Run For Life. Run For Palestine – in pictures

By MARIAM NIHAL | MARIAM.NIHAL@ARABNEWS.COM

Be the change you wish see in the world.” The great Mahatma’s words live on as believers and leaders adopt Gandhism in their daily lives. Rama Chakaki follows that example.

Chakaki is a Syrian with a story of bondage, recovery, and in her way, inspires youth, masses, and especially, Arab women. It takes courage to persevere and history has taught us that chapter well. She is the national coordinator of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) in the UAE.

The PCRF ran the Dubai Marathon on Jan. 27 to raise funds for the Beit Jala Cancer ward in Palestine which will be used to complete the establishment of the freestanding pediatric oncology/hematology department at the Al Hussein Hospital in Beit Jala — the only public sector pediatric oncology department in Palestine. The addition of this department will help improve diagnosis, treatment and supportive care for Palestinian children suffering from cancer in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Fact is, hundreds of children in Palestine are diagnosed with various forms of chronic and acute cancer every year. The lack of a specialized pediatric oncology/hematology department within the public health care sector in Palestine has left countless Palestinian Children and their families in utter despair. Through their participation, they claim to have supported the logistical and medical expenses for a number of children.

On her blog, Chakaki wrote: “How it will work: I run.. you support.. the challenge is real for both of us. It isn’t always easy to give and give generously. It is equally challenging for me to run. With my history of cardiac arrhythmia and health challenges, running is going to be tough. But having lived through 12 surgeries, with the first one at age 14, I am all to familiar with how tough it is to have medical issues as a child. This is why the children of the PCRF are getting my support, and hopefully yours.”

Arab News spoke to Chakaki about her struggle, life, and of course, beloved Palestine.

She was born in Syria, grew up in Saudi Arabia and soon immigrated to the US for university. Chakaki graduated with masters of Engineering Management. After working in the US for 12 years, she moved back to the region and now lives in Dubai.

Chakaki runs Baraka Ventures, along with Mahmoud Abu-Wardeh. a great business partner. “We established http://www.baraka.ae as a business with a triple bottom line: Making profit while delivering social value and having a neutral or positive environmental impact.

She believes collaborations among small businesses can make a big difference. “We run community events to raise awareness on social issues and inspire people to address them in sustainable ways. We built and continue to grow a social media engagement platform http://www.zeedna.com that is having and will grow to have a tremendous impact on the way we engage online.”

How has the world changed in your eyes since you were a young girl? What is the biggest difference you see?

I had always believed in helping those in need. When I was young, I thought I’d be a doctor and do it that way. The challenges and remarkable people in my life have allowed me to help in ways I couldn’t have dreamt of.

Moving back to the Gulf was an eye opener. I felt nostalgic about the life I had, but realized much had changed. Tall buildings, glitzy modern expressions of the urban life had replaced a simple yet abundant existence I was accustomed to. Behind the scenes, social and environmental challenges were brought on by rapid growth and consumer lifestyle. Problems like pollution are new to the desert, as are social issues like diabetes, obesity and unemployment.

How did the marathon come about?

I’ve been supporting the PCRF and PACES charities for a few years. I wanted to do something special for them this year. The PCRF in previous years had participated in the marathon; this was the first year I joined, inspired by Khalil AlJadili. While I had climbed Kinabalu in Malaysia to raise funds and awareness for charity in 2007, I wanted to challenge myself and use the power of social media to raise funds for two worthy causes. Given my medical history, having had 12 surgeries and a battery-operated heart, this was pushing me out of my comfort zone.

What did you achieve and what was the outcome of the run? Was it successful?

I ran the 10k, at a speed of 7.81 Km/hr .This is my first run, ever. I, along with 400 other runners, raised nearly $200,000 that will be used to construct the pediatric cancer treatment center in Beit Jalla.

How do you prepare yourself for such an extensive activity. How do you achieve the balance?

Mental and physical discipline. I trained three times a week and did a longer run on the weekend. Every run, I would increase my speed and distance. I did that for a month. I supplemented running with yoga and biking. To make sure it doesn’t impact my work and family life, I did my runs between 5 and 6 a.m. I posted my running stats regularly on social media and got great encouragement from the community who supported by spreading the word and donating.

What inspired you?

I worked with Khalil AlJadili, a 17-year-old young man the PCRF brought from Gaza a year after he lost both legs in an attack on his home. As a scuba dive instructor, I, along with a few other volunteers, trained him to scuba dive to help rebuild his self-confidence and give him an opportunity to realize that disability is a state of mind. He became the first Arab double amputee certified scuba diver. We did a documentary on his journey that aired on Arabia TV. Working with Khalil inspired me.

What is next for Rama, the super woman?

I’m working with a group of amazing organizations to push the message of social entrepreneurship to the region. I run workshops and give motivational talks to youth and women groups, together with the group of organizations we will identify and support budding social entrepreneurs.

My next physical challenge is still under way. Could be a mountain climb or another run. Let’s see what inspires me next.

What are you most proud of?

My two amazing self-reliant children: Tala and Abdulrazak Odeh.

Baraka Ventures and the impact it is having on the community. We proved that a small, locally nurtured organization can survive economic challenges through collaboration and having a purpose to serve.

Proving that with Allah on my side, anything is possible.. my body has been through a lot, and I’ve had my share of social pressures.. all that helped me become stronger and more driven to have a positive impact.

Your dreams and aspirations?

The media is full of demoralizing and defeating stories about us. I’d like to cause a shift that can unlock the potential in youth and women in the region. If we share enough stories about the inspiring and amazing people within our community who are doing good by themselves and others, that energy will bring about positive change, across many domains.

What do you have to say to women who want to make a change like yourself?

Michael Angelo said: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aims too high and failing short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving the mark.” Raise the bar, live a life of inspiration. Elevate and collaborate.

Source and more at Arab News.

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