Group asks U. to sign away meals for charity


With a one-vote difference, the University Chapter of the Palestine Children's Relief Fund won the rights to the Rutgers University Student Assembly's semi-annual Meal Sign-Away program at last Thursday's meeting in the Student Activities Center.

RUSA members listened to members of finalist organizations including the International Medical Relief Fund and the Palestine Children's Relief Fund, before making a final decision.

Once the winning organization meets with Executive Director of Dining Services Charles Sams, they can set up a table at dining halls and ask students to sign away no more than two meals for the their cause, Assembly Treasurer Yousef Saleh said.

"It was a very tough choice, especially since both groups have such admirable missions," said Assembly Chair Werner Born, a School of Engineering senior. "The main difference students saw in the groups [were] the types of medical relief they administer. Both goals are equally important for our University to support."

He said he thinks what caught the attention of students was that the Palestine Children's Relief Fund pursues larger medical surgeries that heal disabilities, which obstruct children from enjoying their youths.

The University chapter's Public Relations Chair Lauren Miller found the Assembly receptive to the organization.

"They were interested in what we're about, where the funds were going to go and how efficiently we were going to be tabling," said Miller, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. "We're a new organization, and we're excited about our cause, and we will find as many donations as we possibly can."

Their group has 30 members who regularly come to meetings, but they have a larger base who table regularly at their bake sales, she said. The group also has a listserv of more than 100 members.

The fund's University chapter formed this fall and is the first student-run local organization for the non-political, non-partisan international fund, which began in 1991, University Chapter President Ghadeer Hasan said.

"The main objective of the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund is to give relief to all the children in the Middle East. Initially, it started with Palestinian youth but expanded to children in Iraq and all children in [the] Middle East," said Hasan, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

The organization fulfills these goals by finding volunteer doctors to go to the locations abroad that need medical support and bringing children abroad to where they can get treatment, she said.

"The [fund] also brings children abroad from the Middle East to Europe or America for specialized care," Hasan said. "When they bring children abroad, they make all the appointments, find doctors [and] find places to stay. The hospital and the doctor volunteer their time for these children."

The fund runs on a small budget with less than $2 million annually; this year its budget is estimated to be $1 million, she said. The actual value of services is about $69 billion.

"More than 800 children were brought abroad for care since its inception, and in 2008 more than 1,000 children last year had surgery or treatment with more than 3,000 going through expert medical screening and evaluation," Hasan said.

She said she was excited for the opportunity to raise funds through meal sign-aways.

"[Winning the meal sign-aways] is an amazing opportunity and we're planning to make the most out of it. We don't have too many members yet — [only about] 20 members — but we're asking other organizations to help us out," Hasan said.

They asked members from organizations, like University volunteer organization Circle K, to help out their cause, she said.

"We're going to raise money, but what's more important is that we raise awareness of the organization for their work abroad," Hasan said.


Cagri Ozuturk

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