IFRC

Kuwaiti volunteers help vulnerable at home and next door

Published: 13 June 2003 0:00 CET

Till Mayer in Kuwait

A little patience, a smile and a couple of nice words and Dr Fatema Hanem Nash’at will take you on a long journey through time – from the Paris of the 1930s, when a little Egyptian girl looked admiringly up at the Eiffel Tower; then on to Alexandria, where a young woman full of energy went to university; and finally to present-day Kuwait.

Now 86, Dr Nash’at was one of the first doctors in the young and independent state, that literally grew out of the desert sands. Her story begins long before the magnificent waterfront Kuwait Towers appeared on the city-state’s skyline.

As Dr Nash’at talks about her exiting life, 25-year-old Nouara Chekhar listens carefully. The young Arabic student from France is one of more than 600 volunteers of the Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS).

“To help means to have fun for me,” the young woman says. And of course she is happy to speak French with the old lady who lived in Paris as a small girl.

Red Crescent volunteers regularly visit the clean, modern home for elderly people on the edge of Kuwait City. For these young helpers, Red Crescent activities represent an important part of their private lives.

“Once a week we meet each other for activities, have fun and to help other people”, explains Sara Al-Kandari. The 24-year-old volunteer chats with Najma Abdulwahid, who is paralyzed after a serious accident. In spite of this the 52-year-old mother of three has never lost her humour. Her stories of love hold the volunteers spellbound.

“You can learn a lot for your own life when you help other people. I wouldn’t miss my visits to the different homes,” Sara says. “The state of Kuwait takes good care of its vulnerable people. But being close to someone is priceless and it must come straight from the heart.”

Omar Alserhan, distributing T-shirts in a home for the disabled, shares this view.

Everybody starts to dance and clap their hands as soon as Red Crescent members begin to sing their song. “I learnt from my disabled friends what it means to be thankful. I learnt that even small things in life count and can make you happy. All this used to seem so unimportant to me, but now I’ve changed,” Omar explains.

He takes the hand of a boy sitting in a wheel-chair, while another helper is hugged by another resident.

It is a very peaceful scene. But the conflict in neighbouring Iraq has led volunteers of the Kuwaiti Red Crescent to more dangerous places than social institutions.

The KRCS has sent 15 aid convoys into its troubled neighbour. The first ones were dangerous for the aid-workers themselves - a now-famous video of the first convoy shows desperate Iraqis storming the trucks to get at the goods.

“Now things have settled down. Nevertheless every drive is still an adventure”, explains Anwar Attiya. The 29-year-old wears his white KRCS-overall with the Red Crescent emblem on it proudly.

As a teenager, he witnessed what war was about, as his country was occupied for nearly half a year by Iraqi troops. “It was a terrible time,” he explains. “But the people in Iraq are not responsible for the mistakes of their leaders. Now I am helping vulnerable people with all my heart.”

Related links:

Profile of Kuwait Red Crescent
Iraq humanitarian crisis





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