It all started seven years ago for Suheir Ibrahim, when the Forsyth County mother saw the pain and medical needs of Arab children in the Middle East.
“I could just imagine what pain a mother goes through, seeing her children suffer and feeling helpless,” Ibrahim said.
Motivated to make a difference, Ibrahim joined the Atlanta chapter of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund shortly after it was created. Today, she is the chapter president.
The mission of the nonprofit, founded in 1991 in the United States, is to provide medical and humanitarian relief to children living in Palestinian territories and surrounding areas, regardless of their nationality, politics or religion. According to the Charity Navigator website, PCRF has received eight consecutive four-star ratings since 2010 for exceeding industry standards and outperforming most charities. Charity Navigator’s website rates the financial health, accountability and transparency of thousands of charitable organizations.
The Rev. Dr. Fahed Abu-Akel, a retired Atlanta minister, past moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the first Palestinian-American to lead a major U.S. denomination, said he learned about Ibrahim’s group four years ago at one of its galas and highly commends PCRF for its medical care of children.
“They are an excellent organization that focuses on one thing, and that’s care for the children in Gaza, in West Bank and wherever there are children that need care,” Abu-Akel said. “They raise funds to build clinics in places like Bethlehem, where a child cannot get help otherwise.”
Since its formation, Ibrahim’s chapter has sponsored 10 children for treatment in Atlanta and regularly sends volunteer doctors overseas to train local staff and set up clinics to treat children in the Middle East. Most recently, the chapter has helped open two cancer centers — one near Bethlehem and one in Gaza — and is working to build a pediatric ICU in Ramallah.
The new ICU building will add 14 more beds to a Ramallah hospital, which will allow for treatment of more children, who are often denied or delayed care because of lack of available facilities, Ibrahim said.
“We have been steadily growing,” Ibrahim said. “We have been blessed to have created bonds and close relationships with medical providers and prosthetists that are willing to provide the care needed pro bono. We also have a wonderful community of host families, volunteers and supporters. We have expanded our mission to better the local medical infrastructure in the hopes of helping more children.”
Ibrahim described her chapter’s latest treatment abroad candidate, an 18-year-old who was shot in the right leg in April 2018. His wounds were so severe that the leg could not be saved and was amputated, she said.
When treatment abroad failed, her group worked to help the teenager recover and obtain a prosthetic here.
“Attempts were made to try to get him fitted for a prosthetic leg locally, but the injury would open up and cause bleeding every time he put it on,” Ibrahim said. “The wonderful people at Georgia Prosthetics were able to fit him with a prosthetic leg that helped him walk as close to normal as possible and prevented the bleeding and injury to open up again.”
PCRF is comprised mainly of volunteers and holds fundraising efforts throughout the year. The Atlanta chapter’s main fundraising event is its annual gala, Lending Little Hearts a Helping Hand, which was held March 2 this year at the Crowne Plaza at Perimeter. Smaller events include an annual Walk for Their Life 5K and a trivia night, held by the nonprofit’s youth committee.
In October, the Atlanta chapter will send six members to participate in the Chicago Marathon. The participants aim to raise $1,500 each for the chapter.
Ibrahim encouraged those interested in the organization to visit PCRF.net or view its Facebook page, PCRF-Atlanta.
“[It has] up-to-date information about our ongoing projects, the children whose lives we have been able to touch and the stories of our medical volunteers,” Ibrahim said. “Seeing a child smile brighter and knowing we had a little part in it is truly rewarding.”