Faris’s visit to Somaliland, Saudi Arabia & Bangladesh
I am very lucky as I have had many opportunities recently to travel abroad, acquire knowledge and grow as a person. Visiting Somaliland, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh have been both very intense and rewarding experiences. I have encountered horrific disasters, met amazing people and tried to assist aid workers thrown in the midst of the Somaliland’s hunger crisis and the Rohingya refugee disaster. This aid work was tremendously powerful, motivating and rewarding.
My Visit to the Somaliland Crisis in May 2017.
For three years now, the people of Somaliland, like much of East Africa, have experienced extreme drought. This became progressively more severe and earlier this year thousands were on the brink of starvation. It is one thing to read something so horrific on the news and something completely different to witness it yourself. Hospitals were overflowing with sickness and misery. Patients were lying on mattresses on the floor in storerooms and conference rooms.
The government of Somaliland had declared a national emergency. I initially decided to travel to Somaliland to help a charity, which was building and installing water pumps. I was also keen to help with the distribution of aid on the ground. It was an honour to work with the 'Islamic Relief' charity. They donate all the funds they raise to charity. Their work ranges from alleviating people struck by natural crisis to funding children so that they can remain in education, their key aim being to ensure that all children receive education at least until primary school level. They also teach adults to read and write.
Working with the ‘Islamic Relief’ I helped with the distribution of food packages and liaised with many volunteers. We all needed to coordinate to organise provisions, deposit these on the ground in neat rows; endless bags spreading beyond the eye could see containing grains of rice, lentils and oil. We took a bagful of sweets from the UK to give to children in each distinct region we were going to visit. We were surprised to see how sceptical the children were when we offered these treats to them, as they had never seen anything like this before in their lives.
My Visit to Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage to Hajj August 2017
I performed my first hajj with my father this year. A hajj is the greater Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, which takes place in the last month of the year and which all Muslims are expected to make at least once during their lifetime if possible. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. This was a three-week spiritual journey of my Islamic faith. Hajj was a unique and indescribable experience. Though hugely challenging in the extreme hot temperatures that soared above fifty degrees it was truly something that touched my heart. The first sight of the Ka’ba (The holiest site in Islam) and the first touch was a breath-taking moment; the beauty of it is incredible, and it is a memory that stays with you forever. I particularly enjoyed meeting people of all different ages and races; it was wonderful seeing so many people united, all there for the same purpose.
My Visit to Bangladesh (Rohingya Crisis) in October 2017
More than 300,000 children have already fled unimaginable violence in Myanmar Burma. Many have lost parents and are crossing the border into Bangladesh scared, hungry and alone. These refugees, most of whom identify as Rohingya, are living in makeshift camps with little access to food, clean water or medical care. They are facing the threat of malnutrition and disease. We distributed aid on the ground in Bangladesh to provide emergency food, water, sanitation, and protection to refugee families. Many families are still desperately in need of assistance.
I was very much touched by all these experiences which helped me realise how fortunate I am because even though I came across many people living under poverty they knew what is important in life, which is to be content. I would like to continue visiting more places and witness different cultures and civilisations. It would be an honour to one day travel back to all these beautiful places to see to what extent our work has made a difference.