The most helpless I have ever felt was watching the past five years of the bloody civil war in Syria unfold, claiming the lives of more than 250,000. My favorite quote about the brutal war is one by Marianne Williamson that reads, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
My way of advocating and fighting back for those ruthlessly murdered during the war is by keeping myself educated. I read about the war in the news and try to comprehend the horrors that many individuals, who before the war were just like you and me, are forced to suffer through for absolutely no reason. After all, the least I could do for the 224 killed in the first week of Ramadan that coincides with June, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, is to know about it.
One day I was reading an article about ten Syrian refugee families that had settled in Elizabeth, and instantly knew I had to get involved. Through a lot of networking and interviews, I was able to meet with those from the International Rescue Committee that helped the families settle and prove that I was a valuable asset to helping these families settle in America. I constantly mentioned my proficiency at Arabic, and subsequently my ability to help bridge the gap caused by the language barrier.
As soon as I was able to begin helping the families, I understood the plethora of struggles they were facing: the reverse language barrier we faced, PTSD from watching their livelihood destroyed, and the four years of education the children missed out on as they were forced to flee their countries for their lives and didn’t pay particular attention to memorizing trigonometric identities during that time. And they were supposed to be the lucky ones.
I now tutor these families on the weekends, helping both the children and their parents learn English and adapt to American society. I also help run a girl scout troop of some of the young girls of the families and help them learn the importance of giving back to our society. Our most recent project was a community garden in the town where most of the families live.
Furthermore, since the families live in a school district with little funding, I was able to learn from the IRC how to lobby for the families rights, especially with school accommodations, since many of the parents don't know enough English to advocate for their own families.
Throughout this entire journey, I’ve genuinely realized that I need these families more than they need me. The lessons on courage, compassion, and love I have learned from these families has changed my life, and for that, I am eternally grateful