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Published in the September 2009 issue of (in)sight Magazine.

Why Can’t It be Ramadan Everyday?

A few nights before Ramadan,
And all across the nation,
People were bustling with anticipation.

They’d hustle, they’d bump, they’d swear as they drive,
Men fight with each other as well as their wives.

Boyfriends continue to ruin girlfriend’s lives,
With their cheating and lies, Oh, what a surprise!

Girl’s eye their competition with looks of despise
Stay at home Moms cook up rumors and lies

You liar! You thief! You crook! You stinker!
Are the words we hear and are left to linger.

On the eve of THE night and with a blink of an eye,
Halos are out and consciences rise
All must be good, for Ramadan has arrived.

The Month of Ramadan is upon us again. T’s a time for giving to the needy as well as a time for forgiveness and reflection. I love this time of year because families gather and spend some quality time with one another, break their fast together at Iftar and the gathering can some times go on until Suhour. People give willingly and in abundance to the less fortunate and what I love even more is that people’s tongues are curved!
From sunrise to sunset people pay close attention to what they say out loud to others instead of damning someone’s house to fall down on them and flaring in to a temper and cursing every member of another person’s family! (You know which words I mean! We’ve all used them!). People are more conscious of their actions and use of words. Our day to day lives are stressful, there are times when you vent and say things that can be really hurtful. You’re always on the go and rushing here and there for appointments and social gatherings. Spending an hour or two with the kids when they get home from school to ask how their day was and what things they learned, is something you would love to be able to do, but you have to work late or you can’t because you have to get your hair done and have a manicure done for a dinner party you’re going to. Guy’s don’t think you’ve been let of the hook so easily! The men have business appointments at all crazy hours. Then there’s the male bonding time with buddies and there’s also maintaining that Baywatch chiseled physic by paying a daily pilgrimage to the gym. Be honest, most of you would much rather watch paint dry than be stuck at home listening to your mothers moaning, kids running round asking endless series of questions and your wives nagging.
There are two things that truly amaze me during this incredible month. The first is how ‘good’ everyone becomes. The tangled webs of deceit cease to be spun, hell even the thieves stop stealing. It’s as though a wish or a spell has been cast where everyone becomes honest and angelic, like Jim Carey’s character in the movie ‘Liar, Liar’. The second thing that completely throws me is how by some miracle and with a wave of a magic wand, during Ramadan people make the extra effort and can find the time to help the needy, spend time with their family, and be courteous and kind to others. Now, if memory serves me correctly there are 24 hours in a day every month of every year, no matter which calendar we go by. So, could someone please explain to me ‘Why is it ONLY possible in Ramadan and not throughout the year?’ Surely, if we all spoke nicely to one another all year round, there would be less rudeness and negativity and there would be more cheer and it would set a better example for the younger generation. If we gave more to others throughout the year, we would feel better about ourselves all year long instead of just for a month. If we did practice the lessons of Ramadan throughout the year we would appreciate everything we have and count our blessing, instead of constantly complaining and wishing that we had more.
I know what you’re probably thinking, “She’s one to talk. I bet she doesn’t practice what she preaches!” I will admit that I am not a saint! I was just as guilty as everyone else. However, this time last year that changed. I decided that if I can be genuinely good for a month, then what is preventing me from doing it all year? For the past year I have made the effort to be more respectful and giving to others. Honestly speaking, I do feel better about myself and there isn’t a day that goes by where I forget to be grateful for the people that I have in my life and the blessings I receive. So, if I can do it. Why can’t you? You can’t use the excuse that it costs too much because it doesn’t cost anything to be courteous and time doesn’t cost you a piaster either. The resources you need for the job, you already have; it’s ‘YOU’.

Happy Ramadan Everyone!

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An Extraordinary Gentleman.

By; Nadia. M. El Abdin.

Published in the November 2009 issue of (in)sight Mag.

With the earth’s population growing at an exponential rate and with billions of people living on the planet you would expect to find more than just a few good men.

Let’s face it the men of our grandparent’s and great grandparent’s generation are becoming few and far between. Men who are well educated, multilingual, interested as well as fascinated and curious about the world they live in, men who hold a steady job, who have more than just materialistic interests and like to help others because they can, are becoming rare to find. Every full moon or so, you might be lucky enough to meet the acquaintance of one, although they are becoming more extinct with each passing generation, they do still exist.

A little over a year a go I was introduced to a man like that but at the time, I had no idea, what a gem of a person he really was up until very recently.

I met Kheiry Sammakieh, at a school friends wedding. I found him to be quite charming, intellectual and funny but I had no idea that there was more to him than meets the eye. Kheiry an investment banker, was born, raised and educated in London to Lebanese parents. This extraordinary man along with his fellow team members goes out of his way and challenges himself to raise money for a fundraising group called Lebanon United with generous donations from corporate sponsors to help provide a better future for Lebanon. How does he do it? He climbs mountains.

