Many of us experience moments that move us or make us question. Moments that seem life-changing, moments that you often never see coming. This past summer, I got to go on a trip that I felt uprooted my life, but in the best ways imaginable. It made me question what I did to deserve the things that I have but so often take for granted. It made me think about how I don’t always appreciate the people in my life as much as I should. It brought to light so many of my own short-comings that I hope I’ve worked on since then. It changed my life in so many ways and I am forever thankful for the choices and moments that brought me there.
This past summer I took a humanitarian trip to Jordan with an organization called Helping Hands for Relief and Development. Before I left, I expected this to be a difficult trip emotionally but nothing could’ve prepared me for what I experienced when we got there. It was a group of about 30 girls, with a few mentors and we were going to spend the next couple of days going to refugee camps and tents, as well as HHRD offices, the houses of people that are sponsored by them and trying to provide relief for the refugees we encountered.
The refugees that we met, were where they were because they had lost everything they owned. A lot of them sought refuge in Jordan after being forced to leave their homes because of disastrous conditions in Palestine and Syria, etc. These people had so little to their name, or honestly to even look forward to or be happy about. But they were thankful for all the little things, and the small moments, and after meeting them, they filled my heart with a type of faith that I still haven’t been able to find words to describe.
Each day, I was consumed by a roller coaster of emotions. Every person that we met, regardless of the tragic stories they shared, was so full of love. Most of these people had families of 5+, all living in tents that were no bigger than the size of my room, yet they were offering us water and tea when we came to visit. Children whose innocence was lost and who were forced to grow up so quickly, still found immense joy in things as simple as playing tag or jumprope with us. Women younger than me, who had already lived through things I can’t even imagine, such as losing a child, said they were losing hope but found small things to hold on to.
We met a family in which every child born to the mother, became blind after a certain age (around 12) because of a genetic condition. The mother, who was aging had to take care of her four blind children, who were grown but could barely take care of themselves, in a country that wasn’t home but was less than a mile away from the place that was. One of her daughters, who was lucky enough to be able to see, actually went back from Jordan to Syria because in her words “if she was going to die anyway, she would rather die in her own country”. This mother, still had nothing to say or complain about. All she could say was “alhamdulillah”, which means “praise be to God”.
This is just the story of one family, but there are thousands more like them. Though so much has been taken from them, they were able to give me more than I could ever return. I left Jordan with the ability to love more openly and fully, learning from the children who after five minutes of knowing us would tell us not to leave. I learned the true meaning of tawakkul (trust) in Allah, from the families who still hope to return home and who spend their time saying their situation’s are just tests to be overcome. I learned the true meaning of resilience from the women who despite losing their children or husbands, refuse to be defeated and do what they can with what they have.
A few months ago, I thought I knew exactly why I wanted to pursue the career that I was working so hard towards. I had a plan for my life and I had reasons that this plan was in place and how it should play out. But everything changed after spending nine days in a country thousands of miles away from home. Everything changed when I saw people with hearts so big and faith so strong in the face of the biggest adversity and hardships that most of us have ever faced. That most of us can’t even fathom.
Though my career path remains the same, my motivations have shifted. I know now, that I want to change the lives of as many of these people as I can. I pray that as a physician one day, I can provide them and so many like them with a fraction of the hope that they have given me. I hope that even as one person, I can continue to help organizations like HHRD change the world so one day it finally is a better place.
Below are a few pictures from my trip:
To the left is a picture of a tent that one of the refugee families lived in. Most of the tents and homes were this size with families as big as 10+. HHRD continues to provide aid consistently (even when they don’t do programs like Y4J) and one of the things that they provide are micro-homes as seen on the right. These are homes with sturdy walls and floors that provide relief from the harshness of the desert.
This is a picture of one of the career development centers that HHRD runs for the refugees. This is where they can learn important skills so that they’ll be able to earn money.
A few of the activities that we did with the orphans. In Islam, an orphan is someone who has lost their father. Most of the orphans had mother’s with them.
Below is a video I made to hopefully capture the essence of the most significant week of my life:
This is a link to donate to HHRD: https://www.hhrd.org/DetailDonate