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Women As Problem Solvers In The Refugee Crisis

We are extremely fortunate to platform a three part series focusing on ‘Women in the Refugee Crisis’ by Tazeen Ahmad the founder of  Humanity’s Heart , an organisation that was born following a volunteering trip by a small group of people to Calais (The Jungle) in June 2016. Travelling through Calais, Lebanon and Greece, Humanity’s Heart witnesses and shares the experiences of refugees, volunteers, spiritual leaders, politicians and local citizens in what is the biggest challenge the world has faced for over 60 yearsThe third and final part in the series reflects on how women create change and become problem solvers, through a series of short films.

Extraordinary women doing extraordinary things

Meet some of the extraordinary women helping solve the problems in the refugee crisis: 

In Lebanon (one of the country’s that has hosted the largest number of Syrian refugees), the refugee situation has brought women together in the capacity of problem solvers to the crisis

Hala Fadel Chair of the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab and pioneer of the Innovate for Refugee competition has led teams over the last 3 years to help come up with solutions to the two million and growing numbers of Syrian refugees entering into Lebanon. 

Hala Fadel 

Farah Shams (Corporate Engagement Manager at MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab) shares:

“In my opinion women are at the forefront of impactful initiatives targeting the displaced community not only in Lebanon. Over 3 editions of “Innovate for Refugees” we’ve seen a constant 50% female participation, and 9 out of 12 social ventures that aim to alleviate the challenges faced by refugees that received funding from the program are female led.” 

Today, MITEF team has 11 females out of a team of 14. On the technology solution side as well, the female participation in IFR in general is at 50% and 9 of our 12 winners are female-led.  

The Innovate for Refugee competition demonstrates beautifully how women are taking charge of the solutions to their own problems, bringing forward a rush of creativity and entrepreneurialism. 

Click the link to find out how a toilet can improve the lives of Refugees: https://humanitysheart.com/journal/2016/9/23/how-a-toilet-can-improve-the-lives-of-refugees

Another woman leading on the ground in the crisis is award-winning Jordanian-Canadian architect Abeer Seikaly. Facing the difficulty of finding basic shelter and a home to live in, she was inspired to come up with a solution to help transform the lives of refugees.

Named ‘Weaving a Home’, this design uses a unique structural fabric composed of high-strength plastic tubing molded into sine-wave curves that can expand and enclose during different weather conditions, and also be broken down to allow an ease in mobility and transport.

Aside from that, the tent can also collect rainwater and provide basic sanitation like showering, as the rainwater is collected from the top of the tent and and filters down the sides to storage pockets.

Leading On The Ground 

And it’s the volunteers I met such as Lisa Cambell for Do-your Part whose organisation, co-ordination and service benefit thousands of people who found themselves in refugee camps in Greece. 

Through treating each person with dignity, respect and humanity she leads by example, showing us how it should be done. 

Her recent TedX Talk invites us to rethink our approach to this social issue proving that we care. 

And it’s women like Lisa and other volunteers who are helping us rethink the meaning behind the word “refugee”.

Where some Muslim countries have not taken in many refugees, it’s Saudi Arabian volunteer women like Madina Olomi who are making a difference. Her translation skills helping refugees and ease some of their frustrations in communicating with their host communities. 

These women weave the red thread of humanity drawing on their own past experiences and reminding us with “What if this was us? How would we like to be treated?”

For some of these women, they need to have courage as they risk being ostracised for turning up to help refugees.

Through turning up despite the worries and media perceptions, they are shining light on breaking down misconceptions when “meeting the other”.

Getting Education To The Future Generation

In Lebanon, women such as Suha Tutunji Acadamic Program Director for Jusoor Syria   realise the importance for Syrian children to keep up their education so that they are not a Lost Generation and especially for the refugee girls to receive their education. 

The difference, women like Suha and Asma Rasamny  from Malaak-Fills-the-Gaps with her colleague Joyce Rizk are making cannot be underestimated. 

Our film “Lost Generation” and Education film captures the importance of their work.

Last year Syrian refugee and cancer patient Hossamadeen died and shared with us his gratitude to women like Asma and Joyce. 

May the dedication, compassion and love of the women turning up to help and their meeting of those women who have had to leave their homes due to wars and terror and yet demonstrate courage, nobility and resilience bring more Light into this world. 

