Women Helping Women - Palestinian Refugee Camp
Today was an amazing day! About a week ago, I received a call from a woman who lives in a refugee camp in Palestine. The purpose of my original meeting with her last year was to interview her for an article, however, we stayed in touch, and in a way, became friends. Anyway, she called to ask for financial help since her husband was temporarily unemployed due to a work accident. In better days, he earns about $375 a month – not much to feed a family of 6. She earns a small amount of money once in a while by selling handmade embroidered products.
In a few short days, my husband and I managed to collect about $1650 from family and friends. This morning we went to the West Bank, and bought bags and bags of food for her………all the staples that a kitchen needs – lentils, dried beans, tea bags, oil, rice, sugar, tomato paste, tuna, sardines, spaghetti, etc. We even got dates so that she can make the special date cakes that are unique to Eid al-Fitr, the three day holiday following the month of Ramadan (the Muslim month of fasting).
We then went to meet her in the camp, and when I opened the trunk of the car, her eyes widened with surprise, and she said, “All this is for me?” We left the bags at a butcher shop for her children to carry home, and added 5 chickens to the list.
We walked a short distance thorough the alleys of the camp (a story in itself), and once in her house, we gave her some money to help out with other expenses. We asked her about a couple of other needy families, and I specifically asked about a lady who was there the first time I went to meet her. This lady is about 39 years old, and has 9 children. That day, she had been complaining to my friend that she did not know what to cook for her family because she did not have any money to buy food. She told me that her husband is unemployed, she has a son at university, and they are living in debt. I am going to see if I can do something to help out with her son’s university tuition. Her young son told her that he wishes that he is dead because he does not have money to buy clothes for the upcoming holiday (Eid al-Fitr). We gave her money, and we gave to two other families also.
Shyness and pride made it hard for them to accept money, but in the end they took. Even a boy – maybe 10 years old –had to be persuaded to take some money from us. It is difficult to take from strangers, but their desperation for bbasic necessities forces them to – they have to feed their families.
My friend’s 16 year old daughter had not yet bought clothes for the holiday so we gave her some money. After refusing the money several times, she finally took it, and said she wants to buy pants and a shirt with it. Her brother also needs shoes to complete his outfit.
This is the second time that I have collected money for my friend. When I left, she gave me a HUGE hug, holding me so tightly, while thanking me. Jokingly, I told her not to call me again!! I have put her in touch with the owner of a cooperative so that she can do some embroidery projects on a more regular basis. I hope it will work out for her.
We left the camp with such a good feeling. What’s life about if you don’t do good for others? My friend had not cooked for her family and she said she was going to make chicken. And I told the other lady to go make a nice meal for her family. We gave her the means to do that. My friend’s little boy walked us to the car, still talking about his shoes!
For me, this was an example of women helping women. I could easliy understand how my friend felt not having food in her fridge, and the huge responsibility she, as a mother, felt to feed her children. Having the ability to help her, how could I refuse? But it did not stop there. At her recommendation, we also helped other women feed their children. The shy but grateful look on their faces was all the thanks I needed.
Although the good feeling is still with me, it was temporarily put aside when I drove out of the camp, and went through an uncovered hole, and ended up with a flat tire!! Following that, as usual I had to wait in line at the checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank for about half an hour. I wanted to shout at the Israeli soldiers, “It’s Ramadan and people are hungry…………..give us a break!!!!!!!!”
In spite of that, it was a very nice day. I would like to do something to help these women so that they can help themselves. I am trying to come up with some way to provide them with work or useable skills. If anyone has any thoughts about that, I would be happy to hear them!