Fun day out in Dubai gives Palestine's sick children a boost
DUBAI // Families in the UAE are giving children from Palestine days out to remember as the youngsters recover from major surgery.
The Palestine Children's Relief Fund brings sick and injured girls and boys from Gaza and the West Bank to Dubai for specialist treatment that is not available where they live.
Some have serious congenital conditions, some have been injured in accidents and others are victims of conflict.
As part of their rehabilitation, they are taken by volunteer families to see landmarks such as the Burj Khalifa, parks, museums, movies and, of course, the malls.
"Many help in this way. It's part of our outreach into the community," said Iman Odeh, the head of the fund's UAE chapter. "Families go out with their children and they take the patient for a meal, to see a movie, to funfairs, the circus - you name it.
"For the volunteer it's like you have your nephew from out of town and you want to show them Dubai and what's around here.
"It helps the patients, it boosts their morale, it gives them hope that other people care for them and want them to be better.
"Our patients need a lot of moral support. Some of them undergo very tough physiotherapy treatment almost every day and it's not easy for a child to undergo this.
"So it's great that after the physiotherapy they are taken out for a meal or to a movie. It helps their general well-being."
Ms Odeh said the volunteers were of many different nationalities.
"When it comes to children and medical charities, everybody wants to help, which is really uplifting," she said. "It is really refreshing to see how the community here supports our work."
The fund is a non-political, non-profit organisation with chapters around the world. Medical staff provide their services for free and money for travel and accommodation is raised by volunteers.
The organisation has been endorsed by a number of international figures, most recently the former US president, Jimmy Carter.
"We have two ways of helping children," said Ms Odeh. "We send medical missions to Palestine every week from all over the world, but those who cannot get care locally travel mainly to the UAE and the US."
There are two young patients in Dubai. Duaa El Abaiet, a 15-year-old orphan from a village near Bethlehem, had a hip replacement performed by a surgical team from the Little Wings Foundation at the Medcare Orthopaedics and Spine Hospital.
Anagheim Ghannam, 11, from Gaza, received treatment for an eye tumour at Moorfields Hospital.
Duaa has been shown the sights by Maysa Abudahab, from Jordan.
"I like the Burj Khalifa. It is tall and beautiful. And I like the Dubai Aquarium. The fish are nice," Duaa said.
"I like the place, the country and the people who surround me. They've been so kind to me. I'll miss them."
Ms Abudahab said: "I felt I had to do something, to give other people some quality time. I didn't want to spend my time just going shopping. I really needed to spend it with people who needed attention.
"The day Duaa entered my life she gave me lots of love. I've enjoyed showing her Dubai. We've been together to the aquarium, to Dubai Marina, we had lunch together, it's been a pleasure to meet her."
Anagheim has been staying with relatives in Sharjah, including her aunt, Rana Hamdan.
"She is surprised by everything she sees here," Ms Hamdan said. "Everything is like, 'Wow!' She told me she had been looking forward to seeing the Burj Khalifa for a long time."
Duaa and Anagheim are due to return home in the coming week after spending several months in the UAE. Eight more young patients are expected to arrive in Dubai in the next two months.
Updated: March 27, 2013 04:00 AM