Latest Updates

Friday, October 30, 2009

From the Field: IR USA Staff in China

A team of Islamic Relief USA staff members are in China visiting Islamic Relief's field office. They are also visiting new and old projects in China to conduct assessments and audits. One of the team members reflects on the team's experience in Wang Bao Shan Village (Sichuan Province) below.

My team and I are on the road again in the same old fashion style: bright and early. I have not seen 7 a.m. so often since high school. Believe me, I have not missed it! We crossed four provinces yesterday, and the scenery is mixed- some polluted skies, some romantic sunsets, amazing mountain ranges rising right up out of open plains, foliage, cows, cars, the Yellow River, dry endless dunes and mountains, the starving, the weak and the Audi parked out front.

Today we traveled nine long hours to continue our journey for passion, truth and the fight against poverty. In the heart of China, Islamic Relief plans to demolish and reconstruct a school.

Atop a mountain, at heights so crushing they remind us of our own mortality, we find, tucked away, a school for about 70 students. The children greet us with a song and dance, and the parents (or grandparents) full of smiles and excitement, welcome us like a teary-eyed mother welcoming home her son who has been away for years.

The school is intact, but old and in need of replacement. Simply getting materials and labor to the schools location will be a feat. The large courtyard is surrounded on three sides by old buildings. There is a ping-pong table made of solid concrete.

The three teachers tell us stories and share exciting dreams of the building to come. It was rewarding to see the people we will be helping.

As we start the 45-minute drive down the mountain side, the host mentions one last stop. Natural gas burners have been installed to benefit the local mountainfolk. Now, residents no longer need to spend hours cutting wood. Some are too old to even perform the task.

We, an entourage of twenty people, practically ambush a 67-year-old tenant, in an attempt to gather some more field evidence. At first she is all smiles and warmth, a pillar of strength in a struggling world. She is adorable and immediately I think of my own grandmother. Moments pass, and laughter ensues. A few kind words and her smiles of gratitude turn to tears of joy.

Her emotional response is too much even for me to snap another photograph. I put the camera down, in a moment of shame, and hold back tears as she cries tears of gratitude, to a handful of messengers.

This is why we Islamic Relief exists. Those tears make everyday worth it. These beneficiaries confirmed the deliverance of the amana (trust) entrusted to us by the donors, they justify the overtime and weekends away from the family and they soften our hearts in a way we often refuse to allow.

She thanks us, and we thank her.

We have given her little, but in her eyes, we gave her the world. And she in return has given us more than she will ever know: those tears are the reminder of our responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves, they are the vehicle by which our hardened hearts are softened, they are the evidence of progress and they are the culmination of countless hours of the men and women, of all races and creeds, working side-by-side to fight for those who are forgotten.

Drip, drip…drip. Those tears are the fuel which inspire men to action.

To support Islamic Relief's work in China, click here to donate now.


Post a Comment