Exciting news. Two Palestinian teens Mutussam Abu Kirsh, 16, and Yasmeen El Najjar, 17, are scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak at 19,341 feet above sea level, to raise awareness of the plight of sick and injured children in Palestine and Syria. Both teens are trekking wearing prosthetic limbs, thanks to the support of hundreds of volunteers thru the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), and the generosity of the charity’s donors.
“I am attempting this because I want to raise funds for the PCRF,” Yasmeen says. “They helped me, now it’s my turn to help them.” Reflecting her determination and courage Mutussam adds, “I want to be the first to carry the flag of my homeland [to the summit] to help other Palestinian children and I want to show that we can do anything despite our injuries.”
Mutussam, from Gaza, was hit by an exploding Israeli tank shell in 2006, leading led to the amputation of several fingers on his left hand and the amputation of his left leg. Yasmeen, from the village of Boreen near Nablus, was just four years old when she was struck by an army truck and lost her right leg above the knee.
PCRF’s Mike Lowe informed Mondoweiss he just heard news from their trekking team “Mutassam and Yasmeen were doing great after completing day 4 of the climb.”
The trek was the brainchild of Palestinian mountaineer Suzanne Al-Houby, the first Arab and Palestinian woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. “This climb comes at a time when there is little hope… These two children, via this climb are representing the Arab world; they are helping to mend broken spirits.”
Al-Houby has already scaled Mt Kilimanjaro six times. A team of 13 volunteers are accompanying Al-Houby and the teens, including PCRF’s president Steve Sosebee; Ibrahim Nasrallah, a Palestinian author and poet (who wrote about the trek in The Palestine Chronicle), and mother and daughter team Manal and Nawal Fakhoury.
I highly recommend the video below about Al-Houby’s project to document the Climb of Hope.
As an aside, I had the opportunity to spend a day with a three-person team from PCRF when I was in Lebanon last November. They were delivering much-needed wheelchairs and medical attention to severely disabled people at Burj el Barajne refugee Camp in Beirut and I tagged along. It was one of the most memorable experiences in my life.
As an activist who works to free Palestine almost every day, nothing prepared me for the intensity I witnessed that day and the courage of the people I met. Members of PCRF’s dedicated voluntary medical staff who’d traveled from the US to be there didn’t stop all day, not even to eat on the long shift (and coincidentally, it was Thanksgiving Day). For the last two decades PCRF has been coordinating and conducting emergency volunteer medical missions to Palestine and Lebanon’s refugee camps and beyond. They are heroes.
I’ll be writing about this experience down the road, as soon as I can find the fortitude.
Yesterday I came across the video below on CEO Steve Sosebee’s Youtube page. It was filmed last October and so far, it’s had 15 views. Now that is what I call under-the-radar:
I wrote about the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund once before, “Medical heroes arrive in Gaza, no fanfare, no NBC.” I recommend donating to PCRF’s Climb of Hope project so they can continue touching the lives of thousands more.
The teens should be reaching the summit in 2 days!