By Susan Schwartz
TMO contributing writer
KinderUSA (Kids in Need of Development, Education, and Relief) held a highly successful banquet/fundraiser at a Middle Eastern themed restaurant in Los Angeles May 31.
The annual fundraiser was titled: Rebuilding the Lives of Children in Gaza. A capacity audience enjoyed a reception and dinner followed by an entertaining and educational program.
Dr. Laila al Marayati, the co-founder of KinderUSA, welcomed the attendees. “We are having a good time, but in Gaza there is devastation.” Dr. al Marayati showed a brief KinderUSA video. The devastation she alluded to was all too apparent in the video. She spoke of the lack of safe structures and the need to construct power plants, the latter a precondition to sanitation. The land was rendered unusable by Israeli bombardment.
The audience gasped when Dr. al Marayati told them that 300,000 in Gaza`are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): often children are shell shocked and cannot function well enough to leave their homes. Those who might serve as caretakers often suffer from similar psychological disorders.
A KinderUSA program will provide families with fresh food twice during the month of Ramadan. Many items will be bought from the women’s cooperatives that KinderUSA has trained during the year. In the parts of Gaza that suffered the most devastation by Israeli forces, a Psychosocial Support program will assist 2400 children through various mentored activities.
In the West Bank many homes headed by women, or which include the disabled or the elderly will receive fresh vegetables, dairy and live chickens. Farmers are negatively affected by Israel’s Separation Wall, and the food is purchased from them.
KinderUSA activist and retired pediatrician Dr. Harry Gunkel spoke next. He visited Gaza as part of a small delegation from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine/Israel Network.
Dr. Gunkel said that he was in Gaza last month and was able to observe KinderUSA projects. He visited Beit Hanoun and saw kindergarten students enjoying a meal prepared by a Women’s Cooperative, likely the only hot meal these children would enjoy during the day. He witnessed the devastation and the tragic spectacle of lone children who were the sole survivors in their families because of Israeli military action. The approach of KinderUSA is holistic and respects the dignity of the recipients.
When Dr. al Marayati spoke again she praised the resilience of the Palestinian people. She spoke of playgrounds and outlets for artistic expression both a necessary part of a child’s coping mechanisms.
She then introduced fifth grader, Ali El Farra, who gave an excellent vocal performance while volunteers visited tables to accept donations.
The evening ended with comedic performances.
Editor’s note: KinderUSA is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. It was founded in 2002 by American physicians and concerned humanitarians, and its aims were and remain the improvement of the health and well-being of children in Palestine. To learn more about KinderUSA and/or to contribute, please access their web site at www.kinderusa.org.