Helping hands, touching hearts

Rokiah Mahmud

For Nur Aliyah binti Awang Haji Mail, a member of the non-governmental organisation WeCare, joining a humanitarian mission to provide aid to Syrian refugees was not just eye-opening, but provided a different perspective on life.

“Seeing the struggles of the people there was a shock for me,” said Nur Aliyah during an experience sharing session on WeCare’s journey while joining the ‘Syrian Warm Winter Project 2.0’. The mission was joined by President of WeCare Muhammad Akmal bin Matahir.

During the fund-raising project dubbed SWW2.0 Project, WeCare raised BND200,000 to purchase winter supplies and food packages later distributed among the refugees.

WeCare members were away from the Sultanate from January 9-25 along with members of NGOs representing the Global Peace Mission and HUDA based in Malaysia.

On joining the mission, Nur Aliyah told the Bulletin there were a lot of criteria for selection, and she described being selected as rezeki and a blessing.

Nur Liyana with other volunteers. PHOTO: WECARE

“I told our WeCare President that I did not have the technical skills where we are expected to take photos as well as record and edit videos. I do not have a journalistic background as I am a primary school teacher, but I do have communication skills that will help me to communicate with the representatives along with the local community there.”

Once she knew she would be joining the humanitarian mission, she learnt and equipped herself with the skills she needed. “I gave it my best,” she said.

“What one needs during the mission is the technical skills, empathic ability to feel what the Syrian refugees felt, to look and capture the best moments, communicate and update what we have gone through with our team members in Brunei so that they will understand what happened during this humanitarian mission.

“I took the initiative to interact with the refugees, especially during the distribution of the warm winter supplies and food to the children and mothers as we were in one camp with them.

“Even though the moment was not captured on video, I remember their stories that touched my heart deeply.

“While in Syria, there were no words to describe what I felt and the situation, especially seeing families separated from each other, children being away from their mothers – getting help seemed hopeless. “Through this mission, we played our role in shedding light on these refugees and help them feel appreciated and accepted and at the same time receive physical assistance such as food, winter jackets and fuel.

“We saw how the refugees really struggle. Their state of mind is really disturbed. They only think of how to survive – to ration food for their families in the middle of cold weather, being in a state of hunger, wet and dirty with all those worrying situations make them feel more unsafe.”

Nur Aliyah shared that being selected to represent the Sultanate for the humanitarian mission was one thing, but being physically and mentally prepared is another. “Before going, I sought advice from my friend who is a psychologist. I asked what I should do to mentally prepare for this mission.

“When we stepped foot at the area, I thought I was prepared, but what I saw and experienced were beyond what I imagined and expected. I experienced a reverse culture shock.

“This is a situation that any humanitarian worker will experience when they return home, where anything that we see or experience is impactful because your mind has been changed after seeing all the destruction and struggle.

“Our main mission at WeCare is to distribute aid and to ease the refugees’ struggle,” she continued.

“Even though it was only two of us who went for this mission, we had the support of our team who contributed to ensure this project was a success.

“We are also amazed with how Bruneians came together not only in sending prayers, but their monetary contributions also meant a lot to us. Through the project, we managed to raise more funds than we expected.

“Our role at WeCare is to share and disseminate information about the condition of the Syrian refugees and how they desperately need help, shelter, food and of all the best hope that we can provide.The funds we raised were handed over to the NGO through the Peace Global Mission and HUDA – where they purchased the aid for the refugees.” She said it was a memorable moment seeing the aid purchased from the contributions and care from Bruneians given to the Syrian refugees.

“I remember this occasion where someone only had BND3 in his bank account, but with a sincere heart donated what he had. That was meaningful to us,” she noted.

Alhamdulillah, the contribution has been for the refugees.”

While undergoing the mission, Nur Aliyah celebrated her birthday at the refugee’s camp and also spent time doing henna with the Syrian girls. “What tore me the most was when they told me that it has been a long time since they felt like girls, they almost forgot what happiness means.”