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Refugees finding much-needed help in Kent

Gaza teen back in the U.S. for prosthetic leg

By BOB GAETJENS Staff Writer Published: June 17, 2017 4:00 AM
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Teenager Muath Abu Daher is getting a new lease on life for the second time.

A cancer survivor who lost his leg all the way up to his hip at age 7, Muath, now 16, has returned to Kent for a second time to be outfitted with a prosthetic leg.

"He's from a refugee camp in the central part of Gaza," said Steve Sosebee, president and chief executive officer of the Palestine Children's Relief Fund, which helps makes sure children in Gaza who need various surgeries get those surgeries.

"We help out any children who need medical help from a medical perspective or a humanitarian one," added Sosebee.

Sporting a wide smile and bright eyes, Muath said the new prosthetic, his second since losing his leg, will be huge help to him. Currently, he's getting around on crutches after outgrowing his old leg.

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With the help of Sosebee's daughter, Jenna, and wife, Xeena Salman as translaters, Muath said his reaction to getting a new leg was "happiness."

"Without this chance, I wouldn't be able to see a future," he said. "I can't even imagine what my future would be like otherwise."

Muath has been in the country for about 10 days, but he said he'll likely stay for the rest of the summer while he adjusts to his new leg.

"It takes me several weeks to get used to the prosthetic leg," he said. "They have to teach me how to walk with the crutches and then how to walk without them."

Salman said he had a chance to visit Chicago to attend a fundraiser for the Palestine Children's Relief Fund, which gave him the chance to see a big American city for the first time.

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"We stayed the next day and kind of roamed around the city and took him on a boat ride," she said. "That was pretty exciting for him."

Although there will be opportunities to see the area, Muath said he's focused on getting his new leg.

"My main focus while I'm here is just to get my medical care," he said. "Fun things do come along the way, but that's not the main reason I'm here."

His impression of the United States the first he visited was that it's "nice and beautiful."

"I was very surprised the first time I came here," he said.

He said this country compares favorably with Gaza.

"Gaza is Gaza," he said. "Gaza is having a hard time because of the Isrealis and the occupation."

He said there's no freedom of movement in Gaza and that it's very difficult for residents leave it.

"Family gatherings are one of the beautiful moments in Gaza," he said, adding he also has friends his age there.

Xeena said Gaza has some of the most beautiful sunsets she's seen anywhere in the world along the coast.

But she said Muath has probably lived through about four wars.

Jenna said it sounds like Gaza is "beautiful but sad."

Xeena said the last war with Isreal took place in 2014, and, for a 31-day period, Muath said he was completely confined to his house.

"It was Ramadan," he said. "We were fasting, and it was like torture. We couldn't leave our house; especially at night, we weren't allowed to leave."

During Ramadan, Muslims fast during the day and feast at night with family, so the holiday was stolen from his family that year.

"Sometimes we didn't care about the war that was going on and we get together in a room and play a video soccer game, but we always closed the windows because you weren't supposed to be playing games," he added.

In the future, Muath said he would like to be in America, but wherever he his, he said his focus would be on others.

"I'm still trying to figure out what my future will hold, but just as I've been helped in my life, I want to find a way to help other people," he said.

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