By Tazeen Ahmad

Tazeen is founder and producer of Humanity’s Heart. She is a daughter of a migrant, a British Citizen, a mother of two and a believer in the power of humanity. In June 2016, she traveled to Calais. The trip confirmed for her that we have far more in common than which divides us.

It also raised in her a deep curiosity about ‘what motivates others to turn up and serve?’. And ‘what spiritual lessons to humanity are emerging in the largest crisis since WWII?’ It was at that moment, she realised her background in broadcast journalism and finance, fundraising and philanthropy could be put to use. So humanity’s heart was born. She will be running a “How to make a documentary film workshop in June here is the link for the documentary workshop https://www.tazeendhunna.com/media-consultancy/howtomakeadocumentary

Videos and images are the copyright of Humanity’s Heart  follow them on Twitter

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.


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What Transformation Do We See When Hearts Meet In Crisis?

We are extremeley fortunate to platform a three part series focussing on ‘Women in the Refugee Crisis’ by Tazeen Ahmad the founder of  Humanity’s Heart , an organisation that was born following a volunteering trip by a small group of people to Calais (The Jungle) in June 2016. Travelling through Calais, Lebanon and Greece, Humanity’s Heart witnesses and shares the experiences of refugees, volunteers, spiritual leaders, politicians and local citizens in what is the biggest challenge the world has faced for over 60 yearsThe first part in the series reflected on why women turn up to volunteer through a series of short films. The second part in the series, below focusses on the transformation refugees and volunteers alike, undergo after meeting during the crisis, and highlights the importance of Refugee week.

Resilience Met With Support

Image courtesy of Tazeen Ahmad, Humanity’s Heart

Meet Syrian born Rahaf Sallouta. She arrived in the UK when she was 27 with her husband and 2 kids. Rahaf  has enormous gratitude to women such as Maria Wilby and Iman Mortagy  from Refugee Action Colchester for their service and support. 

Video copyright of Humanity’s Heart

Through her we learn the counter narrative to mainstream rhetoric on immigration. Rahaf, shares the importance of the events held by Refugee Action Colchester and the opportunities they present to help dispel the perceptions towards Syrian refugees/migrants. She reminds us all how refugees want to contribute towards society not hinder it.  Rahaf’s example of resilience is phenomenal as she climbed a mountain of cultural shock and language differences on top of the upheavel of having to leave a home and country destroyed by war. 

Video copyright of Humanity’s Heart

In fact, Rahaf’s experience and hardship has fuelled her desire to want to help other Syrians and refugees who have gone through similar experiences. 

Video copyright of Humanity’s Heart

Today her husband and her run a café in Colchester providing falafels and other Syrian delights to the local community. (see the image above)

What is also beautiful to witness is the counter narrative of deep friendship and love that develops between citizens of host nations and the refugees coming to seek refuge. 

Video copyright of Humanity’s Heart
Image courtesy of Tazeen Ahmad, Humanity’s Heart

Aleppo stands destroyed (the photo in the background above the couple’s heads), however I couldn’t help but wonder could this crisis be what 13th – century Persian poet Rumi means when he says, “the wound is where the light enters?”

By Tazeen Ahmad

Tazeen is founder and producer of Humanity’s Heart. She is a daughter of a migrant, a British Citizen, a mother of two and a believer in the power of humanity. In June 2016, she traveled to Calais. The trip confirmed for her that we have far more in common than which divides us.

It also raised in her a deep curiosity about ‘what motivates others to turn up and serve?’. And ‘what spiritual lessons to humanity are emerging in the largest crisis since WWII?’ It was at that moment, she realised her background in broadcast journalism and finance, fundraising and philanthropy could be put to use. So humanity’s heart was born. She will be running a “How to make a documentary film workshop in June here is the link for the documentary workshop https://www.tazeendhunna.com/media-consultancy/howtomakeadocumentary

Videos and images are the copyright of Humanity’s Heart  follow them on Twitter

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.


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Women in the Refugee Crisis series – Why do women turn up to volunteer?

