The SoCal Way of Giving

Channeling our inner yogis on the beach then following it up with a hearty lunch at a restaurant overlooking the ocean is a quintessentially GiveLight way of talking shop. There are no boardrooms, no black or white boards, no fancy equipment, and no formality. But even in the midst of such a scenic escape, it’s clear we are here with purpose. Such is the pull of GiveLight and the dedication of those who come together for it.

Souther California Beach charity brunchAt 100 degrees, the day is unusually hot and humid for October, even in the Southern California beachside town of Laguna. We’re instantly aware of this as we step onto the burning sand. The juxtaposition of the blazing sun overhead and the breaking water a few steps before us is much like GiveLight’s role in the lives of orphaned children and the relief it offers them.

 

True to form, the time used to wait for others to join is used effectively. We walk up and down the shore, discussing GiveLight Foundation’s forward movements and pause to greet passersby. The absence of crowded conversation allows runaway details about Dian Alyan, the GL Founder, to be discovered. Her penchant for picking up languages and finesse at learning them, her ability to connect with people who can’t always place her origins, and her ability to recognize passion and talent when she encounters it for instance. It’s easy to understand GL’s global reach and success, and see why people gravitate toward it through her. She has an unconventional way about her, as does the organization that flourishes under her using equally avant-garde ways to garner support and raise funds.

When the rest of the available SoCal chapter joins us, we spread our colorful mats across a strip to bend, flex and breathe through signature yoga poses. Beachgoers pass us by with smiles and nods. It’s refreshing but also very Californian. Even in the grizzly heat, we find a reason to make happy. After we breathe in some of the ocean air and conclude our yoga session, we form a circle on our mats and wax poetic, quite literally — sharing poetry that we’ve either recently encountered or that’s stayed with us.  Our choices are quite telling of who we are as a group, eclectic in appearance and attitudes but one with our thoughts on what matters. We’re here because we care about the children who’ve been left behind in the mire, and we want to help.

California charityWe follow our shoreline yoga with a delicious lunch at Driftwood Kitchen, which offers a spectacular view of the Pacific, and discuss GL’s pending and future plans. There’s been much progress on the GL front as a whole, with new chapters opening in places like Dubai and Turkey. As people learn about GL’s work, plans also extend to finding and establishing homes for orphans in other countries struck with war and disaster. The increased interest in GL has also forged new partnerships that seek to propel the organization’s work to the next level. It’s exciting and heady to be part of something so novel and earnest yet ambitious and real.

Souther California GiveLight team

Our bodies and stomachs nourished, we conclude the GL SoCal Chapter’s “meeting” on a soaring note with the promise of more to come and even more to give.

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GiveLight World Cuisine

Benefit OrphansEarlier this year we launched a new and innovative idea to bring our supporters together.  The idea centers around gourmet food, friendship and our desire to give and help. Ten chefs prepare food from various countries and bring their signature dishes to the event. The host only needs to provide space and create a pleasant ambiance. We invite 30-40 guests and suggest a $30 contribution of which 100% goes towards nourishing a child for the whole month. We have done six events so far, each with a different flair but the same unified purpose; how can we find unique ways of giving that creates a deeper personal connection to the cause.

What started out as one small idea, turned into six successful events so far, each uniquely special and memorable. We would like to thank all the following hosts who so graciously opened their hearts and homes to us:

GiveLight Orphans

1. Mai Vu for hosting our pilot event at her home in San Jose.

2. Humera Nawaz for hosting the second World Cuisine in San Ramon.

3. Khadija Harsolia for hosting the third World Cuisine in Irvine.

4. Arie Quick for hosting the fourth World Cuisine in Dublin.

5. Uroosa Jalal for hosting the fifth World Cuisine in San Ramon.

6. Mahira Razzak for hosting a Turkish Night for guests of the sixth World Cuisine in San Jose.

GiveLight US team

The following is a glimpse into how one guest felt after attending a World Cuisine event:

I cringe when I get an invitation to a fundraiser.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind donating for a worthy cause and I’m honestly grateful for the opportunity earn some ajr (reward)…no amount of ajr is too much. I realize that the invitee is actually doing the invited a favor. But there is nothing more painful than sitting at a fundraiser watching speaker after speaker begging people to give just a little bit more, telling everyone that dinner will be served or the main speaker will speak or the doors will be opened once the financial goals are met. The feeling of dread that threatens to smother me after being invited to a fundraiser has only come after years of feeling hostage and handicapped at one fancy gala after the other.

Givelight benefiting the childrenBut I have heard different reports coming out of the Givelight gatherings that my girlfriends have been attending recently. They wax poetic about romantic, beautiful settings, a variety of delicious food, all sorts of creative themes, and fun opportunities where they get to dress to the nines. Despite many attempts on my part to attend one of these highly-praised shindigs, I have never managed to make it out to any of them.

That all changed this past July when I was finally able to attend a Givelight fundraiser titled “World Cuisines” in San Ramon. I paid my $31 cover charge and showed up at an elegant, spacious home where women were busy setting out all sorts of appetizers and entrees that I had never seen before. The placards gave me their names like “Mango and Corn Salad from the Dominican Republic” and “Fruit Salad with Spicy Tamarind Paste from Indonesia” and “Chicken Biryani from Pakistan”. I didn’t have to wait long before we were all gathered around the kitchen island, loading our plates up with a myriad of delectables.

WorldCuisineIrvine3_1Afterwards, we sat comfortably in the living room with our cups of tea and heard Dian tell her story about what inspired her to start Givelight. Unexpected tears filled my eyes as I watched her recall the devastation she felt upon hearing about her 40 relatives who tragically perished in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Having asked Allah (swt) to grant her a life filled with purpose and gratification, she found herself guided to the work she is doing today, running orphanages in six different countries around the world from Indonesia to Pakistan to Sri Lanka to Cambodia to Bangladesh to Morocco. Her eyes sparkled with pride as she described the clean and comfortable accommodations and the loving, nurturing natures of the “house parents” who take care of Givelight’s wards. I was mesmerized as I listened to her eloquent reflections about life and the purpose of being here and the legacies we all want to leave behind. It was like listening to a familiar, wise friend sharing age-old truths with us. By the time the short video about Givelight and the work they are doing was played on our host’s television set, I was already reaching for my checkbook.

