A simple letter with the words “God and all merciful people to help me getting prosthetics”, written in a 1997 letter by a Bosnian boy who had stepped on a land mine and lost both arms and one leg, changed Elissa Montanti's life forever. In her interview with Nan on "Looking at Life: Celebrity Straight Talk", she speaks about the humble beginnings and struggles of her mission to help the children of this world, resulting in the founding of the Global Medical Relief Fund to aid children who are missing or have lost the use of limbs or eyes, have been severely burned, or have been injured through war, natural disaster or illness.
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A child’s plea for help asking “God and all merciful people to help me getting prosthetics”, forever changed Elissa Montanti's life. Those words, written in a 1997 letter by a Bosnian boy who had stepped on a land mine and lost both arms and one leg, moved American Medical Technician Elissa Montanti into action to help child victims of the 1990’s war in Bosnia & Herzegovina, in the former Yugoslavia.
A native of Staten Island, New York, Ms. Montanti reached out to help child victims of Bosnia’s civil war. She approached the then United Nations Ambassador from Bosnia, with an offer to send school supplies and toys to children there. The Ambassador responded by reading her the young boy’s letter, and Ms. Montanti quickly comprehended the far more urgent needs of the children in war-torn Bosnia.
She immediately began to recruit airlines, hospitals, physicians and prosthetic companies to donate their services. The boy, the writer of the letter, Kenan Malkic, and his mother, soon arrived at JFK Airport, and were both welcomed into Elissa’s home. During their four month stay in the U.S., and through Elissa’s tireless actions, Kenan received two new arms, a new leg, and with them, a new life.
Soon after, Elissa founded the non-profit, non-partisan Global Medical Relief Fund. Their mission is to aid children who are missing or have lost the use of limbs or eyes, have been severely burned, or have been injured through war, natural disaster or illness. A 501c3 organization, GMRF is supported entirely by private donations and grants.
Since it’s founding in 1997, GMRF has brought more than 150 children to the U.S. from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia for treatment, surgery and prosthetic limb and eye fittings. The countries include Bosnia, China, El Salvador, Haiti, Indonesia, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia, Mexico, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, the Congo, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Libya .The injured children come from countries or regions that can offer only minimal medical care, poorly fitted prostheses, or none at all.
In her own words, Elissa has brought together a unique team that “makes miracles happen,” including the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children in Philadelphia, Boston and Erie, who provide surgery, prosthetics and rehabilitation, Long Island Jewish Hospital, the Long Island Plastic Surgery Group, Winthrop University Hospital, Columbia and Ocular prosthetics Inc.
Ms. Montanti feels that each child she is able to help through the GMRF becomes an “ambassador” who can return home not only with a healed, mended body, a new hope for life, but also with an experience of “America at its best.” Witnessing the human suffering during visits to Bosnia, Iraq and Haiti has only confirmed to Elissa that charity is so much bigger than one person. “Healing wounds, easing pain and putting back together a broken child is its own reward,” she says. “What more important mission is there then aiding innocent, victimized children?”
Ms. Montanti lives in Staten Island, New York, with her like adopted son Kenan, and her dog, Shilo. Her passions include music and poetry. Her poetry has won recognition from the American Poetry Society.
Recently she collaborated with the noted New York musical team James Dawson and Seth David Walter on a signature song for her Foundation, the anthem “Back Together Again”. Assisting her in fund-raising, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this song will be donated to the Global Medical Relief Fund.
Elissa has been featured in Parade Magazine, Reader’s Digest, PeopleMagazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, and numerous other publications.
For further information, visit http://www.gmrfchildren.org/