Male: “Nice to meet you… What organization are you representing?” (while eating breakfast…)
Me: “My own not-for-profit organization, For The Unseen ” with a big smile. “It is an NPO focused on assisting individuals globally whom are suffering from poverty, illness and/or socioeconomic conflicts. It is strictly a humanitarian organization that doesn’t participate in any politics or violence. I have snuck into Syria two times now fortunately to provide humanitarian aid to a few villages in the south of Idlib. I hope to do more work in the future which is why I am here at the conference to see how I can be more useful and you?”
Male: “Oh wow… that’s great. Are you Syrian American?”
Me: “No, I’m an American and not Muslim.”
Male: “Really!?” (surprised look on his face…)
This is one of the many conversations I had earlier this week at the start/Day One of the Syrian American Councils “Rebuilding Syria Together” conference. I feel an immense amount of joy and empowerment knowing that I am chasing my dreams… or better yet, creating them with my own hands and heart. Change is not only HERE and now, but it is also constant if you want it to be. It can be real and it can be strong, if you are prepared and resilient.
Don’t get me wrong. I may be an optimist but I am also a realist. Therefore, I won’t deny the hurdles and opposition I have experienced in my recent endeavors. What I have not shared with you in my previous blog posts is the mistreatment and negativity. There have been many individuals within my own home town as well as abroad who have questioned my motives and abilities in helping the Syrian people. I have personally experienced unkind and disrespectful treatment from a few Syrian individuals’ who are fully aware of my humanitarian aid given to the Syrian refugees and children. In fact, I had a rude and beyond hurtful complaint about my clothing attire from an individual who is a representative of a well known nonprofit organization during my last visit in Reyhanli, Turkey. My attire which was not promiscuous by any means (i.e. long pants and a tank top with no cleavage aside from my bare shoulders and arms) was said to be “unwelcome in the office”. Imagine how I felt emotionally and as a foreigner. As if I have been inconsiderate of the cultural and religious beliefs of the Syrian people…. Of course NOT! As most of you have seen from my previous photos, I’m covered completely and wearing a hijab during my visits inside of Syria. I have shown the utmost respect to the Syrian people and their cultural and religious beliefs while willingly risking my life in the midst of a civil war to help them in any way I possibly can.
I only share this with you all now to express my authenticity and strength in standing firm against the storm. It is not easy to do and yes, there have been moments of doubt and uncertainty… But it must be done. It has been done before by many exceptional game-changing individuals: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Einstein, etc… just to name a few….
The attendees of the conference were predominately Syrian or Syrian-American males. Some were Americans either as journalists or Syrian American Council members/volunteers. Maybe 5% of the attendees were women and most of which are representatives of Syrian-Islamic based organizations. The conference was beneficial primarily for the Local Councils inside of Syria to explain the dire needs and conditions they are dealing with in their particular cities and/or villages. Also, there was a session specifically explaining how to prepare a grant proposal requesting funds for projects and/or humanitarian assistance. The speaker explained step by step in great detail what type of information is required to submit a thorough grant proposal. Overall, the conference was successful in that a variety of individuals and organizations were gathered in one place, expressed their concerns and needs as well as networked with others to find ways to help one another in rebuilding Syria.
I was fortunate to meet some of the most wonderful supporters of the Syrian refugees… Two journalists, a military press officer and a few extremely passionate activists’ who have committed their lives for Syria.