Nothing Can Prepare You for This Journey of the Heart
Our trip to Amman, Jordan was part personal part business; annual study aboard trips resumed for universities across the United States following the pandemic and my professor husband readied a group of 10 students to learn about Arab culture and religion in the Middle East North Africa region. As I welcome my 13th year at Helping Hand for Relief and Development, this trip would be my first ever visit to one of our international offices. I was excited, nervous, and grateful for the opportunity to meet colleagues I have worked with for years, and more importantly spend time with beneficiaries whose stories moved me to tears as I shared them with our US supporters.
Nothing can prepare your heart for the journey of meeting a person who despite having lost everything-loved ones, their homes, and their health, continue to thank God for what little they have. Driving up to the camps in Al Mafraq, Jordan a lump formed in my throat as thoughts swirled in my heart: was this experience too much for my children to process? How would I be able to communicate my thoughts effectively despite the language barrier? Can I hold it together without breaking down? Hisham Al Zayed, the Operational Manager at HHRD MENA, drove in front and immediately children ran and waved at his car when seeing him. He told us how these few scattered Syrian refugee and needy Jordanian families required weekly water trucking deliveries as many were getting sick from drinking contaminated water.
We were met with bright smiles, invitations to tents, and requests to sit for tea. Family after family came to greet us and share their story. In the background I saw Syria, only a few miles away from these camps, the war-torn country produced refugees who escaped to Al Mafraq. Just that day another family had arrived with only a few items; the existing refugees opened their makeshift homes to them until HHRD would be able to secure them their town tents. This is the reality families face, despite their attempt to move on with their lives they are reminded of what they left behind only a few miles away.
We made our way through the camp and distributed hygiene kits, baby bags and diapers, and I wrote down stories being shared. I felt a sense of urgency as my pen scribbled down names, ages, and needs. This was my responsibility, I was a person they confided in, and I was their connection to the rest of the world. “She’s a writer for Helping Hand!”, is how I was introduced. So that’s what I did, I wrote page after page, story after story, plight after plight. My heart was full of emotions as I struggled to balance my feelings while ensuring my own children understood the life changing experience they were going through.
Then we met Yaqoob, a quiet boy sitting on top of an empty can in front of his goat pen. He peeked up at us shyly and I was immediately drawn to him. I held his hand and asked him his name. No response. I played with his hair and gave a comforting smile. No response. What trauma had he experienced at such a young age? His skin was dry to the touch and almost had a leather like feel. Hisham pointed out how hours in the scorching sun left many children with sun burn and other skin conditions. My eyes filled up as I recalled slathering my own kids in sunscreen before coming here. I held his hand and kissed it repeatedly; beautiful Yaqoob in his dusty clothes sitting silently on empty cans is an image etched in my mind.
World Refugee Day reminds us that every human being, despite their struggle, deserves the right to safety. Whoever. Wherever. Whenever. They are people living normal lives who undergo abnormal circumstances. HHRD has assisted over 1 million refugees in 2021, including Syrian, Palestinian, Yemeni, Rohingya and Ukrainian refugees. International teams are working with vetted partner NGOs to provide essentials such as emergency relief, shelter relief, orphan and education support, skills trainings, water projects and much more! This is your chance to make a difference visit www.hhrd.org/Refugees today!
Sana Khan, the Senior Marketing Manager at HHRD, is a mom of 3 Pakistani-Palestinian girls. She hopes her time with HHRD inspires her own children to do more in the service of others for the pleasure of Allah.