We are extremeley fortunate to platform a three part series focussing on ‘Women in the Refugee Crisis’ by Tazeen Ahmad the founder of Humanity’s Heart , an organisation that was born following a volunteering trip by a small group of people to Calais (The Jungle) in June 2016. Travelling through Calais, Lebanon and Greece, Humanity’s Heart witnesses and shares the experiences of refugees, volunteers, spiritual leaders, politicians and local citizens in what is the biggest challenge the world has faced for over 60 years. The first part in the series reflects on why women turn up to volunteer through a series of short films.

When reflecting on the work of witnessing, sharing and inspiring on the red thread of humanity in the refugee crisis, what came to heart many times during our work, is the role of women. Both refugee women and volunteer women meeting in the relational spaces in the refugee crisis. 

Meeting these women, made me reflect on Mary, the Mother of Jesus and her willingness to surrender to the will of God. It was through her implicit trust in our Source which brought forward the birth of Jesus. They say, “Let the Mary of your body give birth to the Jesus of your soul.” Could this crisis be birthing love and compassion on an epic scale?

Undeniably there have been many male volunteers and their contribution cannot be underestimated 

Although returning from filming, it fascinated me further to learn that in Arabic the names of God “Rahman” (The compassionate) and “Rahim” (The merciful),  the root letters of both R-H-M mean “womb.” It  stirred a deeper  reflection into how the outpouring of the heart towards humanity, hasn’t necessarily been met at an intergovernmental level yet there has been an outpouring of compassion, generosity and love from the hearts of  ordinary people, predominantly women. 

One local volunteer Jeannie Tweed for Elmbridge CAN for example shared: 

“It has been a privilege for me to get to know so many strong women from such different backgrounds to mine. Adjusting to life here is not easy, but their resilience and joyfulness can be humbling. We share limited language but we have connected over food, over children, over my terrible attempts at learning Arabic and my poor dancing, and most of all over humour. About 75% of the volunteers in our team of English teachers, volunteer drivers and general helpers are women. They give their time, their compassion, their understanding and often their professional expertise for no charge because they believe in what we are doing and because they want to make a difference. I have just had a discussion about a job opportunity for one of the refugees with a fellow local Mum while on the school run – women’s networks are amazing.”

So why do women turn up to volunteer?

From Calais, to Greece and into Lebanon, the motivation for volunteer women choosing to turn up varied. For some it was almost as if they were taking a protest vote against the current climate of increased polarization, fear and extremism. 

For others it was the red thread of humanity that simply called their hearts to turn up and serve. 

This flow of compassion sitting in contrast to what official government policies on the crisis have been. 

It’s been exactly this outpouring of humanity from women founded organisations such as Help Refugees, Refuaid, Refugee Action Colchester here in the UK, which witnessed assistance arriving to those displaced by wars. Their contribution is starting to be recognised. Recently Anna Christina Jones  co-founder of Refuaid was listed as one of the forbes 30under30s in their 2019 30under30 in Europe category while  Maria Wily of Refugee Action Colchester  in 2017 won volunteer of the Year for Essex from all her hard and determination assisting Syrian refugees. 

Maria and Iman Mortagy , through their work at Refugee Action Colchester have transformed the lives of many Syrians finding themselves in the coastal town in Essex. Maria Wilby shares how her own experience on entering the country aged 2 was a huge catalyst towards setting up Refugee Action Colchester. She was able to fully empathise with what it’s like to be an outsider.

Together Iman and Maria with Syrian refugees pioneered the Syrian Café at First Site in Colchester, a space bringing together Syrians and the local community through a shared love of food. 

Yet for Iman Mortagy, the reason to turn up and help refugees was more an expression of spiritual activism. 


By Tazeen Ahmad

Taken is founder and producer of Humanity’s Heart. She is a daughter of a migrant, a British Citizen, a mother of two and a believer in the power of humanity. In June 2016, she traveled to Calais. The trip confirmed for her that we have far more in common than which divides us.

It also raised in her a deep curiosity about ‘what motivates others to turn up and serve?’. And ‘what spiritual lessons to humanity are emerging in the largest crisis since WWII?’ It was at that moment, she realised her background in broadcast journalism and finance, fundraising and philanthropy could be put to use. So humanity’s heart was born. She will be running a “How to make a documentary film workshop in June here is the link for the documentary workshop https://www.tazeendhunna.com/media-consultancy/howtomakeadocumentary

Videos and images are the copyright of Humanity’s Heart  follow them on Twitter