I recently interviewed Amel Najjar, the Executive Director of an amazing organization, Children of War Foundation, where they raise money to provide surgical care for children around the world who otherwise would not have access to it in their region.
Amel, what exactly does this organization do?
The organization handles all aspects that are required to transport a child to the US for medical care, including transportation, housing, visas, food, and surgical management. We also have an international outreach arm lead by Dr. Kami Parsa that does international missions. On these international missions we take a team of international leaders in their surgical specialties, who donate their time to provide much needed care to children, who would otherwise go without the surgical reconstruction they require.
Our mission is to provide surgical treatment to children who do not have access to surgical care. Although Children of War Foundation initially started to help children that have been injured by war or civil conflict, it has grown to encompass a war on cancer, lack of access to care due to poverty, natural disaster, congenital anomalies or any war that a child may be fighting.
When was it founded and how was it started?
It was founded April 14, 2010. Children of War Foundation started in a 900 square foot apartment where I was living, shortly after my husband started his career at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as a pediatric craniofacial surgeon. At that time, there was a child in a foreign country that required specialized surgical care that could not be provided in their region.
My husband and I made every effort to try to bring that child to Los Angeles, and we quickly realized that we didn’t have the infrastructure to work through the red tape and the logistics of transporting and providing the necessary medical care. Subsequently, we started laying a foundation for Children Of War, we utilized our own funds to help establish international connections, non-for-profit status, organizational outreach, legality, website development and a relationship with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
During that time, a doctor in the green zone in Iraq, who was affiliated with the US Air-force reached out to us about a young child that required urgent secondary craniofacial reconstruction. That child was Hashim, he was our first success story and since then we have grown from a two person organization to a large entity that has volunteers who are doctors in multiple specialties, and professionals in all aspects of an organization. This year we merged with an amazing non-profit called Surgical Friends Foundation, and now we are stronger and better equipped to help provide transformative care. One of the reasons for the merger was that the surgeons from both organizations wanted to minimize operational expenses and maximize the resources to be utilized for surgical care.
What role do you play in the Children of War Foundation?
I am the Executive Director of the foundation. I manage the day to day operations of the organization. Although this is financially a non-compensated position, the gratification comes from holding one of the most fulfilling jobs that someone can have. The responsibilities range from the macro management of a large organization as it relates to vision, prospect selection, fund-raising and delivery of care. It also includes some wonderful micro management roles like spending one on one time with our volunteers, candidates and supporters. It’s been an honor and a privilege to lead an organization that transforms lives, one child at a time.
How is Children of War Foundation funded?
The initial funding to establish the foundation was from me and my husband, subsequent to that we have been fortunate to receive donations from everyday people that are passionate about our mission.
How can people help?
Here are several ways you can help!
Refer a child: an application can be obtained by sending a request email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Host a child: COWF is always looking for families to can care for our candidates while they’re receiving treatment in Los Angeles
Donate: Donations directly benefit our candidates and missions
Sponsor a fundraiser: The only way we can continue to do the work we do, is to continue to raise funds that are needed to provide the transportation and medical cost associated with trans-formative surgery, for more information please contact us at email@example.com