And that was it. Once the video was over, we went back to chatting and eating and getting to know one another. Dian never asked us for a penny. No one counted up how many funds had been donated that evening. When my husband asked me later on in the night how the event had gone, instead of talking about the organization and their goals, I found myself telling him that I was treated with respect and honor and trust. It was as if Dian knew that the work she was doing spoke for itself and she didn’t need to twist anyone’s arm to be a part of it. It was as if she knew that if we had anything to give, we would. But the truth is that if any of us chose not to give anything that night, it was simply our own loss. We weren’t doing anyone but ourselves a favor by giving. The orphans didn’t need us. Dian didn’t need us. Allah didn’t need us.

The lesson I took from my first Givelight fundraiser experience was what I had heard a few years ago in the instructions of a beloved teacher: “Be avid for that which benefits you.”

Givelight doesn’t just benefit the world. It benefits our souls. And I — for one — am eager to gain some of that benefit.

– Hina Mukhtar

WorldCuisine5_1Thank you Hina for such kind, genuine words.

So who is ready to fill their home with blessings and light for our children? Please contact us at info@givelight.org.. Together, we can continue this wonderful tradition, enriching our lives by nourishing countless others.

GiveLight foundation charity

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Tea and Poetry

Tea and poetry charityOne of our September events in Half Moon Bay combined Tea, Poetry and Charity to celebrate the friendship of the GiveLight community, and to raise generous donations that will feed eleven children for two months.  Sabina Khan-Ibara shares her account of the afternoon…

By Sabina Khan-Ibara

Dian Alyan, my friend and the founder of GiveLight Foundation, invited me to an afternoon of poetry, hot tea, great food and lovely company at the Ritz-Carlton near my home in Half Moon Bay. My husband was home to watch the kids, so of course, I accepted and I am so glad I did.

God blessed us with a breezy but warm day on the beach, which is rare for Half Moon Bay. I met a group of 12 wonderful like-minded women who are strong believers in this worthy cause. We shared and discussed poetry that moved us- from Rumi to Nayyirah Waheed. We talked about Givelight and our roles within it and how our lives have been impacted personally by knowing Dian and being part of such an honorable cause. We concluded by taking a walk on the warm sand, pondering the beauty of Allah’s creation while laughing and joking about our lack of foresight (or my lack of foresight) wearing a long skirt to the beach!

After the blessed meeting, we later received a message from Dian about the contributions made at the event. Given the amount of money raised, especially because of one woman’s generosity, Givelight will be able to feed eleven children for two months !

This is how Givelighters spent their Saturday on September 19, 2015.

For those who don’t know, Dian Alyan is the founder and president of Givelight Foundation, a humanitarian non profit organization that seeks to build high quality homes for orphans around the world. Every couple of months, Dian invites a group of delightful women to join her in an exciting activity that is not only fun but also brings awareness and funds for GiveLight.

For me, it was a blissful afternoon and for most of the women it was a relaxing break from the responsibilities of everyday life. Dian and her team of dedicated volunteers are planning more such events. If you missed out on this one, there will be more coming up (insha’Allah). Simply visit www.givelight.org to see upcoming events and/or to donate directly

I am honored to have met Dian and everyone else and look forward to many more events and opportunities to have great time while furthering the cause of this incredible organization.

Photo Gallery

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Walking to Give

GiveLight Walkathon 2014

GiveLight Walkathon 2014

by Nasha Khan

The GiveLight Walkathon 2014 commenced under an overcast sky at the Sunnyale Baylands Park, on October 25th. Much like its inaugural year, this year also saw its share o10447629_10152822237893828_456195878773638246_nf light rain. The first year forecasted a beautiful and sunny day despite the three-week long torrent. But this year’s rain was a welcome respite from the months-long drought that has overcome California in recent years. Coincidentally, it occurred within the three-hour window of the walkathon both years. And just like the year before, the walkathon volunteers and participants remained unfettered by the indecisive weather and the challenges it posed. People from all walks of life — crossing barriers in gender, age, ethnicity and race, even belief — came together for a cause larger than life.

After the morning business of registration, a graze through breakfast goodies, and some light prepping through 10734186_10152823179813828_6039964356779013024_ncoached stretches, the participants were off. Parents in raincoats pushing strollers and gripping tiny hands, children in hoodies racing against one another, the elderly keeping pace under umbrellas — all moved toward a single purpose under the scattered autumn drizzle.

Through slick paved pathways and muddied dirt roads, over puddles and across spongy turf, the participants 10518708_10152822231793828_649109243894647454_ncharged ahead aware only of the finish line. Those who trained for months sprinted forward, leaving splattered footprints in their wake. Unaccompanied children set their goal at a reasonable 8K. At the 10K U-turn mark, many paused for a commemorative photograph — number tags proudly displayed across their shirts — before heading back toward the beginning.

While the walkathon remains an10553425_10152823203283828_6728451331127557795_n important part of fundraising efforts, as one participant noted last year, it has also become a way to “honor the orphans.” And what better way to honor these children than to stride together for a joined cause, spurred by the common thread of devotion.


The GiveLight Walkathon 2014 welcomed many old faces and some new ones. Amongst the many volunteers and participants were Aparna Khan and Fariha Siddiqui who were part of the core team. Joining them was Faiza Javed who has been a longtime GL champion, and trained months ahead of the walkathon as a personal goal. Ari Sufiati and Maria Siamwalla were introduced to GL through the walkathon, and dove into the cause with as much dedication and enthusiasm as those before them. Their testimonials reflect the sentiment shared by the GL family across the board.

***

“It [is] not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”

Mother Teresa’s quote resonates with me especially when I think of GiveLight, and realize how much I love what I do and how blessed I feel in doing it. I have supported many different charities in the past, but never have I been so hands-on and fully committed in my volunteer work as I am with this foundation. GiveLight has given me this opportunity.

I feel especially fortunate and delighted to have been part of the Walkathon planning this year and in organizing the event with such a wonderful team. I surprised myself when I managed to raise funds for the event. It was a first for me. The support that poured in from all my friends, family and colleagues helped. I was initially hesitant to speak to sponsors, thinking I may not have the communication skills for it; but after a few interactions with some sponsors I became more confident and did not hesitate to approach others. I am so pleased to have met my goals in raising funds, volunteering, and participating in the walk with my family and friends. It is an amazing accomplishment that I achieved only under the able guidance of the wonderful GiveLight Team. I am thankful to Dian Alyan for giving me the opportunity and having full faith in my deliverables. I also want to acknowledge the ever-energetic logistic team from whom I learned a lot in the few weeks of planning and execution.

Insha’Allah, I look forward to many more such events and extend my hand toward such a noble cause.

