The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund in Gaza: A Profile in Courage
By Susan Schwartz, TMO
Israeli soldiers stand guard over Palestinian children arrested in the West Bank city of Hebron. Photograph: Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA
Readers of The Muslim Observers will be familiar with the Palestine Childrenâ€™s Relief Fund (PCRF), the worldâ€™s largest childrenâ€™s charity focusing on the medical needs of children in the Arab world. The PCRF is known for its humanitarian efforts on behalf of these children, for its medical innovations, and for its compassion. The recent war of aggression in Gaza by the state of Israel limned another quality – courage.
The PCRF has a headquarters in Gaza with a permanent staff of 10 and 30 volunteers. All work about 10 hours a day. Since the war began PCRF in Gaza ha been able to help 800 children. The greatest demand, apart from supplies, is for medical personnel specializing in the treatment of burns, orthopedics, trauma and general surgery. During the war their headquarters was bombed with considerable damage to the building but fortunately with no casualties. The PCRF personnel continued their work, not permitting the war or the loss of part of their work space to deter them – or indeed – slow them down. The PCRF, while geared toward helping children, has helped anyone in need in Gaza during this time of war.
Members of the Southern California PCRF chapter grew used to e mails that abruptly ended because of the sound of explosions.
During the summer the PCRF sent out an urgent call for medical and humanitarian funds to help war ravaged Gaza. The call was answered by generous donors and officers of the group pledged that 100% of monies collected would go for the direct relief of suffering. Following is the distribution of funds received: medical supplies (31%); medical equipment (31%); humanitarian supplies for homeless children (2%); mattresses for homeless children (18%), and food for homeless children (18%).
The Southern California chapter has received up dates on Gaza children who were treated in Los Angeles and have since returned home. Their stories have been covered by The Muslim Observer. There are children that the PCRF has not been able to locate to determine their safety and, if they are safe, their needs.
Remas and Lames Shallouf lost their father this past week. He was walking from the UN shelter to their abandoned home to get clothes for his daughters. He was instantly killed by an Israeli rocket. Remas and Lames are safe though their home suffered damage in the Israeli attacks, and they are forced to live with family. PCRF social workers have visited the family to assess their needs. An on line fundraiser to raise money for the family will be held in the near future when details are finalized.
Ahâ€™d Hamden is living with her family on the ground floor of their home.
Abdullah Al Athamna had to flee his home during a missile attack. During his escape his prosthesis broke, and he had to be carried to safety by his grandfather.
In late mid August a group Twitter session permitted chapter members to query workers in the trenches in Gaza. For the security of these brave people, names have been omitted.
Query: Did you suffer damage from the war?
F. Our building was hit but we were able to recoup our mission. We had no injuries.
Query: Are there enough medical supplies in Gaza?
F. Not really, we need more.
Query: Do you receive help from the UN?
F. No, not from the UN.
Query: Do you have electricity in Gaza?
F. We have it for 3 or 4 hours. After that we depend on generators.
Query: What are your plans for the future of Gaza?
S. Short term help injured kids. Long term build up the health system; create a Pediatric Cancer Department, and create a pediatric cardiac program.
Query: What was your first impression upon entering Gaza?
K. It was like entering a maximum security prison.
Query: What are the main problems you face in Gaza?
F. Air strikes, tank shells and lack of transportation.
Query: Arenâ€™t the borders blocked?
F. Depends on the Israelis. Today for example the crossing was closed.
Query: Where are the safe places in Gaza?.
S. There are no safe places in Gaza.
The Palestine Childrenâ€™s Relief Fund has many aspects to its charitable work. The courage show by the workers in Gaza is inspiring. To find out more about the organizationâ€™s work and/or to make a contribution, please access their web site at: www.pcrf.net.