Since 2014, I decided to blog my annual review. I do this because I find it helpful to reflect my previous 12 months, to take time to show gratitude and assess if I have reached my ultimate truest expression of myself as a human being.
This year, I will review 2015 by answering three questions, such as those proposed by James Clear.
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go so well this year?
- What am I working toward?
- What went well this year?
Here’s what went well:
Charity aid work
In Jan 2015, I accepted a role as Regional Fundraising Executive with Human Appeal International. My role was to identify and manage regional campaigns as well as ensuring regional fundraising activities are undertaken to contribute towards the organisations strategy and growth.
Here is summary of some of the events that I managed, which raised £500K plus for various noble causes.
- Hope 2015 – I managed an unforgettable concert for Syria on 11th April in Reading Town Hall. The concert starred world-famous artists like Outlandish, Saif Adam, Raef, Common Souls and hosted by Na’eem Raza.
- Welcome Ramadan – I managed a charity dinner in Southall on 7th June 2015, in aid of rebuilding lives in Pakistan.
- Night of spirituality – June & July 2015. I managed three charity dinners in Bristol, Oxford and Southall, where all funds raised went towards completing the building of an orphanage in Jerusalem.
- Sounds of Light was back, which is a largest fundraising concert of its kind in the UK. I managed East London event on 1st Nov, and with a stunning line up, attendees’ had a time of their life while raising funds for the refugees.
- On 15th Nov, I managed shine a light concert in aid of South Asia Earthquake at St Ethelburga
- On 22nd Dec 2015, Bristol community chuckled for charity at our fantastic comedy tour in aid of our winter appeal.
I supported many concerts, campaigns, challenges as well as working at the celebrity football gala dinner in aid of Street children in Senegal; which was hosted by Demba Ba and a whole host of celebrity footballers, including Samuel Eto’o Fils, Eden Michael Hazard, Diomansy Kamara, Abou Diaby, and other sporting legends. It was at this event which resulted in the viral video of football star Eden Hazard fall into a fit of laughter when one of his Chelsea team mates begins introducing Human Appeal at our Gala Dinner. You can read more about the project here.
- United Arab Emirates (UAE) (Abu Dhabi & Dubai). On 12th April, straight after my successful Hope concert in Reading, I travelled to Abu Dhabi to visit my close friend Suad Bashe. She encouraged me to visit her to unwind and relax from all the stress first quarter of the year brought me. Despite arriving at dawn, she came to the airport to welcome me in her style. My youngest sister and her daughter spontaneously decided to visit Dubai for the Easter break. My eldest brother also decided to join us. So this trip became very special in so many ways. We all spent the day together, laughing and connecting in ways words cannot describe.
Whilst in Abu Dhabi, I met up with Bashir Goth, a Somali poet, writer, journalist and most importantly a friend, who gifted me with his time and valuable books. He handwritten me this poem note in one of the book he gave me as gift and I promised him that I will publish it someday.
May words flow from your pen
And your poetry dance on people’s lips
Smelling of frankensence of Punt
Of uunsi, of our land’s rays after rain
Of oud, of Arabian perfumes
Enchanting, amusing, entertaining
As sweet as Magool’s melodies
As childood memories
As your mother’s lullabies
Rising to the heavens
And soaring as Khayyam’s spirit
As delicious as Loxoox
As nourishing as dates sipped with milk.
- Oman, Khasab. So grateful for my awesome friend Suad who treated me for a road trip to Khasab which is located in Oman, as it border with UAE. Khasab is the local capital of the Musandam peninsula and has frequently been dubbed the “Norway of Arabia” because of its extensive fjord-like craggy inlets and desolate mountainscapes. It does not matter where you stand in Khasab, as every angle is stunning. We took the dhow cruise to the fjords with Dolphin watch and it was spectacular.
- Senegal, Dakkar, On 26th May , a day after Demba Ba football gala dinner, I managed Human Appeal International delegation, to travel to Senegal for an extraordinary journey. In the ultimate heat, we fished in the Atlantic ocean, slept rough in the desert and fetched water. The 15 ordinary volunteers took part in a documentary produced by the talented journalist, sadiya chowdhury. She has worked incredibly hard and also her awesome team has worked around the clock to get ‘Selfies in Africa’ documentary, to show every day of Ramadhan 2015 at 7pm on Islam Channel. We visited the Empire, street children centre, WASH, micro-agriculture and education projects. If you have missed the episodes, watch them all here.
I never have envisaged that the 15 people that travelled with me on this trip will become great friends and as we would like to call it ‘Senegal family’. The volunteers were all from various walk of life and age group but we got along really well both in Senegal and when we returned to London. We still ponder upon the opportunities Senegal brought us, the great memories, the humbleness and the gratitude that we were able to serve those in needs.
