Charity Spotlight: Palestine Children’s Relief Fund

Ghada Elnajjar
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Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a Palestinian-American. Both of my parents were refugees born and raised in Gaza. Although I’ve never lived there, I was raised with a strong Palestinian identity and have always had an affinity to the the land, the culture and to the people of Palestine.
My father escaped the 1967 war in pursuit of his education, and was able to emigrate to the United States to earn his PhD and to to later become a college professor. I have a master’s degree in International Relations from American University in Washington, DC. I formerly worked in the U.S. Department of State, and currently I am the Director of Operations at AE Financial & Risk Management, a family owned independent financial services firm here in Atlanta, GA. Through education and success in life, my parents taught my brothers and I that we would be better able to give back to our people in Palestine who are in need.
What is your position with the organization, and how did you come to be involved?
The PCRF relies heavily on the help of chapter volunteers. PCRF Chapters are the backbone of the organization. Chapters contribute to the organization’s mission to provide needy children in the Middle East with free medical care by hosting fundraising events in their area, bringing awareness to the work of the PCRF, and by assisting in the care of the sick and injured children in their respective areas.
In the PCRF-Atlanta chapter, I serve as the Patient Affairs Co-Coordinator. Along with my Committee Co-Coordinator (Christine Solomon), I help facilitate the different aspects related to children receiving medical care in Atlanta. My duties begin with finding a host family for each child, coordinating the child’s doctor visits with the host family’s schedule. I also organize community events to introduce the child to the community to 1) bring awareness to what the organization does, and 2) to create a social atmosphere for the child to make his/her stay more enjoyable while here receiving treatment.
I have been involved with PCRF for more than 16 years. My first encounter with PCRF was when the Washington, DC chapter hosted a 2-year old girl name Falasteen (Arabic for Palestine) who was receiving a life saving open heart surgery. Falasteen and her mother were staying at the Ronald McDonald house while receiving treatment at Children’s Hospital. I attended little Falasteen’s 2nd birthday party, organized by the PCRF-Washington, DC chapter, and fell in love with Falasteen and what this organization was doing; not only giving Falasteen a new lease on life, but also making her journey in this foreign county more fathomable to her and her mother who accompanied her. A few years later, I moved to Southern California and learned about a PCRF organized community event that introduced a young boy from Iraq who lost his leg in the 2003 war and was receiving medical treatment in Los Angeles.  At that point, I couldn’t resist, and became directly involved with PCRF, and served as a board member in the PCRF-Southern California chapter in 2005. When I finally moved back to my home state Georgia (to be closer to my family), I was elated to find out that there is a PCRF-Atlanta chapter, and jumped at the opportunity to join and help in the committee that, in my opinion, is the heart of what PCRF is about, which is to provide free medical care to children who otherwise cannot receive care in their country. That’s when I became PCRF-Atlanta Patient Affairs Co-Coordinator.
Tell me a little about PCRF, and what it’s like working for the organization.
I was raised in believing in the value and importance of giving back. PCRF provides me with the opportunity to give back through volunteerism. Giving back is an extremely rewarding experience for me, and I am honored and blessed to have this opportunity.
What inspires you to do the work you do?
I am inspired by the work of this great organization. I am also inspired by the organization’s co-founders who had the vision and continued commitment to create such an amazing organization, including the President and CEO Steve Sosebee, the social workers on the ground in Palestine and surrounding countries who tirelessly and bravely work in sometimes extreme situations due to the difficult circumstances in the region, the many doctors and nurses from around the world who provide free medical services and care to PCRF-sponsored children receiving treatment abroad, the countless many other doctors and nurses who travel on medical missions to provide free medical care in Palestine and surrounding areas, and all of the chapter volunteers who give their time and effort so willingly and lovingly. I am in awe of all that they do, and very inspired by how they are driven purely by altruistic reasons. I am also inspired by the children receiving care and their families who are resilient, full of hope and love life despite their severely difficult circumstances.
What do you consider to be the most challenging aspect of working with PCRF?
Let me premise by saying, when you love something so much, working for it is not challenging, it is actually rewarding.   With that said, I have to say that the main challenge that many in the organization face is not seeing an end to the tragedies that plague the Middle East region. As mentioned before, PCRF was originally established to address the medical and humanitarian crisis facing Palestinian youths in the Middle East. As this crisis still continues, more now than ever before, it has also expanded to help suffering children from the region, which include war-stricken countries in the Middle East, including children in Iraq, Syria, and the refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon.
Tell me about some of PCRF’s most recent campaigns.
One of the major projects PCRF is working on is the building of Gaza’s first and only public pediatric cancer department… In 2013, PCRF opened the first and only public pediatric oncology department in Palestine, The Huda Al Masri Pediatric Cancer Department in Beit Jala Hospital in the West Bank. Unfortunately, due to the siege, the children in Gaza do not have access to this department on regular basis because it is difficult to receive permits to leave Gaza. The goal is to ensure that every child in Gaza fighting cancer has the chance to get the care he/she needs locally.