Aparna Khan

***

The GiveLight Annual Walkathon is an annual family event that I so look forward to each year, whether it is to volunteer for it or participate in it. This year, the core team and volunteers were present at the crack of dawn on the rainy morning of October 25th — all ready to set up and make sure that the participants had a flawless experience. The light morning drizzle neither deterred the participants’ spirit nor dampened the volunteers’ morale. The compelling cause that drives and motivates me to be there for GiveLight is the children’s smiles.

Fariha Siddiqi

***

I have participated in the GiveLight 5k-10k Walkathon since its commencement. Having long been a supporter of GiveLight, I have mostly volunteered behind the scenes or participated in more social events. Every year the Walkathon gives me the opportunity to accomplish something on a personal level alongside reaching my humanitarian goals.

This year, with Dian Alyan’s encouragement, I was able to go out and raise money for the event by getting people to support my run. I was surprised to meet my fundraising goals and felt a responsibility toward all my supporters to deliver and complete the race.

This forced me to train by setting a personal goal for myself. If I did not believe wholeheartedly in the work that GiveLight does, I do not think I could have executed this commitment to the best of my ability or with dedication and determination.

The Walkathon attracted many new people from all backgrounds because they had heard about the cause and were also drawn to it. As the outpour of generosity grew, so did awareness for the cause.

Every year after I complete the race, I feel this sense of accomplishment and empowerment. I am overwhelmed with excitement as well as “fatigue,” but mostly I feel energized and “pumped up.”

I know that the work GiveLight does is inspiring, but each year the impact of the Walkathon is tremendous. The energy and spirit of the run is palpable. Parents, children, walkers and runners of all ages and backgrounds are there with one united purpose in mind — to support the orphans of GiveLight. Faces are lit up and smiles are contagious. The feeling of brotherhood/sisterhood is overwhelming between everyone out there — doing something, whatever they can, to light the life of another.

I had an amazing time and to this day I continue to run and walk in hopes of participating in the next GiveLight Walkathon.

Faiza Javed

***

I had heard of the walkathon only a week before the event. I decided to join out of passion for the cause and compassion for the orphans whom we all care for. My intention was similar to all who participated. Because we were all there for the same reason, there was a sense of camaraderie between us even though we were strangers. We may have come from different backgrounds, but we were all there for the children.

Maria Siamwalla

***

I was planning on throwing a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese for my son, Enzo, who turned six last October. When I heard about the walkathon, I decided it would be great to have the party there instead. So our family packed treats, a birthday cake, and invited some of his friends to the Sunnydale Baylands Park. More than ten kids showed up, excited, early in the morning. They all walked or ran 1K out of the 5-10k walkathon, which was too short a distance for many of them. The rain added to the excitement. Enzo was very happy when we all sang “Happy Birthday” to him and when he cut the cake. About 400 people celebrated with him. The best part was to know that his happiness also contributed to helping children like him who are much less fortunate. I look forward to doing more fun things to benefit GiveLight in the future.

Ari Sufiati

Finish Line

Finish Line

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The Journey of Noordeen

by Nur Al-Haqq

I came to Indonesia fresh out of UCLA’s Women’s Studies program. I had seven and a half years of undergraduate study under my belt, and four years of all the vagaries, frustrations, privileges, and discriminations that come with being a light-skinned American, a woman, and recognizably Muslim. That is to say, I came with a lot of baggage. Later I would describe to Yana (who, as her full name Mahyana suggests, truly was my life for the duration of my stay), my mindset at the time of arrival was that of a childish adult who had forgotten how to smile easily or laugh from the heart.

I reached Medan mid-Ramadan after a stomach-twistingly arduous flight from San Francisco to Korea then Singapore to Kuala Namu airport. Arriving into the airport climate was like one step back to a time when I was studying abroad in Accra, Ghana and one step forward into an environment that was very unfamiliar, unsettling and new. Like Accra, the airport’s sliding doors opened to a warm, humid, tropical climate that enveloped me like a comforting blanket. Orderly chaos described the familiar welcome of taxi drivers clamoring toward the exiting travelers crowding outside the terminal doors while somber policemen milled about between them.Unlike Accra, however, the Indonesian train station I entered opposite the airport was a gleaming glass-and-metal affair that reminded me of sterilized surgical equipment and the bullet trains in France.

At the station I was given something that resembled an ATM card, but which turned out to be a ticket one slid into a machine similar to the BART turnstiles in the San Francisco Bay area. Once on the train (which was very unlike the BART), I began to relax and absorbed myself with the countryside that passed by the window at varying speeds. Here everything — the greenery; the children haphazardly playing in various stages of dress or undress; the women and men working in fields or shop-fronts; the stifling cluster of tin shantytowns with open gutters; the juxtaposition of poverty against obscene wealth cloistered inside forbidding walls, guard shacks and gates; the smells of humidity, dust and air pollution mixed with the breakneck traffic — reminded me of Accra. Even my hosts’ kind country-style hospitality, as I awaited the bus to Takengon, mixed with the city’s bustling conglomeration of the desperate, the generous and the greedy — all crowding together to create a soothing, grounding exhale of memory.

Then we passed through the mountains into Tengah Aceh. And this was nothing like Ghana.

Stepping off the bus into the biting early morning cold of the near-empty depot and surrounded by fellow (all-male) passengers, I had my first full realization of my embarrassingly enormous, typically American, faux-pas: I didn’t know the language. In fact, I hardly knew anything at all about the country or this region, except that good coffee came from here and that I was supposed to be staying at an orphanage called Yayasan Noordeen somewhere in Takengon.

Recognizing the reality of my situation I agreed to take a becak, and climbed into the sidecar to stare out in wonder, shivering as we took off past furry cows and young roan horses sleeping or standing near the soft grassy sides of the asphalt roads. Halfway to the orphanage — right around the time I was convinced my hands just might fall off from the cold wind whipping through them — a large grey van bursting with people drove up next to us and honked. The young girls and an elder man with a kind gap-toothed smile and a cigarette waved and laughed, then called something out to the becak driver as we stopped at a light. It wasn’t until the becak driver started to pull over to the side of the road —muttering something to me about the fare — that I finally realized the van had painted in huge yellow letters on all sides “YAYASAN NOORDEEN.” It was from the orphanage!