Before arriving to Dakkar, as we board the plane from Lisbon, Portugal, with Anta Mbow (founder of The Empire, Street children in Senegal Centre), Islam Channel crew and all the volunteers, we exchanged greeting with a passenger who was both friendly and polite. This passenger was, Mandu dos Santos Pinto, who is a talented architect and founder of Mandu | architexture and urbanizm to realise his vision of combining technical innovation with environmentally, socially and economically sustainable solutions that improve the quality of life in modern cities.
Thousands feet up in the sky, I got to know that both Mandu and our project vision was connected. I would not have ever come to know that it would indeed work out in our crazy schedule to fit in his great ‘Live with water’ project, in our documentary. His project aims to solve water and sanitation-related problems in Dakar and is currently UK DFID funded. Watch it here to learn more.
- Switzerland, Zuirch, 15th August, I went away with my friend Sarah on a short break for sightseeing and relaxation. Despite not being ready at all for this trip, and certainly despite the mountain fog, we managed to have good time in solitude. Before going to Zurich, my friend Sara (OK they both have the same name!), mentioned to us that her sister lives to Zurich, but she forgot to tell us how awesome Aisha was. Aisha really welcomed Sarah and I, and treated us to a world class hot chocolates and since Zurich is a city of water, we did lots of walking by the lake, exploring the old Town. We trained everywhere and trust me, train delays in Zurich is a foreign concept.
- Macedonia, 5th September. I travelled with Human Appeal, my colleagues Omar Ali, Owais and Fatima to Tabanovce, the Macedonia border with Serbia, Gevgelija, the Macedonia border with Greece and Lesvos, Greece, to distribute aid supplies. It was devastating to see men, women and children who had not eaten and who were very cold. When they would hear the train arriving, which they had to get on to continue their journey of survival, the refugees were sent into a frenzied panic and I was crushed, begged and mobbed by hundreds of refugees desperate to get some food to survive. You can read more about the refugee appeal here or watch here.
As I was writing this blog, I was reflecting on the amazing volunteers and organisation that I have met during my trip. One of the hero, we have met in Macedonia is Mare Bojkovska, she is a hard working humanitarian who coordinate all the work at the Serbia/Macedonia camp. So I paused drafting this post, and sent her an e-mail to wish her a happy new year. She replied back swiftly updating me that during the New Year eve, she decided to visit Gevgelija and as they were in the camp for an hour; they found Uncle Ahmed (she named him that). He was found bare foot, no socks and with no winter essentials. He reported that someone took off him 1000 Euros to transport him to Serbia but they only dropped him off few Kilometres after the border. Had Mare not spotted him on the motorway, most likely he would have died. Mare called UNCHR and an NGO in Gevgelija and they managed to send ambulance that took care of Uncle Ahmed. Public aren’t permitted to transport refugees across borders as it is against the law so Mare was pleased to hear that Uncle Ahmed was fine as she received a photo of him sitting in the sun.
God watches over his people in a miraculous way. That old man uncle Ahmed must have been sincerely praying and God send him refuge and help by facilitating ease for Mare to go to Gevgelija on New Year’s eve despite trying to go there for months.
Also, glad to know Jean-Marie is doing well after helping many refugees in Macedonia and Germany. So pleased to hear that he managed to meet up with an Iraqi and Syrian refugees who he got to know in Macedonia, made it safely in Germany. I hope I cross path with both Mare and Jean-Marie again, two of the best people I have met during the refugees crisis.
- Bosnia,8th Nov. For those who knows me quite well, would know since Jan 2015, I intended to travel to Bosnia but it didn’t work out. So I was very blessed to have travelled to Bosnia & Herzegovina with young professionals from the Emerald Network. We were on education visit programme ‘Lessons from Srebrenica’ hosted by Remembering Srebrenica charity to witness at first-hand the testimony of survivors and Mothers who lost loved ones in the Srebrenica genocide. Watch our bearing witness video here . I was so moved by the entire visit, emotionally challenged and left with key messages from our host Resad Trbonja to reflect on. I will certainly visit Bosnia in the near future to explore its landscape and heritage.
In Oct 2015, I was blessed to be in the company of my family and friends as I launched my poetry booklet ” The Capital of my Heart”. I compiled the book to provide access to clean to the remote villages in Senegal, which I had the opportunity to visit earlier in the year. You can donate to the project by getting a copy of the booklet online here and you will be helping to save lives.
When you surround yourself with people who inspire and motivates you to reach your ultimate best, you end up doing great stuff and creating great moments. This event was certainly one of my best highlight and blessed for the friends who made the time to share that special moment with me.
