All of us at PfP would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who attended and supported our annual gala this year. We are grateful to our fabulous and very funny emcee, Amer Zahr, who kept the evening both lighthearted and substantive.
Adam Abel and Kenny Reed spoke at length about the SkateQilya project that PfP continues to fund in order to establish and proliferate skateboarding as a viable sport and recreation activity for youth in Palestine, particularly for girls. The project was established by Mohammad Othman, who, unfortunately, could not travel from Palestine to be with us, but Adam showed us video footage of him, interviews with the kids benefiting from the project, and action shots of kids on wheels flying in the air. Salah Ajarma, who came all the way from Palestine, talked to us about Lajee Center, what the playground there has meant to the children of Aida, and what life is like for our children who live at the violent whims of Israel’s occupation. He brought with him beautiful drawings from the children there, which were sold to supporters that evening. One of the highlights of the evening came from Reverend Graylan Hagler, Senior Minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C., and lifelong activist for social justice. He was invited as a special guest and spoke briefly about his experience on a recent trip to Palestine with a delegation of pastors from Black churches. His words, passion and dynamic personality electrified the crowd and brought us all to a standing ovation. Rev. Hagler came by train from D.C. just for the evening and went back immediately after so he could write his sermon for the next day, Palm Sunday! We cannot thank him enough for showing us such love and generosity in lending us his time and powerful voice.
More Special Guests
Other special guests included the revolutionary fighter and activist, Pam Africa, a Philadelphia icon most known for leading the movement of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Several people, including Mary Ellen Bennett, Amani Barakat, and Suhair Nafal, traveled all the way from California to be with us for the evening. Many of our younger guests were important participants in the fundraising efforts. Layla, Milan, Dany and Noorah sold handcrafted goods like jewelry and soaps. Adam, Juju, and Janna sold raffle tickets. Ryan played chess for charity and they all also alternated with checkers for charity. It was such a fun night for them to be involved!
Five awards were given to people and organizations for their outstanding support of Palestinian Children. The SkateQilya team received an award for their work in Qalqilya. Frank & Barbara Weber were also presented with an award for their long time and consistent support of PfP’s work. Dr. Ali Anaim & Hoda Mansour were likewise presented with an award for their support of PfP, in particular their contribution to our playground in Qortuba. Salah Ajarma, whose visionary work at Lajee Center has transformed the refugee camp of Aida by providing a community space of learning, play, and creativity, was presented with the fourth crystal award. Finally, Amer Zahr, a long time friend of PfP, who was actually the person who chose the name of the organization, was given a crystal award for his contributions to PfP over the years, always showing up when we needed him and never asking for anything in return.
Silent Auction & Centerpieces
PfP’s board worked hard to pull the evening together. But the hardest work was shouldered by a former board member, Linda Hanna, who spent three months creating our gorgeous centerpieces and, together with Jacqueline Berry, put the silent auction together (Jacqueline, by the way, ran the entire silent auction!). The centerpieces were live plants that Linda had planted, nurtured, and potted over several months so that each guest could go home with one or more plants they could put in their own gardens. The silent auction consisted of approximately 80 items, all of which were donated. They included handcrafted jewelry from Palestine, potted olive, jasmine, and fig trees, embroidered shawls and silk scarves, framed Arabic calligraphy (hot items generously donated by artist Yassin Tawfeeq), ceramics from Palestine among various other artisan household items. Other items were sold at our sales tables and olive oil tables. We are so grateful to everyone who donated to our silent auction, including Mary Ellen Bennett, Suhair Nafal, Samera Sood, Ribhia Ali, Feda Abdelhady, Everything Shemagh, Angela Hanna, Kathryn Kurtz, Susan Landau, Indigo Traders, Janna Love, Mouna Stewart, Angela and Albert Tambe’, Yassin Tawfiq, Ali & Michelle Souli, Threads of Peace, Mary Hughes Thompson, Aroma Restaurant, Manakeesh Restaurant, Palestinian Pottery by Balian, and Lajee center.
In addition to the material donations, we had a lovely group of volunteers who helped us throughout the evening and the wonderful crew from Dyventiv managed the audiovisual aspect for us, beautifully. We are grateful to all of them: Jacqueline Berry, Natalie Abulhawa, Lena Urick, Nicolas Urick, Elias Gonzalez, Amani Nejim, Dinsio Walo-Wright, Tim Downes, Fanny Downes, Sheldon Zink, Khedive McIntosh, Aymen Ibrahim.
The evening started with the silent auction as people came in and could help themselves to mezze appetizers: hummus with chipotle chile; halloumi cheese cubes; eggplant baba ganouj; marinated beets; Turkish muhammara; cucumber slices & pepper wedges; marinated olives; pickled vegetables, and
toasted multigrain pita with za’atar. The buffet dinner included Charcoal-Grilled Lamb Kebobs with Seven Spices, Moroccan Chicken Tajine, Freekeh Salad with Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Squash, and Pomegranate, Village Salad (diced cucumber, peppers, arugula, herbs), Sambusak (potato & chickpea filled pastries with pine nuts), Steamed Buttered Couscous, Imam Bayildi (Turkish roasted stuffed eggplant, tomato, leeks, dill, and mint), Rice & Vegetable Biryani with Golden Raisins, and Minted Yogurt Sauce with Toasted Cumin.
Why We Do This
Although we describe this annual gala as a fundraiser, the truth is that this evening is rarely a major source of funding for us. Because we want to remain a grassroots and inclusive organization, we try to keep our ticket prices affordable, and for many attendees, they are sold on a sliding scale. Also, we don’t like the uncomfortable environment of high pressure solicitation that often occurs at some fundraisers. Instead, we ask that our supporters give what they can, if they can, in envelopes we provide. As a result, we typically bring in enough for just one or two playground (at ~$11,000 each), which was the case this year, but some donations are still coming in and we’ll have a final number to post soon. Clearly, there are much easier and more effective ways to raise money, but this annual gala is paramount for us because it is the time of year when we and our supporters reconnect with each other; because it’s a way to sustain our sense of community and to welcome new people into the PfP family; and because it allows us to circle back to the children whose lives inspire us.
Feedback During and After
Here’s some feedback. Feel free to add your voice in the comment section of this blog post:
“The food is very good!” – Anan Zahr (one of the most discriminating food critics we know! “very good” is high compliment from her)
“Last night’s Play4Kids was absolutely exceptional! You and your team out did yourselves. It was spectacular. Thank you for all your incredible work! You are the hero for the Palestinian children.” – Mike Abel, in an email with subject line “Magnificent”
“What an uplifting evening. I really really enjoyed it. Revered Hagler was unbelievable and your work is a great testimony to who you are!” – Dr Tony Montiero
“Congrats on yet another successful gala!” – Dr Sa’ed Atshan
“Wonderful people addressing a Timeless cause” – anonymous, from square payment processing.
“The company, the setting, the food – all superb!, as was the Emcee, Amer Zahr. I regret we were not so “well-haved”, not getting to our seats when urged. His humor and persistence won out. I was charmed by his humor right from the start, when he urged us to be “organized” even though Palestinians are not organized into a country.” – Lynn Mather