What is your name?
Where did you grow up?
Tell us a little bit about yourself. (Interests, hobbies, favorite food..)
I like swimming, walking, shopping, old movies (old Arabic films), and traveling when I have the chance.
Who/what inspires you?
My mom, yeah my mom is my hero. I got strong from her. She taught me how to be strong and dependable you know, and this has really helped me here, especially after the hard time that I went through.
What is something that makes you happy?
Seeing that my kids are happy and successful in life. That is the only thing that can make me happy in the whole world. Nothing else. It’s just my kids, you know, when I see my kids grow and have success in school, or do something good, this makes me so happy.
What brought you to the situation you’re currently in?
One day I found out that I am diagnosed with cancer, and this has ruined all my life. I used to have my own place and a job. I used to work at the airport and live with my daughter. My other two boys, they live on their own. So I used to be in very good shape actually. I had my car, and my place, and my job. I worked more than full time. I was just living by myself and I was fine until I got diagnosed with cancer. I wasn’t able to work, I wasn’t able to pay my rent, you know. So, one time I found myself without a place to go. I got evicted from my place. First, I went through a big surgery, because when I got diagnosed with cancer, I was at the end of stage two, which I didn’t know anything about. It’s something that had been growing in my stomach for almost 10 years, I didn’t even know. So, I got to the end of stage two and had a big surgery and I stayed in the hospital, and after that, I got diagnosed with another early cancer, so I had to go through another two surgeries. This made me unable to work or anything, so I just had no place to go and then some days I slept in my car. I had nothing, no money, no place, no work, no job, I was just dealing with doctors all the time. So, one time I went to a shelter, but I left the same day. People treated me like, very bad, but you know, I used to be dependable and had my own place, but then it hurts your feelings when someone treats you this way.
What difficulties have you experienced in trying to get out of your situation?
My sickness is the only thing making it difficult in my life because when I was okay, I used to do everything by myself. I am a single mom and I paid for everything, but I used to work a lot. I used to work 16 hours a day, 14 hours a day, every day. Sickness is something that no one plans on, you know, I didn’t plan on getting sick, it came from God, so this is the only difficult thing.
How did you come to know about ZACAH?
One time, one of my friends mentioned the name of ZACAH to me, and I called them. At that time I was living in a hotel, a church had paid for me and my daughter to stay two weeks in the hotel because we had been living in the car for a few days. So, by this time when I called ZACAH I was in a hotel, and then they responded right away. They wanted me to explain my situation, so they set up a screening on the phone, and then they called me the next day and they offered me the place here.
What’s your experience with ZACAH?
I can’t tell you, the way that they treated me, you know, next month, I will have been here for a year. And this had never happened to anyone before. Usually, they give you three months or sometimes six months at the maximum until you can depend on yourself, and stand on your feet, and go back to your job. But, because they knew I was doing some treatments for my sickness, they have been so patient with me, more than even my family. You know, like every time I see them [ZACAH] I tell them that as soon as I finish the last surgery and complete my treatment I will go back to work. Because I feel like I stay here too much. I want to go back to my normal life and stand on my feet. And they say ‘okay, just take care of yourself first. Don’t worry about the place.’
You know, these people, I call them angels. They helped me to buy a car and stay here. That’s the main thing, I don’t have to pay rent. They don’t know how much of a relief this is, especially when you have no job and no income. They are not bossy. Some places, they have a sheet on the door to write down if you cleaned today, if anyone visited you, what time did you leave, what time did you come in. Then they come every week and ask ‘okay what is your plan, what are you going to do?’ Then they rush you, ‘okay we are going to give you only three months.’ But these people, [ZACAH] they said ‘don’t worry about it’ they just say ‘please, take care of yourself first.’ They even ask me, ‘okay, how do you survive and get food?’. I told them that sometimes I have a friend bring me some food, and they say ‘Why don’t you call us? We can give you some money.’ They give me a check for whatever they can buy me so that I can buy my own food because I have a special diet. They want to make sure that I have everything I need here.
I’ve never seen people like this in my life. In my whole life. Especially since I had a hard time with my ex-husband, he brought me here to America, so I have had bad experiences with other people. Usually I stay away from people as much as I can because I work all the time, but I had so many bad experiences with people. But these people [ZACAH] have changed my life. This is the only thing that I want to say, they changed my life. I could be on the street I could be, I don’t know, I could lose my daughter because she is 20 years old so, 20 years old and we’d be on the streets. They changed my life, and they have helped me to take care of myself, because I didn’t use to do it before. It has completely changed my life 360 degrees, from standing by me and taking care of my health. It's an amazing, amazing organization. I just told this to my daughter: if one day I win the lottery and I have money, I swear on my life that the first thing I will do is help this organization because it deserves help. They treat people like, not just for money or not just for a place, but out of kindness.
What do you want other people to know about you?
I want to say something to people, like please take care of yourself first, because it is very important. If you are not happy, your family is not going to be happy. If you are not healthy, your family is not going to be healthy. I have learned, and I am 50 years old and I am still learning to take care of health first. And also, treat people nice, and try to help as much as you can. If you have the chance to help someone, please do, because it could help change someone's life.
The world would be a better place with more _____.
Peace and mercy. Because here, you see so many cultures and so many religions, so if there is no peace between us, like I am Muslim you are Christian like I don’t care what's your religion, but if we have peace together and have mercy there's not going to be a problem you know, so: peace and mercy.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.