In a flurry of scarves, shy smiles and greetings, my luggage and I somehow ended up in the van on our way to Noordeen — the becak driver paid and a barrage of names and questions now surrounding me. After driving up the narrow winding road of a hill by the giant lake the town of Takengon rests on, and past a huge white mosque with forest-green accents and the scenic views of fishing neighborhoods down below, we finally pulled in to Pay Noordeen.

Smiling yellow, pastel purple, solid brick red, emerald greens, and blues the color of cloudless sunny skies greeted me as I was showed to the room I would live in for the next two months. As one of the girls — Ridha — ran off to get me chocolate-filled rolls and tea for breakfast, those who remained tested their English on me. I walked around with them as I tried to answer in exaggerated and comical ways to get them to laugh, but in all truth it was hard not to be distracted by the orphanage’s beauty — most notably the plants that made up a small tropical garden on the terrace in front of the green-and-purple masjid that formed the central focal point for Noordeen’s layout. Finally Yana, the oldest of the girls who was studying at college to be an English teacher, took one look at me and suggested I should go to my room and take a rest. Relieved, I agreed and proceeded to pass out for the next 24 hours, waking only to come out for dinner before shuffling back to my cocoon of blankets and the deep restful sleep of the traveler who has reached her final destination. The whole of the next month served as an intense, ongoing lesson in patience, humility, cultures, reading body language, and the frustration found in the gap between ideals and their implementation.

Going in to Noordeen I knew I had the knowledge to tutor basic biology, chemistry and math, and that I could teach basic first responder skills such as how to use a blood pressure cuff or stethoscope and the health implications of the information found with these. I also knew that I was far more versed in the English language than most other people, and I was confident in my knowledge of the language’s history, morphology, grammar, and literature. But it didn’t take long at all to realize the embarrassingly obvious fact that even if you are a walking encyclopedia on any number of topics, if you cannot understand or be understood on the most basic points of communication by those you are trying to teach, there is no point (nor reason) in you teaching. Also, as Yana pointed out once when I was waxing philosophic about the beauties of the different English dialects, English students in Indonesia aren’t interested in the academic aspects of the language: they just want to learn how to speak so they can use it for work.
In all settings I was utterly dependent upon Yana’s ability to translate, or else on the limited English comprehension of other children and staff and my own much greater lack of knowledge of Indonesian and Gayo. Before Ramadan was even over I had given up on the idea of teaching any English and instead worked on learning Indonesian and practiced reading body language. Thankfully, it turns out that human beings — especially children — are remarkably similar the world over, despite different social expressions of the basic stock of fears, hopes, passions and pains that make us up- which now transformed my old habit of people-watching into an extremely useful skill.

So I watched. I watched everyone around me even more intently than I normally do because now my day-to-day interactions utterly depended on it. I watched, and I absorbed, and I learned, and I listened. Through Yana (and Google translate) I shared things I had already learned, as well as parts of my own South Louisiana culture’s traditions and food, just as they shared with me things that made them who they were. I had foolishly come with next to no knowledge of the place, let alone the people and cultures that make it up or how orphanages are run in this area; I had no idea what even constituted an orphan in Indonesia.

I had once heard that anyone who loses at least one parent is considered an orphan in Islam. However, coming from a culture and history where unclaimed children and orphans were often used as indentured labor or slaves, even as a Muslim it made it hard for me to fathom the merciful concept of giving additional kindness and support to a child who has lost only one parent. All I had was my own baggage to go on, and that was showing itself to be a lot heavier than I could carry with all this new information coming in. Something had to give in order for me to interact effectively with my hosts to whom I owed so much and with all the children whom I was supposed to be helping.

I could easily pick up on the moods of the kids and the essence of their conversations even when I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Watching them I saw echoes of children the same as any child in Ghana, England, Louisiana, Florida, Mexico, California; in any place around the world really. They were shy, haughty, smart, introverted, extroverted, cocky, sensitive, bullying, protective, nurturing, competitive, comedic, witty, talented, silly, gifted, awkward, confident, quiet, loud, sweet, mean, respectful, roguish — in short, everything that normal children are. This was extraordinary to me because the fact was that, against all expectations and norms in the United States and Indonesia for orphans, Yayasan Noordeen provided their charges with every opportunity to live as normal children with mercy and care complementing moral structure and material comforts.

The profound effect of this on the children along with being able to stay in contact with their relatives and friends and the freedom to visit them; of having older orphans like kak (“big sister”) Yana and the Imam bang (“big brother”) Arman around to provide parental support at the orphanage and with their schools; of Ayah (the orphanage head who had been driving the van the day I arrived), Ayah’s family, and the rest of the Noordeen staff constantly there as an extended family and guiding support network was immeasurable in concrete terms. It was noticeably able to help mediate the pains of life these children had already gone through at such a young age. The whole home felt just like that: a home.

These children had lost their parents — some had lost only one, others both — but they had gained a family in exchange.Family is not heaven, but it is needed as much as the hope for heaven is. It is also something that money can only help provide. If people do not use both their material resources and the best of their dreams and humanity to ameliorate the pains in the lives of others, no amount of money can help. But Yayasan Noordeen has been able to do just that. And the children’s respect for the people who have created this environment for them is palpable.

As a convert to Islam — as someone who has lost her family and had to accept the ugly reality of how human societies force people into vulnerable life situations based on arbitrary criterion for full acceptance into their fold — I could completely empathize with these children. Our experiences are different in many respects, but they are also similar. Because of this, it was easy to tell that the family these children have found in Yayasan Noordeen has given them the stability, support and hope they had lost when they lost their parent(s). If for any reason they were to lose that again or have that presence wane, I think it would be far more devastating for them than the tragedies they have already been through.

All this I felt as if it was my own life I was seeing in front of me. And although my first month was rough in navigating cultural clashes and language barriers, by the second month the children and I had become familiar enough with our unique idiosyncrasies that interactions became exponentially less shy and strained, especially with the boys. The children — first the girls and then the girls and boys alike — took to sticking their heads into my room’s window or wandering in whenever my door was open. In this way they quickly learned that I draw, for during the highs and lows of my first month of stay I had begun drawing sketches of the children as a way to remember their names. They had me at a disadvantage, you see — they only had to remember my one name, but I had to remember their 40 plus names, including nicknames! Through democratic vote my failed English-teaching experiments were transformed into drawing tutoring experiments: They first drew comics to explain English phrases, and when we switched to just drawing and storytelling in English, Gayo and Indonesian, they drew from the stories. I was still utterly dependent upon Yana and the girls who were more versed in English to communicate the intent of the lessons, which sometimes led to hilarious mistranslations and interesting interpretations of what to draw. But at least with this topic the visual was, thankfully, relied upon more heavily than the verbal.

