Dec 032012
 

A Sunset Park benefit on Sunday night raised funds for a new pediatric oncology clinic at the Al Hussein Hospital in Beit Jala. (Photo from pcrf.org)

A new, Bay Ridge-based chapter of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund is being formed in the wake of a local fundraiser for a children’s cancer treatment clinic in the West Bank.

The PCRF is a U.S.-based charity that seeks to improve the health care of Palestinian children through the funding of medical programs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and by arranging travel to hospitals in the U.S. for specialized care.

The PCRF held a benefit last night in Sunset Park to raise funds for a pediatric oncology clinic currently under construction in Beit Jala, located six miles south of Jerusalem. Expected to be complete by the spring of 2013, it would be the first public clinic of its kind in the West Bank.

The PCRF has several chapters across the United States. The new Brooklyn chapter will be hosted by the Arab American Association of New York, located at 7111 Fifth Avenue.

Linda Sarsour, the Director of the AAANY, told Bay Ridge Odyssey that the chapter was formed as a result of the fundraiser because of the inspiring stories told by individuals who have been direct beneficiaries of the PCRF. “Plenty of people want to support. What’s awesome is that everyone who wants to be a part of it are not all Arab,” Sarsour said in an e-mail.

Sarsour explains that the role of the Brooklyn chapter will be to educate local families about PCRF and ask them to be host families for children coming to the US from the Arab World to get medical treatment, educate and recruit local doctors to pledge free services for children in need, and raising funds for travel expenses and gifts for the children during their U.S. stay. The AAANY will provide office space, Internet access, and phone access for volunteers and members of the new chapter.

A 2004 article by Stephanie Strom of the NY Times detailed some of the difficulties faced by the charity following the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Donations to the organization had dropped 33% from 2001 to 2002, and Strom claimed that “Muslims… have been wary of making donations that might attract the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other authorities.” The 2004 NBC fictional drama Homeland Security included dialogue linking the PCRF to Islamic Jihad, a State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Regardless, the PCRF maintains a four-star rating (out of four) by Charity Navigator, an independent evaluator, and was considered favorably by the Treasury Department as an alternative recipient of the frozen assets of the Holy Land Foundation.