GMU Student Aids Iraqi Children; Group Funds Medical Care

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 17, 2008 | Go to article overview

GMU Student Aids Iraqi Children; Group Funds Medical Care


Byline: Michael Drost, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A nonprofit group started by a George Mason University student has raised nearly $90,000 to help children wounded in the war in Iraq receive medical treatment and rehabilitation in the United States.

Zeina al-Khalaf, a sophomore born in Saudi Arabia and raised in Fairfax County, started the group in high school after meeting an Iraqi boy who lost both legs and his eyes in a suicide bombing in Baghdad. Two of the boy's siblings were killed in the attack.

Ever since I heard his story, I've wanted to help children with similar stories, said Miss al-Khalaf, 19.

The group raised more than $75,000 at a benefit Sunday on the Northern Virginia campus.

Eight-year-old Dalal, who lost a brother and both of her legs in 2003 when a missile struck her home in Basra was one of three Iraqi children at the fundraiser. She came to the event with the help of two prosthetic legs that she received through Raising Smiles.

Speakers at the event said the group's mission also is vital to the success of the U.S. military.

If we help one child in Iraq, maybe one American won't have to risk his life in that region to do the same thing, said Muhamed Sacirbey, former ambassador to Bosnia.

Miss al-Khalaf said the three children at the event will go back to Iraq with a part of their life back.

This war is about winning the future of Iraq, and we are giving these children a future, she said

Raising Smiles also has formed a partnership with the Global Medical Relief Fund, which arranges treatment for children with war-related injuries at ShrinersHospital for Children, in Philadelphia.

Prior to Sunday's event, Raising Smiles had raised about $10,000 and had sent five wounded Iraqi children to the U.S. for treatment.

We need people to spread awareness about these kids, about all children affected by war, said Elissa Montanti, the relief fund's founder.

The two other Iraqi children at the event were both named Ali. …

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