Outside the classroom, however, we played — chasing, tickling, making silly faces, teasing, laughing and rolling around the masjid floor after prayers, or sharing stories as we tried practicing our respective target languages. These childish delights started on the female side of the orphanage but quickly came to incorporate the boys as well. Since my height allowed me to easily see over the curtain separating the boys and girls in the masjid, I made a habit of setting all the kids off into hysterics before prayer by pretending to mimic the boys calling the adhan or reciting Qur’an, or else by making faces at them and stealing their topis off their heads whenever they walked too near.

When I noticed their great interest in my art, I had the idea to draw portraits of them as a going-away gift. I wasn’t able to finish all of the portraits before I left, but those I could draw began to give me an even deeper insight into and connection with my new little sisters and brothers of Noordeen. As the two months passed and I frolicked and romped about like a child with these young ones- some who were young enough to possibly be my own children — almost imperceptibly my own baggage started dropping off my shoulders and opening me up to look again at what was around me.

What I saw in Yayasan Noordeen was a way of life that tried to provide everything for these most vulnerable, despite Life’s natural imperfect highs and lows and frustrating ups and downs. Through my pencils my own layers dropped away like shavings from the sharpener and I saw instead in every line, in every shading, in every strand of hair or freckle or pimple reproduced on the paper these children’s woes, their concerns, their happiness, their very personalities shining through to work themselves into my heart. The portraits had been started as a gift for the children; but in my drawings I saw what I had been unable to fully reach in my interactions with them because of the language barrier. I saw them as my little brothers and sisters.

When the time came for me to leave, I was both ready and not ready. Before I knew it I was surrounded by the kids to gather my luggage and me, then ushered into the Noordeen van amidst hugs, tears, cards and presents pressed into my hands along with farewells and apologies — then cheers as they all climbed into the van with Yana, Ayah and his daughter, and me to accompany us to the bus station. Once there I promised them that, insha’ Allah, I would learn Indonesian for whenever I would be able to return. I also apologized for not having learnt it before coming — and I meant it, too. However, later on the bus when I opened their handmade cards and presents one by one, I found each of them had written me asking forgiveness for anything they may have done to upset me, and apologizing for not being able to communicate with me more in my mother tongue.

As I read their cards, smiles came easily to my face, tears blinked back from my eyes, and at times a laugh came tumbling out, unhindered, from my heart.

 

 

 

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I Left my Heart in Cambodia

by Nahlah Kolkailah

Two weeks shy away from Ramadan. I know deep in my heart it is an immensely blessed time; that it is meant to be in this precise way. I do not even think twice about booking my ticket, knowing it is a clear sign — how everything has fallen into place with great ease.  How long has it been since I have wanted to do this? I am too excited to remember.

I cannot waste a second. I ask my seven-year-old son to imagine his room blank and empty: “What would you be most excited to learn about, to play with?” He inspires me to place myself in these children’s imaginations. Together, we fill two large suitcases with books, art supplies, toys, and outdoor activity items. He snuggles up to me that night and asks me why I am going to these children while leaving him behind? My eyes tear up as I hold him close, and I tell him that he is blessed, that God-willing his mama can come back to him… but these children, well these precious children don’t have a mama to begin with. He tells me he wants me to go, but only if I promise: “Mama, you have to take me with you next time, I already love them too.”

Whenever we make a decision, we reflect deeply upon everything that leads to such decisive moments. I had parted with my son, family and friends, knowing that I will not see them for a while, knowing that there are many uncertain factors to come. With a ten-hour layover in the middle of Asia, I had 37 hours to reflect. And reflect I did.

Extreme hardship is not something most of us are accustomed to. However, at certain junctures in our lives, we reach a point where we become aware of a suffering, and can no longer tolerate to do the minimum.  In that sense, I needed to feel and experience at least a fraction of what these children are going through in order to become more cognizant of how to better serve them.

The magnitude of how this happened is beyond words so let me explain to you the context. Imagine the air so humid and heavy, that when you step into it you feel that time has momentarily stopped. Indeed, perhaps the body does internally halt to adjust to the environment. I have been in extreme climates before, but never with the element of not knowing when relief would come. My mind adjusts to the mentality: Let go of your comforts. This means that anxieties about a lack of wireless signal to connect to people are replaced by the to adapt to severe heat and thirst. The body begs to be washed with cool water but instead I feel the hot, heavy moisture clinging to me instead. Relief is in a sip of anything; in the sudden light breeze turning the sweat into a chill, even if for a split second; or in a nap that allows my body to blissfully escape and hopefully recharge. It is incredible how strong the mind is. A few hours of a new experience and it can adjust, adapt and embrace. I wake up the next day knowing within my heart I very much want to be here; that there is a peace in being able to do something beyond yourself, beyond your limitations (whatever they may be) — not for yourself but for someone else.

It is a slow bumpy six-hour ride from Phnom Penh to the orphanage outside of Kampong Cham. I am so eager to meet the children I cannot wait any longer. Slow cars, more bumps, and hot red-brown dust rising to cover the windows at every turn. Tick tock. I feel my blood quickening. STOP. We turn into a breathtaking forest of rubber trees aligned in parallel rows, creating the perfect entrance.  If I had not been there myself, I would not have believed what came next. Right as we pull up to the home, an explosive gush from the clouds drenches every inch around us with cool, blessed rain. The rain doesn’t just fall from above. It viciously downpours in extended, hard streams. So much so, that we are initially unable to exit the car to reach the children. Oh, the children. I would give anything to show you the sight. Forty little children, between the age of 5 years and 12 years, leaning on the wall, soaking wet from the rain, their innocent faces full of anticipation — a mix of excitement and hope. Would you believe me if I told you I have never in my life seen such peaceful expressions?

We shake the much needed rain off and are finally able to embrace the children. Some of them have a curiosity that urges them to come forward, others are too shy and observe from the corner. Who are these foreigners? What will they do with us? What have they brought with them? Sweet little faces, full of light and potential. I draw one onto my lap, and as I hug him, I feel his little heart thumping so hard it may be ready to jump out of his chest. I think to myself how it would feel to not be able to hug often, to not sense another’s loving touch when needed, to not be able to run to the comfort of one’s mother. I hold back my tears and place a kiss on his cheek instead.

