By Susan Schwartz, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
Among the earthâ€™s suffering people perhaps none has captured the worldâ€™s attention more than the people of Palestine. That the suffering is manmade and not due to natural causes only heightens the tragedy of these beleaguered people. And, as is true of all suffering nations, the children are the most severely affected.
KINDERUSA (Kids in Need of Development, Education and Relief) has stepped into this situation where, particularly in Gaza, the number of starving children has reached a critical mass.
â€œThere is a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis taking place particularly in Gaza, that could soon turn into a human catastrophe.â€ said Dr.Lai la Al Marayati, Chairperson of KINDERUSA.
Founded in 2002 KINDERUSA has earned an outstanding reputation for its work on behalf of the worldâ€™s needy children. While their aid is worldwide – KINDERUSA helped the victims of Hurricane Katrina – the main focus has been on Palestine.The organization has named its Ramadan 2007 relief project â€œPlanting the Seeds of Ramadanâ€.
As part of its fundraising efforts, KINDERUSA held its annual Iftar and fundraiser Sunday evening in La Mirada, California. More than 250 attendees helped to raise over $45,000 for KINDERUSAâ€™s relief efforts.
Dr. Al Marayati was Master of Ceremonies for the event. She said that the children of Gaza suffering under the Israeli boot and crushing international sanctions have effectively been written out of the human race. It is the goal of KINDERUSA to put them back.
Adam Shapiro who with his wife Huwaida Arraf founded the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) gave a moving keynote speech. He told his audience that withholding aid is putting pressure on Gaza as it is intended to do.The withholding of any kind of aid is intended to break the back of the Palestinian people. Charitable organizations are afraid to give aid to Gaza fearing it would be a form of political suicide.He referred to KINDERUSAâ€s work as a form of resistance.
â€œWe are saying â€˜noâ€™. Resistance is who we are. It is our identity.â€
Mr. Shapiro has travelled the world to give aid in humanitarian crises. He is also a renowned documentary film maker. He told of his recent trip to Iraq to help Palestinian refugees there.
As the attendees erupted in applause, Mr. Shapiro stated: â€œI have become a Palestinianâ€.
Congressman Keith Ellis (D, Mn) sent the event a DVD in which he said that he was with the group in spirit and commended them for their charitable work. He continued by saying that there is no better way to celebrate Ramadan than to feed the hungry.
A visual display of the work of KINDERUSA in Palestine captured the attention of the audience and left not a few wiping their eyes. Projects such as food and clothing distribution have a dual effect. The needy are given vouchers which they spend at their discretion among local merchants. Thus do parents make their own choices and at the same time strengthen the local economy. Farmers have been supplied with necessities to begin production, the target group being those who are new farmers and those who have suffered due to the continuing economic strangulation. Thus are the seeds planted.
Female heads of household are taught to produce clothing and are given the materials to accomplish this. Back to school supplies and a project to provide each schoolchild with at least one hot meal at breakfast time are other KINDERUSA projects.
In Khan Younis, Beit Hanoun and the village of Umm Naser, KINDERUSA is providing healthy and nourishing meals to 250 families. These families have lost their homes due to the collapse of the sewage water basin wall.
As if to limn the tragedy, KINDERUSA also provides psychological counselling to the vast majority of children is Palestine who suffer from some form of post traumatic stress disorder.
â€œWhat is happening to those children is a crimeâ€ said one young woman, her face displaying the anger she and virtually all of the audience experienced.
To find out more about the work of KINDERUSA or to contribute to KINDERUSA, please access their website at: http://www.kinderusa.org.