophthalmic surgery and vascular surgery. Medical missions include doctors, nurses and other medical personnel.
The members volunteer their time, and the children treated do not have to pay for any procedures or services. If children cannot be treated locally, they are flown to an appropriate site outside of Palestine, often to the United States. Again their families are not required to pay, and the child stays with an Arabic speaking host family, supplemented by caring PCRF visitors, during the entirety of his or her stay in the United States.
The following year, the ICU was doubled in size. It remains the only ICU for Pediatric Cardiac Surgery in Palestine.
Amal Jubran, a Palestinian who lives in the San Diego area,found out about the work of the PCRF and volunteered as a scrub nurse to go to Palestine with a medical mission. Upon her return she attempted to get an article published in a local newspaper detailing her experiences and the situation in Palestine. Her attempts were unsuccessful. When asked if she wanted to be quoted with her name, she replied: â€œI am not afraid. I want to tell the story.â€