As I make my way around the room I can’t resist hugging them and letting them feel my heart outpour into theirs. Sister Dian chooses the best way to break the ice. The children begin to proudly recite the Quranic verses they know. Several are gifted with mighty and melodic voices that send shivers down our spines. I already see how hard working and dedicated these children are and immediately have a deep respect for them. As they ease up, the adults encourage them to state their aspirations and career goals: future doctors, teachers and engineers. It is incredibly inspiring to see the ambition in their eyes, how assured they are that they can and will achieve their higher goals.

The children are so enthralled by what the suitcases may hold that I decide to fulfill their eagerness by creating activity stations so that all 40 of them can partake at once. The children cannot hide their curiosity. They peak at me through the windows while I unwrap each item and group the work materials around the room.  Language is not a barrier when they exchange sweet, shy smiles with me, and I signal to them: Not yet, almost ready. Another admirable quality I find in them: Incredible patience and humility. I cannot wait to see their reactions, and I rush to not keep them waiting longer.

I will never forget the awe and excitement I see in the children’s eyes as they pile into the workroom. The girls immediately gravitate towards the watercolor painting, books, and puzzle stations. They reveal meticulous talent for arts and problem solving skills. Some are so drawn to the work that they choose to sit for hours and not rotate stations. The boys are enthralled by the word puzzles, memory games and craft stations. They are lost in their artwork as they formalize their thoughts and sentiments on paper before they so proudly show it off and display it around the room. I think to myself how privileged most of us are to be exposed to information that expands our minds and empowers us, that helps us discover and express our talents and passions each day. Oh, how we take such opportunities for granted. I spot the dedicated Quran teacher hovering over the puzzle tasks with them, in deep thought and thoroughly enjoying helping them complete their projects, and my heart is filled with joy. Why, a spiritual teacher with a magical Quranic voice can have fun, too!

We take them outside, beside the rubber trees for another surprise. Such a basic item available at so many other children’s disposal while these children may have never seen or touched one before: Balloons. Such whimsical delight in their discovering eyes and joyous giggles as they watch the array of colors float up above, serenely bouncing them back and forth to each other. I step back from their blissful play for a moment, and it strikes me how these children, as opposed to the ones in Western societies, have a genuine appreciation and sense of gratitude for simple pleasures.

Their immense discipline captivates me on several other occasions. Despite their hungry stomachs, at meal times they are courteous enough to let the younger or hungrier children eat first. At prayer times, they are conservative with the water they work so hard to transport back and forth for ablution. They wake up at prompt hours to offer their morning prayers and supplications. How many of us have mastered this? They share less space and amenities with many of their brothers and sisters, yet are full of sincere gratitude.

The epitome of this realization hits me the first time I distribute toys for each of them to keep. As I hand them little keepsakes, they smile at me as they examine them, play with them for a few minutes, and then politely return them to me.  My heart is moved and then saddened as I realize our children have so many toys they become bored with, forget about, and do not know how to get rid of, while these children are so unaccustomed to having their own possessions that they think they are obligated to return them. I shake my head, gesturing that these toys are for them to keep. Their startle turns into quiet elation and they nod in thankfulness. Some do not know there is enough to go around, and when they see another child empty handed, they willingly hand their gift to a brother or sister; sacrificing their momentary joy out of compassion for another. It is incredibly heartwarming.

It is the same unwavering appreciation and respect these children express when Sister Dian, her father and the orphan home parents distribute new Eid clothes and shoes from the “Soul to Sole” campaign. The children do not waste a moment exchanging the old for the clean and crisp new.

They feel alive; a sense of normalcy to have that gleeful childhood delight in new possessions. It astounds me in that moment, the magnitude of impact in owning just one new pair of pants or slippers. To be able to enjoy dessert for Eid — even ice cream— is a luxury. Yes, donating money is an enormous blessing and incredible feat of generosity that makes such a grand difference in each child’s life. But seeing these children’s world, experiencing what brings happiness to their heart—what specifically may plant and nurture the seeds of achievement in their life—now that is invaluable. A gift I wish for so many to bestow upon themselves.

On one of the days, I remember the heat and elevation catching up to me as my body starts to reprimand me. I find a private spot that might also bring a light breeze. I must have dozed off because I wake up not knowing how I have become one with the prayer rug. I feel guilty for missing what is it an hour or two with the children. I am told that someone checked in on me, was concerned, and brought me a coconut to sip. I am incredibly touched. How far did someone walk in this heat to bring me one? As I am slowly hydrated, my senses come back to me, and I sit with Sister Dian and peacefully watch the children. To say that the girls are thoroughly enjoying their jump ropes or that the boys are elated with their Frisbee and ball games is a grave understatement.

My thoughts take me far, far away. These children have grown up in severe poverty; some with no mother or father, nothing to call their own. They would be blessed if they could secure the privileges of education and basic living needs; the comfort of beds, food, clean clothes, and a seat in a classroom. Yet these children are able to whole-heartedly submerge themselves into simple joys. They are grateful for each moment. Their peaceful faces are accepting and knowing that they will strive to achieve the same if not more than any other privileged person would. How many of us can say that about ourselves, that we experience such fulfilled gratitude each day?

We do not even think about the luxury of electricity — not to watch our widescreen or have our morning coffee ready on time — but to be able to light a lamp in order to see where the faucet is, and for that faucet to actually produce both clean and warm water; to have heat or cool air and comfort our bodies in order to function; to know that when our long stressful day ends, there is something cushioned rather than solid to rest our bodies on. To me, seeing their lit faces despite their struggles is as awe-inspiring as picturing a tree missing its roots — not knowing where or how it was planted yet miraculous growing to produce not only lush green leaves, but blossoming the sweetest most exotic, bright fruit one has ever laid eyes upon. And that makes the outcome that much more cherished.

Indeed, these are the precious qualities I saw in the children over and over. I may have gone there to teach, to offer my services to them, but these children and their environment were the most giving of all. It was not only evident in the extreme and utter generosity and selflessness of the mothers and fathers who built and developed the Noordeen home, taught and fed the children, and looked after them each day; it was also in the profound generosity of these children’s hearts and spirits. These are not children who expect anything. These are children who revel in every ounce of love and care you show them.

Perhaps this is why on the last day, when I held that same frightened boy from day one, I felt his heart beating softly under my palm — no longer viciously pounding; serene knowing someone had come to be with him because he mattered.  This made it more agonizing for me to see the once-distant girl in the corner now hold on tightly to my arm before the goodbyes, knowing we have to leave, and resolving to pull out the keepsake while assuring me that she will remember me by it.  As I felt each finger of mine separate from the grasp of the last child, I could not hold back the tears. The boy I connected with the most stood afar, with his arms crossed, taking in the scene. He had that look of unfathomable boldness and resilience that is locked in my mind. Why you might ask? This boy never stopped smiling. Not once had I looked at him and not seen his beautiful smile. That is how I will always remember these children.

