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It all started in 2014, during the violent war on the Gaza Strip. Then 8-year old Qamar Abu ‘Odeh fled her Beit Hanoun home, in search of a safe shelter and desperate to escape the bombs and certain death being rained upon her town.
Qamar and her family took refuge, along with scores of families, in a school hoping it would not be targeted. Two weeks later, on July 24, 2014 to be precise, several rocket-propelled grenades destroyed the school and any semblance of comfort and a normal future for Qamar and everyone who was with her that day. Sixteen people were killed and more than 200 injured. Qamar was among those who were injured, and sadly her father, Awad Abu Odeh, was among those who were killed.
Today, 11-year-old Qamar Abu Odeh lives with her mother, 5 sisters and 3 brothers in a house that remains partially demolished, a result of the difficulty of getting construction materials into Gaza. The small strip of land suffers from a blockade, which makes the acquisition of the most basic materials incredibly difficult. Qamar suffers from a delay in memory and stuttering as a result of her war injuries.
More than 2,000 Palestinians died in the 2014 assault on Gaza, and a significant number of children, like Qamar, were orphaned. Due to the loss of one parent or both, the struggle is both psychological and economic.
In response to Gaza’s crisis, the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF), a registered non-political, non-profit, 501(c) 3 tax-exempt organization that was established in 1991 to address the medical and humanitarian crisis facing children in the Middle East, launched its humanitarian project “The Gaza Orphan Sponsorship Program” in order to meet the basic needs of the hundreds of children who became orphans as a result of the 2014 war such as young Qamar. The program was initially launched in November 2014 during a fundraising dinner in Atlanta, Georgia organized by the PCRF-Atlanta Chapter (Launching of program in Atlanta here), and has become an ongoing program undertaken by the PCRF organization since then.
After the initial funds were raised by the Atlanta chapter, the PCRF field workers began an extensive assessment effort in all of Gaza visiting houses, hospitals, and schools which became make-shift shelters for displaced families whose homes were destroyed. By December that year, 155 children were identified as eligible for the program; this meant that they lost their fathers, and they were not registered to receive assistance by other organizations. In addition to losing the family’s main breadwinner, many of the orphans have also lost other members of the family including their mothers and siblings as well. Soon after in January 2015, these identified orphans, including Qamar, began receiving economic assistance in the form of supermarket coupons in the amount of $135 a month, along with other humanitarian assistance as part of an urgent relief program that was implemented during war time. In addition to food, the children also received clothes, medicine and mental health assessment and treatment if needed, and necessary household supplies such as mattresses, stoves, heaters, etc. To this date, PCRF has invested nearly $700,000 feeding and ensuring that the needs of the 155 orphans and their families are being met.
Qamar, who has been a beneficiary of the program, now goes monthly with her mother to the supermarket to buy everything the family needs. Qamar's mother says that the program relieves a big burden and allows them to buy food and other household necessities (click here to learn about other orphans who benefit from the sponsorship program).
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims across the world reflect on what it means to be a Muslim. Many will fast and pray, and many will make a concerted effort to give more. In keeping with the Prophet Muhammad’s example of caring for orphans, many will also donate to charitable organizations dedicated to this cause. Charity Navigator, recommended PCRF, recipient of a 4-star rating (highest rating for transparency and efficiency), for Ramadan Zakat donation.
This Ramadan, PCRF dedicated its online fundraising efforts to the Gaza Sponsorship Program with the hashtag #hope4orphans. The goal of “Give Hope: Gaza Orphan Sponsorship Ramadan Campaign” is to ensure that the program is sustainable for years to come, and to provide for orphans in the program throughout their lives. Donors can sponsor orphans like Qamar, who have all experienced incredible difficulties at young ages.
“We are identifying the most marginalized children in Gaza - those who lost parents in the 2014 war - and ensuring that they get the most basic necessities so they can continue to have some semblance of a childhood,” explained Steve Sosebee in a press release. “Your support will go to helping these kids and ensuring they get the care and support that they need."
The PCRF is asking supporters to help create #hope4orphans by sponsoring an orphan for one year or more; donating any amount to the general fund of this program; organizing a fundraising event to benefit this program; or creating an individual online fundraising campaign to share with friends and loved ones.
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