- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) - Fourteen-year-old Hiba Shahin never had the chance to run, jump or play, but that soon will change.

Shahin, who came to Greenville from Palestine in the Gaza Strip about three months ago, will be leaving next week with a new prosthetic leg.

“I can jump. I can ride a bicycle. I can do whatever I want,” Shahin said. “I feel so good, so free.”

Shahin was born without a left leg, and throughout her life, she has been on crutches or in a wheel chair. While her siblings and friends ran through the neighborhood playing, she had to watch.

Then her family received a call from the Eastern North Carolina Chapter of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF). It had found a doctor who would fit Shahin with a prosthetic leg.

PCRF is an organization in Kent, Ohio, that provides medical care to sick and injured Arab children in the Middle East, either by providing free services where they live or providing transportation, a place to stay and treatment in another country.

Heeba Sarsour, who lives in Greenville with her husband and four children, heard about the organization and started a chapter in eastern North Carolina. The group she gathered began trying to raise interest in the charity

“We started raising awareness and trying to find out how many people would be interested in being involved,” she said.

Then they began to raise money and look for a doctor in the area willing to do the work for free. Their technique for finding the doctor was simple enough. They began calling offices on the phone and asked.

“Obviously we get denied, but there’s always that chance that somebody is willing to take on a case,” she said.

They found a clinic in Goldsboro. William Stauffer of N.C. Orthotics and Prosthetics agreed to their request, Sarsour said.

Since Shahin arrived, they have been making weekly trips to Goldsboro to fit and customize the leg. The doctor thought she might need physical therapy to get used the leg, but at the last visit, Shahin was able to put on the leg and begin using it.

She should be able to take the leg with her and return to the Middle East.

During the three months since Shahin has been living with the Sarsours, she has become like one of the family.

“She opens her house for me,” Shahin said. “I like her and I love her so much, and I really like her husband, all of them.”

For the Sarsour family, the project has been rewarding because it brought members of the Muslim community together in Eastern North Carolina to help children.

After Shahin returns home, they will start preparing to bring another child to the Greenville area for treatment. It may be a child with birth defect like Shahin, or possibly a child who was injured in the war or who needs treatment for an illness, she said.

“As long as we can find doctors willing to help, they’ll send children,” she said.

Last month, the group held a goodbye party at the Chick-Fil-A at 3020 Evans St. When owner Ben Dixon heard they wanted to hold the party there, he donated a portion of the evening’s sales to the group.

As for Shahin, she is anxious to see her mother, three sisters and brother. Her father is a journalist in the region.

“I miss them so much,” she said.

___

Information from: The Daily Reflector, https://www.reflector.com

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