The gravity of the battle means nothing to those at peace

Last night, my 20 year old son came home in a solemn mood.  One of his dear school friends had passed in an operating room from complications.  We spoke of death, funerals and post funeral customs and how  people of different cultures observe it.  Ssome celebrate it and others morn for months on end.  I recalled the most consoling A’zaa (wake) I had been to was one celebrating the life of the deceased.  Death is the only certainty and hard as it maybe one must accept Gods’ will and the universal truth.

Tonight, we arrived at Ali’s A’zaa to see dozens of his young friends walking in, filling the hallways, on their faces a look of shock and sadness. For many of it is the first time they experience the passing of a loved one.  I fought back the tears at the sight of his sweet sister telling my son “he’s inchaAllah where he belongs, in heaven, we should celebrate his life, thank you for coming to remember him”.

I didn’t expect Ali’s parents to be the ones consoling their visitors.  Dressed in their everyday clothes, they greeted us warmly.  They stood, with a warm smile receiving hugs, telling guests “Allah chose him in a blessed month, pray for him”.  The walls covered with Ali’s photos and a quote he loved;  the TV displayed photos of Ali smiling, living life with his friends and family.  A table of his favorite chocolates and drinks held a sign inviting visitors to eat his favorite candy.  His friends took turns going up to his room.. a sign leading to it said “Take a souvenir to remember Ali”. Ali’s family graciously gave everyone permission to breath a sigh of relief and reflect on Ali’s spirited life.

Ali’s parents have always been role models; both spiritual and calm with a lighthearted outlook on life.  Today, they taught us all what resolve and unwavering faith in Allah’s judgement means.  “Pray for him, and ask everyone to do the same” was his father said with a smile.

I ask you all to pray for Ali and for our sons and daughters in Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. May their souls rest in peace. May Allah continue to grant his family strength and mercy.

death - life - peace

Refugees don’t need money, they need engagement!

Thanks to Salma El-Yassir the director of Welfare Association Lebanon Branch (WA-LB), I visited Burj El Barajneh Refugee Camp in Beirut. I visited to support the launch of a Youth Employment Service (YES) Program. To promote the project among camp residences, WA-LB commissioned Graffiti artist Yazan to work with camp residences to create an attraction for youth.

YES will have a profound impact on youth in the camp, and I’ll dedicate a post to it at a later date.  What I’m sharing is what struck me as a desperate need by youth in the camps to connect with those of us outside. I’m sharing a story and calling for action for those outside the camp who can inspire, mentor, uplift, to support. We only conserve what we love. We only love what we know… here’s what I saw and heard:

As we walked through increasingly narrow alley ways lined with trash I wondered how it was possible to dream of another reality.  Not a single street was paved.  I glimpsed a person in a wheelchair at his front door and wondered how he moved around in the camp. Alleys  are too narrow for a wheelchair,  have steep inclines, sharp turns.  But what is most striking is the exposed and extremely dangerous electrical and water pipes.

Mohamad our guide explained “if one wire gets cut, the entire neighborehood goes dark.  neighbores go out with candles and torches to find their wires and reactivate them. At times we have week long blackouts.  Students are forced to study on candlelight. When there’s a surge of water in the pipes, they burst. located next to the wire mesh, you get an electric shower. these allies become inaccessible.  In 2012 14 young men had died by electrocution.  The last one was a person the entire camp loved.  He was a good man who rallied residence to volunteer and better their community. During his funeral, his friends and loved ones took an oath to prevent such tragic deaths.  Me and a few other young volunteers erected homemade troughs around areas of the camp.  The project is still ongoing, we only finished a few areas of the camp.”

We are all influenced by our surroundings. We see beauty and it reflects within.  Nature heals. When we gaze at the horizon, look out at a green mountain, a blue ocean, even a tall beautiful building or an urban garden, we get our inspirations. In Burj Al Barajneh, there are areas where you cannot see sunlight.

Mohamad’s dedication to keep his environment safe, but like all of us, he gets discouraged by the mounting obstacles.  He adds,many of us don’t have jobs, we spend our days pounding the pavement looking for work, we come home to an electric shower in the ally, by the time we fix this, or clear that, it is 11pm. our frustrations, added to that of our families who live in this confine leaves us all in a hopeless state.  Yet we wake up the next morning, and push forward. It is what we must do to survive and give our children better lives.”

In life we all need support.  We have our internal drive, and need external support to keep us motivated, feeling appreciated, remind us that we are doing well and should persevere.  The visiting team offers Mohamad words of encouragement, appreciation, respect, admiration for his courage and determination.   Appreciation reminds him of what an amazing job he’s doing. The Welfare Association does its part.  They offer through programs like YES job opportunities.

More is needed.  It isn’t finance. It is human connections that compels youth to imagine a different reality. Mohamad and other young men/women in refugee camps need acknowledgement appreciation and encouragement .  Young men and women, businessman/woman must visit and offer moral support, encouragement, ideas for making camps a better reality.  If every individual took a half a day to engage with young men like Mohamad can you imagine how encouraging that would be? how much impact that would have on his life?  Connect. Engage. Inspire.

“Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them.” – Mother Teresa

 

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#way2gaza launch

Here it is.. the WAY 2 Gaza campaign..

The WAY 2 Gaza is PEACE / Education / Youth / Collaboration .. Victory through community support of programs that matter.  Mustaqbali is a program that matters.  The Welfare Association Youth members are rallying behind the program to support brothers ans sisters in Gaza benefiting from Mustaqbali. Their goal is to raise awareness,  generate global interest in the program and connect with you with youth in Gaza.

You can join and show your support through social media.

  • Change your avatar photo to a picture of you showing us your peace / victory sign
  • Use one of our avatars
  • Change your cover photo
  • Share links to the WAY site and invite others to join the campaign.

A special thanks to Issa Al-Kindy for the amazing photos & Nermeen Abudail for the brand & identity.

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The WAY 2 Gaza is?

The WAY 2 Gaza is PEACE. The people and children of Gaza are peaceful ..

We live it through our actions, we share Palestinian stories of peace, love, kindness, solidarity, humanity. Last week, I hiked in Kuwait with a group of Kuwaiti, Palestinian and British youth; they were training to climb Kilimanjaro. Their goal is to raise awareness for Mustaqbali, a youth development program in Gaza.

I was touched by stories I read about children in Mustaqbali (. I’ll be featuring their stories, lives and how they intersect with youth abroad. more about that later..

ImageThe WAY 2 Gaza

Throughout 2013, the Welfare Association Youth intend to build communication bridges between youth outside the Palestinian territories, and their brothers and sisters within. They will share stories of the children of the Mustaqbali Program (مستقبلي) and how the program had a positive impact on their lives.

“WAY2Gaza” is about peace, prosperity, love, humanity; a cultural, educational, victory.

what do you feel the WAY2Gaza is? complete the sentence..

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Kids File a Climate Change Lawsuit – Environment – Utne Reader

When I read this article, I was reminded of the saying: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors: we borrow it from our children”

If we don’t do anything about climate change.. our children will.. and I pray that parents around the world is educating their children to be as vigilant about the environment as the kids mentioned in this article.

Kids File a Climate Change Lawsuit – Environment – Utne Reader.