A few years ago, before the Tunisian Revolution, I wasn’t engaged in any volunteer activities nor affiliated with any NGO. Recently, I’ve been hooked on helping others, filled to the bone with it. Just as my religion encourages, I am kind to my neighbours and my surroundings, but I didn’t expect to help war refugees to feel as amazing as it does.
Helping a war refugee is like reviving a desperate soul. As the giver provides the refugees with basic needs and tools to carry on with their journey, he becomes a hero to them.
One of the best memories I have is of an old man from Libya who had been living in the refugee camp for a while. He had no family with him and he usually sat alone. One day I sat next to him and asked him about his state of mind. I believed mental health was important to monitor while in the camp. It is difficult to imagine the struggles of a person who once lived amongst his loved ones and is now living in a refugee camp. Everything starts to change and a person can really find himself inside the camp.
I asked him general questions, hoping to elevate his spirits and distract him from his pain. I was stupid enough to ask him if he missed his home. This question made him laugh so hard. His response, which was like a blessing to me, was, “I am home.”
I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. He got to me with his smile and soothing words. He said, “Baby girl, I’m home. We are neighbors of God. We are the same, we have the same blood running through our veins. We are the nation of ‘La Elah Illa Allah’. How can I not feel at home with my beloved?”
I forgot that I was the one volunteering and helping people at the camp; he was the one that gave me a lesson of a lifetime.
Since that moment, I have not thought about volunteering as a way to help strangers, but as an opportunity to do good to my relatives of God. I received a lesson from a man with a sad face and wise words.
This is just one example of the important work produced by YaLa’s citizen journalists, a program funded by the European Union’s Peacebuilding Initiative in order to enable young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa to document and share their experiences of the region.