As we pulled out of the driveway, the children chased the car to chant their last goodbyes. Tears may have been blinding our eyes, but as the road got narrower and their images got smaller, their presence in my heart grew. And I realized, this is not enough. There is so much more so many of us can do, not just for one child, but for so many of these children. All I wanted to do is count the days until I can do this again, with my son as I had promised.

These children are blessed and surrounded by signs of God’s mercy, and to be in their presence was an immense blessing and honor that I am forever grateful for. I pray God endlessly rewards all those who make the work and opportunities of GiveLight possible.

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Giving Back through GiveLight

By Dr. Alya Khan

Welcoming Noura

On March 12, 2014, our family was blessed with the latest addition — our daughter Noura. Suited to the meaning of her name, which means “light” in Arabic, Noura has certainly illuminated our lives. She has made her parents and older brother relish her smiles and giggles. So fortunate are we to be able to provide a secure and happy home for our children. Since the birth of our first child, we have had a soft spot for children without their own families and without the basic necessities of life such as clean water and sufficient food.

Being of Pakistani descent, we have seen firsthand how innumerable displaced children in our homeland resort to begging, malnutrition and abuse. They line the streets of Pakistan, and many other developing countries, while ordinary citizens pass by without even a glance their way. As a child, I used to feel empathy toward these children and did not understand what they had done to deserve this. As I got older, and hopefully wiser, I realized the children serve as a test. For those of us who are fortunate to live a life without fear of hunger or worry of shelter, and to have children of our own who we can keep secure and healthy, these orphaned children remind us of what we have. Sometimes I reflect on how easily I could have been one of these orphaned children. Then I look at my own children — these gifts God has given me — and I am so grateful that, at least for now, we are able to provide a safe home for them.

When Noura was born these feelings rushed back in me, and when it was time for her ‘aqiqah, we decided we needed to give more. The “’aqiqah” — an Islamic practice in which an animal is slaughtered and distributed to the poor — is performed upon a child’s birth. It gives the parents a chance to seek nearness to God and thank Him for the blessing of a newborn child. Some people mark the event with a celebration. For the occasion of Noura’s ‘aqiqah, we asked our guests to bring a donation rather than a gift. A friend of mine had done something similar for her son’s aqiqah, which inspired us to do the same — and we chose to donate to The GiveLight Foundation.

I learned about GiveLight at a Moroccan tea event held in Irvine, California, last year. While there, I also learned about the story and mission behind Dian Alyan (The GL Foundation Founder and President) and the foundation. When we saw the chance to do something, it just clicked to have our guests donate to GiveLight. It was a cause my husband and I felt strongly about, and it only felt right as our daughter was coincidentally named “light.” Even though Dian was not able to attend the event personally, I felt the sincerity and motivation to help orphans in developing countries among our guests. We received great feedback from them, and some even felt motivated to do the same for their future events and parties.

Through our daughter’s aqiqah, we raised enough money to feed one orphan for two years (Praise be to God). We pray that others will be inspired by our story to do the same. We also pray that the children who benefit from GiveLight receive the same joy that our children have, and that they continue to stay healthy and educated, and eventually find families to love them like their own (God Willing).

To find out more information on The GiveLight Foundation, please visit their website at www.GiveLight.org.

You can also read Dian Alyan’s interview about GiveLight on Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/obrien-browne/the-new-global-leader-par_8_b_5964536.html.

Giving Back

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The Sweetest Cause

GL Global Bistro 2014

by Nasha Khan

The Global Bistro 2014 kicked off this year with high expectations — and with good reason too. Last year — its pilot year — was a delectable feat, inviting foodies from all through Northern California to participate in GiveLight Foundation’s exciting new venture. Once more at Silicon Valley Academy School in Sunnyvale, California, the bistro was held on April 19th against the backdrop of a sunny Saturday afternoon in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Similar to last year, the event’s theme focused on intercontinental foods, highlighting specific palatable staples unique to each country. 44 of the 300 attendees contributed to the colorful and mouthwatering assortment of desserts and savories. An international milieu featuring the cultural facets of each country greeted visitors and patrons as they explored the impressive spread.

Long, rectangular tables dressed in layers of vibrant cloth rested under decorative awnings that shielded host and guest from a generous sun. Mini Moroccan lamps hung off the awnings in sporadic gaps, lending an ethnic touch to the welcome ambiance. Propped against each table stood large displays with images and information on GL homes and their orphaned inhabitants — each display representing its hosting table’s country. Many of the tables showcased decorative traditional items, tableware and handmade flags from their corresponding countries, along with the select treats.

A variety of sweets, samplers, au devoirs, and soups sat in ceramic platters, brightly colored cake-stands, foil trays, and woven bowls — all appropriately priced and labeled (and generously listing the ingredients used for the fares). Some even noted specific allergens in the food (like wheat), keeping in mind people’s dietary restrictions. From sambosas and haleem to tarts and cupcakes, from cake-pops and cookies to soups and bun kabobs, and all the decadent goodies in between, this was truly a “virtual tour of the [global] palate — no passport needed,” co-organizer Ayesha Zia quipped. Among her favorites was the novel baklava cheesecake, while Mahira Razzak, who also helped organize the event, opted for the quintessential American dessert — the chocolate mousse. Another young volunteer, Ayra Babar (a longtime GL volunteer’s daughter), elected the hazelnut chocolate cupcakes from Germany. That each patron voted a different dish as a popular favorite, often struggling through a litany of choices, was telling enough.

Spring-boarding off last year’s success, the Global Bistro Team — with co-organizers/cohosts Zia and Razzak at the helm — made a few notable changes this time. The 2014 GL Bistro event saw many more volunteers (including children), sponsors and participants. Ten-year-old Babar proudly shares that her “Rocky Road” chocolate treat from Norway flew off the stands fairly quickly.  Impressed by the dedication and “bright smiles” of the youngest participants, Razzak recalls a pint-sized volunteer walking around selling the colorful bracelets she had made herself. A string of donors like Nothing Bundt, Paris Baguette, Via Mia Pizza, Taj Mahal Imports, and Bushel Whole Blended Juices also joined GL’s bistro team — as did the Girl Scouts who provided carnival games for the children. Kids’ entertainment this year included sadaqah (voluntary charity) decorating jars along with facepainting (always a hit!), as well. Henna artists added a festive touch for girls and women of all ages, particularly during this untraditional celebratory occasion. Perhaps, what set apart this year’s event most visibly was the juice/smoothie stop — courtesy Bushel Whole Blended Juices, the tea stand — with a row of dainty teacups filled with samplings of tealeaves, and the stunning floral arrangements that guests could take home.

