Families Living in Tough Circumstances | Zeina, Palestine

This blog you’re about to read is based on a personal experience I encountered about two weeks ago while visiting a family with one of the local NGOs that I work with. Together, our organization helps to fix peoples’ homes in order to make them habitable once again.

This Ramadan we heard about a family living in Palestinian village of Bil’in, not far from Ramallah. We were told that their house lacks the necessary standards for a proper living, and that every month they receive a small amount of money that is barely enough to cover the electricity payments and the father’s psychotherapy treatments.

The heat of the day had already set in by the time we arrived at their home. Standing before us was two story house- all doors open, a wreck in the front yard, old cars and torn down furniture strewn across the front yard.

We walked in and said hello to the mother, a woman in her 60s who hardly moves, though she’s the healthiest. Seen from the other room was the father, staring at us with wide eyes. I had been told that he suffered from a psychological illness, and wasn’t sure if he understood why exactly we had come to their home. One of their two daughters was also in the room. Robed in a long black dress with a head-scarf sheathing part of the hair, her face was small and dark. She kept staring and smiling at me. She too was mentally ill and kept screaming loudly every few minutes. The other daughter came in after a while. She had a heavy tongue.

I couldn’t stay in the same room. It was my first time visiting a home that miserable, and in order to bring in the necessary donations, I was also required to document footage of their home and how desperate and dire their situation really was. I held my camera and went out of the room. I checked the house, filmed a few parts of it to show what needed to be fixed. The bathroom and kitchen, in particular, were terrible. What had once been two separate rooms merged into one as the door, like most in their home, was broken.  I couldn’t tell the living room from the bedroom.

While filming, my heart dropped as a wild scream came up from behind me. Jumping from the other room was their mentally ill daughter, just 35 years young. I turned to face the young woman, her smiling face staring at me once again. It all felt so terrible as a pang of scared emotion griped my body. I couldn’t handle her knowing how I felt, so I went back to the room to stand with the group I had came in with. This woman needed help, she was no danger.

Everything I saw that day gave me the chills as thoughts swirled over and over again in my mind. How could anyone live this way? When will it be time to leave? I felt so cruel- this family had lived in this home for years, yet I couldn’t stand being there for one more minute.

In the end, donations came pouring in and with the help of volunteers, we began the process of fixing this family’s home. Please, stay tuned for the next chapter of this family’s story- I will share a video update when the house is fully fixed.

So, what have I learned from this all? Well, firstly, good people that want to lend a helping hand are always there. And secondly, a strange and unfamiliar situation is no reason for me or anyone to be afraid. It is a reason to be strong, it is a reason for me to stand up for the unknown.

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