Libyans in Sacramento area stage
fundraiser for medical aid for children
عن الجمعية الخيرية في سكرمنتو لمساندة الطفولة
Jamal Buzayan had not spoken to anyone inside Libya since an airport customs agent smuggled him out of the country in 1975.
Buzayan, a retired biochemist who has lived in Davis since 1980, had been publicly tortured by Moammar Gadhafi's government, and anyone associated with him could be imprisoned or killed. He spoke with his family only once or twice a year, when they were able to leave the country.
Then one night in February, his older brother Ahmed called around midnight from Benghazi to say the country was revolting against its ruler. Since that night Buzayan has not heard from his brother, who with his son has left home to fight Gadhafi's army.
Searching for a way to help, Buzayan and a group of Libyan Americans in the Sacramento area established the Children of Libya Aid Foundation to provide medical care for children injured in the war that began Feb. 17. That foundation hosts a fundraising dinner and Libyan documentary screening Sunday. The event is open to the public.
When the conflict ends and other organizations leave Libya, victims will still require care. Children who have lost limbs will need to have prosthetics refitted frequently as they grow taller. CLAF's organizers hope the foundation, which has regional coordinators in Texas, Kentucky, Tunisia and Egypt, can fill gaps in the services provided by other aid organizations.
"By giving these kids prosthetics and skin grafts, we hope we can help them live normal lives in Libya and not have their childhoods and youths robbed from them," said Imed Kalush, a software consultant in Sacramento
and the foundation's secretary.
and the foundation's secretary.
Kalush explained that international aid organizations are providing trauma care for the wounded in Libya, but that CLAF's mission is longer-term.
Though Buzayan, Kalush and many of the organization's volunteers are vehement opponents of Gadhafi, CLAF is strictly apolitical. On a trip to Tunisia and western Libya last month, Kalush met with a family from Sebha in southern Libya, who he sensed may have been supporters of Gadhafi. He and the family carefully avoided the question of political affiliation throughout the conversation, instead focusing on how to help their injured daughter.
Buzayan's daughter Halema, 23, is the foundation's treasurer and the organizer of this Sunday's fundraiser.
At her family's Davis home, "everything is about Libya now," she said. The family spends all day watching broadcasts from Al-Jazeera and other news organizations online and organizing for CLAF, an all-volunteer organization.
"I honestly can't remember what my life was like" before the revolution in Libya began, she said. "I don't understand what I was doing that seemed so important."
Her uncle and her cousin, who are fighting Gadhafi's army, are reportedly unharmed. The family keeps in touch with relatives who have fled to Tunisia and Egypt daily via Internet phone.
Her cousin Bushra Dorrat, 13, is living with her grandmother, parents and siblings in an apartment in Tunis. When asked by The Bee how she spent her time there, Dorrat answered, "Waiting for Gadhafi to go."
Libyan society is close-knit, with a small population and many large extended families. Everyone in Sacramento's Libyan community, it seems, has relatives involved in the violence.
Kalush's cousin, who has a bullet lodged near his spine, was told by his Tunisian doctors he would have to travel to the United States or Europe for surgery.
"Every house has a story, a sad story," said Soaad Gofar, who now lives in Sacramento with her family.
Gofar and her family fled Libya at the beginning of May. She and her husband had raised their four children in the Sacramento area, but the family moved back to Libya in 2007 so the teenage children could learn about Libyan culture and meet their relatives there.
They lived in a house facing the ocean in a restive neighborhood outside Tripoli, one of the first to revolt.
Gofar's son Anas Tresh, 18, recalled the day he and his older brother Ibraheem, 21, marched to Tripoli along with 20,000 other protesters after their Friday prayers.
Anas Tresh saw a man with a bullet wound in his forehead being loaded into the back of a car that would serve as an ambulance that day. The man had appeared dead, but he gasped suddenly and began to foam at the mouth.
The family finally decided to flee when Tresh's father heard rumors that young men in the Tripoli area might be conscripted into Gadhafi's military.
"I feel so depressed," Gofar said. "I can't enjoy my life here, because I'm thinking about what's going on in Libya."
Tresh and his sister Alaa will be volunteering at Sunday's fundraiser.
Halema Buzayan hopes money raised Sunday will cover medical bills for 16 Libyan children at Clinique Les Berges du Lac, a hospital in Tunis.
She has never seen her parents' native country. "It's always this dream I've had, that one day Libya will be free," she said. "My whole life, I've kept saying, one day I'll be able to visit Libya, one day."
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