The 2014 Global Bistro raised a total of approximately $4,078 — all of which is aimed toward the 800 and counting GL orphanages across the map. Heartening as it is, this year’s success went beyond fundraising and the “sweet smell of baked goods and flowers,” as Zia revealed. It created more awareness of orphans and GL’s work for them. It engaged the very young to do their part in helping others, specifically other children who have lost their parents under tragic circumstances. And most pointedly, it demonstrated the GL Family’s strong bond and spirit of community that brought together people from all corners of the American global village, to work toward a common good and taste the sweetness of a worthy cause.

GL Global Bistro Team

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GiveLight HighTea: Fete du Jardin

By Nahlah Kolkailah

GiveLight High Tea Event 2014

Beautiful women in elegant sundresses and graceful ethnic attire arrived to the lush garden of a beautiful Los Altos home on May 30th, 2014 for the GiveLight Foundation’s Annual Women Gala: Fete du Jardin. The beautifully sophisticated modern home and chic garden party theme was an immediate reminder of how blessed many of us are to enjoy worldly comforts. Hors d’oeuvres, a colorful American-style brunch, and varieties of delectable desserts laced the tables, inviting over 70 guests to feel at home.

Opening activities allowed the attendees to discover that they were among female pilots, physicians, chefs, marketing specialists and many more uniquely experienced and talented individuals.  However, what united these independent women wasn’t a love of parties, culture, or even professional endeavors; it was compassion and the love of giving.  Though the event program, they were allowed to share reflections; two women shared on their recent experiences at the Indonesia orphanage home, while others revealed what impassioned them to become involved with the foundation.

GiveLight High Tea Event 2014

The uniting sentiments that bloomed were a deep compassion for children stricken by misfortune and the inherent need that ensues to give of oneself. It is nearly impossible to feel, yet not be moved to action when one is aware of how little these children may have, yet what incredible hearts they possess—little innocent hearts with so much to offer and a deep want to connect. It is truly humbling to know, how much it means to the children, just to feel that their presence matters; that every selfless act of love and attention is pivotally impacting in their simple lives. How starkly clear it is that every contribution, no matter the form, crucially fills their reservoir of spirit, profoundly building their resilience. Perhaps this is why volunteers have expressed that it is their lives that become enriched by these children; not only for the incredible bonds they create, but by the infusion of greater sense of purpose and perspective they obtain.

Through this foundational emotion behind the cause, these powerful women of GiveLight were strongly drawn together by a passion, enthusiasm and dedication to make a difference in orphaned children’s lives.  The most empowering aspect of the event was the opportunity to creatively collaborate with other volunteers on networking, fundraising, and marketing ideas and strategies to facilitate outreach and corporate involvement. Not only was one left with a great sense of pride for the ability to contribute to such an inspiring organization, but also a great sense of responsibility to apply skill and motivated initiative to the betterment and aid of the GiveLight orphanages around the world.

GiveLight High Tea Event 2014

The guests are very grateful to the host who graciously opened her home to GiveLight, and to all volunteers who organized the food, décor and program planning. Such a successful event would not be possible without all the wonderful contributors, Alhamdulillah.

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Why GiveLight?

By Nahlah Kolkailah

A mother can never describe in words how her heart feels every time she touches or sees her child.

The innocent bright eyes filled with simple joys and elated curiosity.

The morning giggles that put a secret smile in place of your thoughts of worry and troubles.

Every time they tell you “You are the warmest, the softest to me, Mama.”

Their triumphant look, when they’ve finally pedaled that bike, pumped that swing, tied that shoe, “I swam across the pool Mama, my bat hit the ball the most today Mama.”

Questions, so many questions…

“Thank you for teaching me what I know Mama…my favorite times are those with you Mama…sing me Quran to sleep Mama…”

That heart breaking feeling mixed with pride every time they hurt but then come to you, no matter how much older they grow.

Knowing that Allah has bestowed upon you such a powerful version of an emotion you could never take credit for or grant yourself.

Those endless moments of pride and astonishment; “this is my own”—the countless days of feeling blessed and even undeserving of such a tremendous gift.

Your child is witty, observant, absorbs all…Day by day, year-by-year—no longer a baby—and he becomes your companion and maybe even an anchor that makes you a better mother, a better person.

How many times has he said to me, “you are beautiful and strong, your heart gives me everything….you are much better than your hardships Mama, you are the best mama I could wish for, my sweet Mama.”

And how have I felt when I was in turn told, “he is strong, he is happy, he is loved…”

This eases me yet makes me aware of the weight, the weight that love, that presence, nurturing and attention have for a child.

What of the little girl who is destined for greatness, but her brilliance and passions are stifled; stifled why–because of circumstance? Because she will never get to see a strong Mama, a Mama to teach her to navigate her intellect, to embrace the obstacles, to strive for an identity of resilience and influence?

What of the little boy who never gets to touch his Mama’s face, who never gets to feel that hug, that all-encompassing hug that washes the worries of the world and melts your heart in comfort and safety?

Maybe I am not your Mama, but if I can feel all this love, may I give you some of it? Maybe we don’t share one blood, but a mother’s heart, a woman’s heart can beat to a child’s.

Dare I pray to show you or teach you something that you may remember one day…one day when you’ve become a young man or a young woman? Will you remember the days of your childhood when you realized you are not alone, that someone cared, that with Allah’s mercy, you deserved it all and more.

Maybe you will never sit at a table for dinner with a Mama and Baba, never run to Mama at your wedding, or run to Baba at your graduation.

But if one ounce of compassion can unleash your fervor, awaken your faith—that you can and will become what you were destined to be; not only despite of the struggles, but even because of them—then that will be my honor.

It will be my honor to know that you triumphed, that you have a life to call your own—in your own voice; beyond the hardship, enhanced by adversity….all the while knowing that with that key, with the implanted seed of love in your heart, you can create and live your own vision; that you now have the power, the choice, to become that incredible mother, that incredible father that you never got to meet.

With the grace and mercy of Allah, that will be my honor.

 

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