Anas Bilal Habisi is 15 years old; he lost his leg and eye when a mine blew up in Palestine. ‘It’s affected my life to a great extent,’ says Anas. ‘I decided to seek help to try to continue my life in a normal way. I found the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), which agreed to help me.’ The non-profit organisation flew Anas to Dubai to be fitted with a prosthetic leg.
Kareem Yousef Awad, aged 10, who dreams of being an engineer when he grows up, was born in Palestine without an arm. To give him a better chance, the PCRF treated Kareem in Dubai, where he was given an artificial limb. ‘Now I’m able to live normally like the rest of the kids. I can even swim in a pool,’ he says with pride.
The PCRF aims to help more children like Anas and Kareem by hosting its fundraising event, Gala For Life, in Dubai next week. This huge, glamorous party and dinner, which aims to raise money for children in similar situations, will take place at the Address Dubai Marina, where they’ll be serving up a seafood dinner for more than 400 people, as well as auctioning prizes such as Etihad business-class flight tickets, a painting by Middle Eastern artist Nadia Shihabi and silver jewellery by designer Eman Shawkat. Pianist Malika Omar will also be performing at the gala.
The PCRF have so far helped more than 1,000 kids from vulnerable areas including Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, giving them free healthcare worth millions of dirhams. Their next project focuses on a paediatric department in Beit Jala Hospital in the West Bank, which will cost Dhs2.5 million to build. The organisation urges people to buy tickets to events like Gala for Life, which it says can make a real difference to the cause.
British volunteer Maureen Steer will be giving her time at Gala for Life next week. ‘Some of the children we treat have been involved in situations where they have been directly injured and had siblings die alongside them,’ she explains. ‘Some have prosthetics that look more like exhibits from a museum, and many of these children are born in locations where they cannot get the appropriate papers to travel to get medical support.’ While the charity helps the kids with many physical disabilities, Maureen believes the main impact is on their confidence. ‘This is especially true for the teenagers. They just blossom. In the photos, via emails, SMS and through the Arabic Facebook postings, it’s clear that they are different people, they benefit from the support and from feeling that somebody out there cares – they are not on their own,’ she says.
Event coordinator Suha Tabari has a personal connection with the cause. ‘I am a volunteer and a Palestinian mother who is fortunate to be living in a safe and stable country, and I want to help those less fortunate in Palestine to lead better lives,’ she says. ‘People should get involved because life is not fair. Some have it easier than others – we see so many natural and man-made disasters, and this is an opportunity to reach out to those less fortunate, to change the life of an innocent child whose life would not be the same without our support. A small contribution can mean a child can walk again, so that they can play and lead a normal life.’