Two local women were honored for their local and international relief work at the 7th annual Value of Women in Our Community program, sponsored by the Peace Islands Institute (PII) and the JFK Medical Center’s Pastoral Care Department on Sunday, May 1st.

Kavitha Thukkaram, M.D., was recognized for her work at JFK Medical Center’s Haven Hospice in Edison and with the Dean Foundation in her hometown area of Chennai, India, and Gulzade Oral was recognized for her contributions to the Embrace Relief non-profit organization in both New Jersey and Haiti.
At the award ceremony, following a banquet of Turkish food provided by the award sponsors, the work of Dr. Thukkaram was demonstrated by media presentation, describing her assistance in helping the Dean Foundation promote and provide the process of in-home Hospice care among some of India’s poorest citizens. Dr. Thukkaram commented …
“Growing up in India, I was raised in a culture that considers the suffering at the end of life to be inevitable and part of our Karma. So, when I started my residency in the US, I was moved by the concept of Hospice care. I was transformed by the Hospice care philosophy which believes in relieving not just physical but mental and spiritual distress at the end of life, not only for the patient but also the family.”

Confronting not only scarcity of resources, but also cultural end-of-life customs, the Dean Foundation seeks to provide comfort and dignity to those who are terminally ill.

Gulzade Oral’s efforts, in partnership with the Embrace Relief organization, provided food, clothing, and other necessities of life for children orphaned in Haiti following the devastating earthquake and its overwhelming aftermath. The media presentation highlighted both the desperation of the situation and the hope that is brought by such compassionate care, yet also revealed the enormity of the on-going need. Gulzade Oral, a Human Resources professional at the Paterson Charter School, describes her motivation for this work of compassion:

“The first time I visited Haiti was monumental. After I returned home my experiences haunted me for weeks. I knew I couldn’t just sit back and ignore what I experienced. Since then I’ve been working with Embrace Relief. We’ve collected over $130,000. We’ve found sponsors to fund the yearly cost of 150 orphans. We’ve built a water well and a second is on its way. We’ve built bathrooms. We have weekly deliveries of food and water to the orphanages.”
The mission of Embrace Relief seeks to address immediate life needs for the orphans in Haiti, and also seeks to provide education and nurture so that once orphans reach the age of adulthood, they will have the personal skills to successfully provide for themselves.

More than 150 persons attended the dinner and presentation, making this the most successful ceremony yet, as the Value of Women in Our Community program each year achieves a higher level of distinction. By partnering in this annual recognition, the Peace Islands Institute and JFK Medical Center’s Pastoral Care Department lift up as role models and as inspirational leaders women who reflect the cultural and religious diversity that is a unique aspect of life in our area.

7th Annual Value of Women2016