 When did you first start climbing?

I’ve been climbing for three years. I first started climbing when I decided to do a charity climb up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds & awareness for school children across Lebanon. This project in particular was to raise enough funds to improve
the hygiene and water facilities of 30 schools across the country, literally, almost covering the entire geography of Lebanon.

How do you train to climb a mountain like Kilimanjaro?
The best way to train for a mountain like Kilimanjaro is to do lots of trekking. Luckily, living in London, you are only a few hours away from Wales & Scotland which are the perfect training ground for this kind of
challenge. The first trek and climb I completed was Ben Nevis in Scotland, the highest point in the United Kingdom. I have been completely addicted to climbing since then.

 What was it about climbing that first appealed to you?

I suppose it is very symbolic in many ways. It is the perfect example of how if you put your mind to it you can achieve anything. You can clearly apply most if not all fundamentals in climbing to life. If you
work hard, you will be rewarded… but not always, very much aligned with life, there is always an element of luck involved. In mountaineering you can train your whole life for a climb, but if the weather’s not on your side, it’s all over. That’s what I love about it. It’s just like life.

Do you have to be in good physical shape to climb?

That’s a big question. It varies from mountain to mountain. Some demand a lot more fitness than others. It’s as much a mental as a physical challenge but generally, the better shape you are in the more you’ll be
able to enjoy the experience.

How hard was/is it to train?

Again, each mountain commands a different training program. You have to be determined. It is as hard as you make it for yourself, the fitter and more prepared you are the more you can enjoy the experience. Think about
it. If you aren’t fit, you are going to struggle to keep up the pace, struggling makes it unsafe for you and your rope team. So not only are you letting yourself down, but you are unnecessarily endangering the situation.

What goes through your mind when you are climbing?

I zone out. Living in a big city drives your brain crazy. You need to give it a rest every now and again otherwise the consequences can be dire. It’s the best holiday I could ever ask for. Everybody has their own
way of switching off, for me its climbing.

What feeling (if any) comes over you when your reach the top?

Preparing for a big climb takes months of hard work, staying positive and in some cases a lot of arduous planning. You train so hard mentally and physically, you visualize yourself achieving the goal. When it
actually happens, it feels like you have finally crossed the finish line something you’ve worked so hard at for months and in some cases an entire year. So you’ve got a whole index of emotions running wildly through your mind; relief, happiness, proudness and exhaustion. I try not
to cry but it always happens and I always regret it because my tears freeze from the cold and it’s very painful!

What goals have you set for your in regards to climbing?

To continue to raise funds and awareness for children’s charities working through climbing. There are a lot of under privileged children out there with very little cause for hope in their lives. I want them to
see that life is like climbing a huge mountain and that if you stay positive and set your mind to it you can achieve anything.

How did you get the idea to combine fund raising and climbing?

Since the shocking events of the war in Lebanon in 2006, I have been a very active fundraiser for local and International charities that work with Lebanon. I had been fundraising through sports tournaments, social
events, music concerts and even card tournaments! In the UK it’s very common to raise funds through physical challenges like marathons and triathlons. So, I thought why not? Only this time we went big! We were able to raise a lot more awareness through corporate sponsorship. So far we have been involved in raising $3.375 million USD.

What does the money go towards?

It has always gone towards children’s charities in Lebanon. Children are the future of the country. Our funds specifically impact the lives of children in school and members of loyal communities by improving health
and education standards. The infrastructure we have access to have a massive impact on the local community as it also creates much needed jobs. By improving standards, creating jobs and raising much needed the funded projects will provide a healthy platform off of which the
community’s future will be brighter.

What is your goal in regards to fund raising?

I want to grow my team because at the moment its very ad hoc. Whenever a climb or project comes up I get different volunteers for it. Id really like to see more individual teams climbing for Lebanon and I am always very excited about any other countries in the Middle East doing similar initiatives. I’m always ready to lend a hand in the name of charity especially when combining it with sporting events.

What other interests do you have other than climbing?

I love to travel and to write. Climbing has taken me to some very remote regions in the world and there is this infinite learning curve about people & cultures that I am totally passionate about. I love writing about these experiences as a medium of expressing myself.

What does your family think of your climbing expeditions?

Hahaha they hate that I climb! Bless them, they worry about the climbs but ultimately I think they are proud of what we are achieving.

How do you know Omar Samra?

I met Omar Samra through the incredibly small Arab climbing community. I initially met him at one of his Everest presentations- he is a real figure of inspiration for would-be climbers like myself and a very positive
person to speak to and watch present. We were actually one week apart on Mount Elbrus in the Russian Caucasus on the border with Georgia- sadly I didn’t get to climb with him on that occasion but we ended up doing an
ascent of Mt Toubkal in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco together. It was a fantastic climb and great to do it in unison. There is very little Arab unity as it is and we felt very proud to team up as Lebanon and Egypt as well as out good friend Nacer from Morocco and show the
world that we can work together.

