For every taxi driver that tries to take me home or marry me off to his son, there are 10 positive experiences and they all start with Ahlan Wasahlan (welcome).
When I arrived at CRP for my first day of work I was extremely nervous. I couldn’t figure out how to enter the building, I didn’t know if I would remember any Arabic, and I was scared I wouldn’t make any friends (after several iftar dinners alone). I am happy to report that there was nothing to be afraid of… though my Arabic could use a little work. The staff, interns, and volunteers at CRP are kind, funny, and committed to their beneficiaries. I am so lucky to work in an NGO that has quality people at its helm, some of whom are refugees themselves. One of the interns told me that it was unique to have an organization so committed to being part of the community that there were actual community members on the team. I think that’s one of the many things that make CRP special. The other is how welcomed I felt after just a few minutes there. Everyone made an effort to speak with me, get to know me, and make sure I knew that CRP could be a home to anyone who might happen upon it. A few iftar dinners later and my supervisor is sending me pictures of his new desk (hi Tim!). If that’s not a sign of true friendship, I don’t know what is.
My first day at Hope Workshop, the initiative with which I am specifically volunteering, the nerves were back already. How wrong was I to think that I wouldn’t be welcomed in the same way! There were probably 30-40 women in the room, all hard at work when I arrived. Each one who noticed my new (probably contorted and confused) face, greeted me with a big Ahlan Wasahlan ya habibti! I was thrilled. Not only this, but a Syrian family that I met invited me to iftar at their home. Last night, I broke my fast with them and went downtown after for dessert.
They told me I was always welcome in their home and I should consider it my house as well. Since you all didn’t get to taste the amazing food that I had, I am attaching a photo of it to make you jealous.
I have even been welcomed into the most intimate of settings. CRP hosts a men’s support group, one of the many psychosocial initiatives. I was invited by a CRP staff member to sit in on yesterday’s session. I was taken aback… would these men feel as though I was intruding on their sacred space; I am neither a man nor a refugee. It was the opposite. As I sat down, every man beamed at me and said Ahlan Wasahlan! After that, I heard the men speak about their lives with candor and emotion.
They shared with me and their peers what they were feeling about lacking agency and purpose without work, about missing their family, about the Quran. It was truly a beautiful experience. With every passing day, I am certain I will be having more beautiful experiences with these amazing people that I’ve met and all I can say is Alhamdulillah (thanks be to God).
Posted By Reina Sultan (Jordan)
Posted Jun 8th, 2017