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Monday, February 28, 2011

Aid worker diary: Dispatches from Libya

Islamic Relief aid worker, Salah Aboulgasem, is currently in Libya, delivering aid in the eastern cities that have had supplies severely disrupted due to the unrest. He shared his experience crossing from Egypt into Libya in the below journal entry.

26 February 2011

Our journey into Libya began with a flight to Cairo last night to meet up with the medical team of doctors who have committed their time, talent and professionalism to the cause of serving humanity. Twenty-six doctors from Egypt, members of the Medical Union, have taken time out of their busy daily schedules, and have risked their lives to save others. They are role models to us all.

We are now in Tabrouk, three hours away from Benghazi, our destination. Our aim is to deliver over $150,000 worth of medical supplies to the main hospital there. These supplies will not only help those who have been caught up in the violence but will also enable the hospital to restock on many items they have not been able to gain access to since the beginning of the unrest. Additionally, the convoy contains food supplies, such as pasta, rice and sugar. The journey to deliver these goods will take over 24 hours in a small tightly-spaced vehicle. Not the most comfortable journey I’m sure any of us have taken, but nonetheless the only journey any of us want to be on right now.

The loading of these items was in itself a pure example of how complete strangers can cooperate and unite their aspirations. The trucks took only two hours to load, with a countless number of Egyptian volunteers offering to help for no reason other than to help a complete stranger on the other side of the border.

It makes me feel so privileged and fortunate to be part of Islamic Relief, an organization that does not just focus on the needs of one minority, or one nationality, but takes a broader look at the global community and sees all human beings as individuals aspiring to help as many as they can. They not only aim to be able to reach those in immediate need but also have future long-term plans for every project they begin.

Once we arrived into Libya it did not take long to witness how the youth had organized themselves. They have taken it upon themselves to set up shifts to help maintain order in the different communities. Looking at the Libyan people now around me, the slogan ‘dignity not charity’ comes back to mind. These are proud Libyans who simply want a better life for themselves and their families. They don’t want to have to accept the charity of others, but they understand that with supplies being cut off there is only so much they can do. This is where organizations like Islamic Relief play the perfect role.

A final note to mention is how much I have personally learned. It is only when all of your possessions are taken away from you that you realize and appreciate what you have. When you see the situations some are now forced to live in, it makes you thank God even more for every blessing you have ever been given; something we so often forget to do. Also the attitude of our hosts in Tabrouk makes me appreciate the proper Islamic manners being truly put into practice. As we arrived at 4 a.m. we found local volunteers expecting us and ready to assist. Having such a strong belief and appreciation for our shared cause they insisted that we slept in their home and would not be refused on their offer. Genuine feeling of brotherhood to a complete stranger who I had never before met and will most likely not come across again in this world.

Click here to read more about Islamic Relief's response in Libya.

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