Acts of Kindness

Nadia. M. N. El Abdin

Published in the April 2009 issue of Campus Magazine

 I wrote this piece a few months ago after a couple of inspiring events had taken place. After writing the piece I wanted to share it with as many people as I possibly could in the hopes that perhaps they too might be inspired to make a slight change. The piece was published in the May issue of ‘ ‘Campus’ magazine.  An English magazine that you can find in selected places. I didn’t feel that it got the attention that it deserved so after much thought I decided to post it  on the site.

       How often do you see someone in the street that you wish you had stopped to help but didn’t because you would have been late for a meeting, couldn’t find a parking space or had some other excuse? I will be the first to admit that I have done that a few times and the image of the person(s) stayed with me for quite some time afterwards and I would be filled with deep regret for not stopping to help. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I’ve turned into a saint and help every single person I come across that would be too farfetched. However I do make a conscious effort to help those that I can whenever and even more so when I have the means to do so.

On the eve of Eid El Atha I parked my car nearby my seamstress’s house and when I stepped out of the car I noticed that a few people were making a b-line as if to avoid something disgusting or even contagious. When I looked closely there lay a man sleeping on a piece of cardboard huddled under a blanket. The sight was both startling and very upsetting. As I walked away from the man and towards my destination, I couldn’t help but think of ways I could help that poor old man. After all it was the season and the time for giving those less fortunate than myself. It wasn’t until I had finished my errand and was heading back to the car did it hit me. I stopped at the local green grocer, who was just around the corner from where my car was parked and bought a mixture of fruit, juice boxes and bottles of water. I walked to my car placed the bags that I was carrying on the ground as quietly as I could because I didn’t want to wake the sleeping man and so that I could put some of my bags in the car. The parking attendant was very shocked to see that I closed the car door and picked up the remaining bags and went to the old man sleeping on the side walk. I wanted to place the bags as close to him as I could without stirring him, he must have sensed me because he awoke and saw me. I pointed to the bags and told him that they were for him.  I will never forget what followed he sat up and looked straight in to my eyes and because he was mute he placed his hands together palms facing up and raised his hands slightly towards the night sky. I couldn’t help but well up with tears and bow my head and walk away. As I write this, I can’t help but get emotional. The exchange between us had caused a few people in the street to stop and stare. When I reached my car the attendant recited a blessing as he held the door open for me. The feeling of helping that man especially after finding out he was mute is indescribable. I only wish I had been able to do more.

This past weekend I came down to Alexandria to pick up my parent’s from the airport. I pottered around the house getting things ready for them, did some last minute errands for them and for myself until their flight was due to arrive later that evening. I went to do some of their weeks shopping and as I rolled my trolley up and down the aisles of the hyper market bumping into some friends, striking up a conversation not knowing that another opportunity would be waiting literally right around the corner. I paid for the shopping and stopped at a coffee shop. As I sat inside sipping my orange juice, taking a bite from my spinach cheese pastry, skimming through a magazine and subconsciously checked things off on my mental to do list, two young girls walked in to the coffee shop, from their attire it was obvious that they could not afford any items on the menu. They sat at a table and as quietly as they could they pulled out a bag of potato chips that they had probably bought with their saved up money and sat sharing it between them. I knew that some individuals who like to go to the coffee shop wouldn’t appreciate their presence and would probably ask the employees to have them leave the premises. To ensure that no one would have the opportunity of putting the employees or the young girls in an embarrassing situation I quickly finished my beverage and pastry and pushed my trolley back to  the cashier and waited in line to place another order. I ordered two chocolate twist pastry and two orange juices and told the cashier to give it to the two little girls sitting at the table. The cashier sighed and smiled trying very hard to hold back the tears. I paid for the order and left. Although I wasn’t there to see their reaction, I know that they appreciated the gesture and felt special sitting there as equals to everyone else.

Acts of kindness don’t always have to be in the form of monetary things. It can be something as simple as acknowledging your waiter by his or her name when you’re at a restaurant and not talking at him or her but with them. Remember to thank them, when they bring your order and when they take the plate away. Believe me they will appreciate it more than you will ever know. You might have been the nicest person they have served all day. When you walk into your building and pass the porter (bowab), say hello and ask how they are and listen to their reply. When you are stuck in traffic, remember you aren’t the only one getting frustrated, there are all those other drivers who are stopped next to you probably feeling the same way you are, if the cars start to move and you see someone attempting to cross in front of you, let them, the few seconds you wait won’t make a difference and you never know you may be helping that person indirectly by getting to a place they may need to be urgently a little quicker.

 On that note, I challenge you! Yes, you! I challenge you to do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return. It could be a stranger, a family member or a friend you know. I defy you to tell me that when you have done it that you didn’t feel good afterwards.