Photos credit | Rooful Ali
While we still talking about poetry, proud that I submitted my poem ‘Capital of my heart’ to be included in Samir Patel, Creative Morning London talk. Watch full video here
In 2014, I have mentioned that I took up Oud classes and that I was pleased with the baby steps I have taken to appreciate this instrument. I decided not to take the intermediate classes as felt little bit intimidated by other students skills set. Rather, I booked 1-2-1 classes with the legend Ahmed Mukhtar. Though I have progressed, for example I hold the Oud with confidence, and technically I am much better than 2014, however I still need to invest more time to practice. You may wonder why this is listed in my ‘what went well’ section, and it is simply due to this fact, that despite not being happy with my slow progress, I showed up in every appointment I set up with Ahmed. So well done to me, for simply showing up 🙂
Another reason why this is something awesome to celebrate is that I launched and hosted Taqasim Oud Club. I ran these events three times last year and it was very well attended. The event enable Oud students to have a platform to perform in front of an audience who are passionate about the sound of Oud. In addition, I also managed Taqasim Music School Annual concert, which featured Fadi AlNaji,Francesco Iannuzzelli, Julia Katarina plus many Oud students. Special thanks to my friends and co-oud students Ruba and Ahmad who helped out great deal during these events.
Oud design credit | Lara Arafeh
Ramadan Tent (RT)
For its 3rd year running, proud that I continue to support and volunteer at Ramadan Tent; which is an award winning community-led initiative aiming to participate in social change by creating bridges between individuals, bringing together communities, and fostering interfaith dialogue.
Sadly Amir and Ruman weren’t the volunteers coordinators so their spark were missing but they were busy taking care of important tasks; such as Amir was overlooking the operation/logistics for the RT Kitchen and the awesome Ruman was creatively occupied in her Media role. So they both left the volunteering in good hand with Leyla and Natasha.
What made Ramadan Tent for me very significant this year was the fact that my three friends ‘the legends’ Ali, Nisreen, Rooful and I volunteered for Ramadan Tent. I am very proud of them and especially for Nisreen who managed the tent kitchen smoothly and effectively. Rooful Ali was blessed to have captured these moments and creating RT portraits.
However, sadly in 2015, the community lost one of its inspirational leader, Bashir Osman (above) whom soul returned to God. May he resides in heaven as he will for sure reside in our hearts and minds. RT founder Omar Salha had the following to say, ‘For many of us at Ramadan Tent Project, we were first acquainted with Bashir during our 2014 Open Iftar in London. A year later Bashir was invited to speak with the very community he first discovered a year ago. He truly embodied the community spirit and philosophy of supporting all of mankind and not just our own community’. Read the full attribute here.
Make sure you get involved for 2016, here.
- What didn’t go so well this year
Loss of a family member. In January 2015, my uncle has passed away due to a sudden stroke. It was very shocking news to us all, especially mum as he raised her as a child as his own. I went Lyon, France to pay respect and attended his funeral amongst his family and loved one. May he rests in peace and may he resides in Jannah. We truly miss him.
Nutrition. Like most people, I assume I eat better than I actually do. With my demanding jobs and the travelling, I find myself eat late and guilty for eating out. Lack of healthy diet, affected my mood and it had negative knock and effect on my weight. I need to eat cooked meals with great nutrition that enable the vitamin supplements that I must take to absorb well in my blood stream. My vitamin D has been very low and it affected my mobility. I admit I have to take care of myself, so in order to strengthen my overall well being, I must eat well so I can be function better.
Writing . For sure, writing makes me happy and sharing my poetry gives me an inner satisfaction. For nearly 2 years, I published my poems regularly on my wordpress website. As a result, I built a successful blog and connected with creative people. When I decided to create a new website, where my awesome friend Rose, spent time and energy helping me with that. I realised, it was also then, that I stopped writing all together. I began to neglect posting in both my wordpress blog and my new website. I have missed many post schedule that my motivation to post went downhill. In 2016, I’m looking forward to overcome these writing challenges and post new poems/articles on regular basis.
What am I working toward?
My attention will be focused on three areas in 2016.
Habits. To develop good habit, from timing myself when undertaking tasks, drinking water to praying and fixing my spirituality.
I’ve read James Greig’s recent article on ‘Less stuff, more energy’ and been reflecting since then, about the people, actions and thoughts in my life, that energises me and which of them gets me down.
My lists look like this:
+ Walking, being outside in green spaces
+Stressing & overthinking
Career. I will direct my energy to seek new opportunities in programmes with more field based so can learn and help as many people as I can. I am going to charity blog about my trips to enhance transparency and accountability.
Tell deeper stories. In 2016, I want to share compelling humanitarian stories through my work and travel. I am due to take part in half marathon in Marrakech, on 31st Jan 2016, to raise fund for access to clean water. Watch this space for more update, for now, how cool is my running team!
2015 was a remarkable year for me and I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store. I worked with an amazing team, had quality friendships, loving family, and met an incredible people. Together, we helped people from Senegal to Nepal, and we should be all grateful for the opportunities bestowed upon us to serve all our beneficiaries. Each one of you (you know who you are) was instrumental to all of this. Without your ongoing support, I would not have fulfilled my truest expression of myself as a human being.
As always, I am just a human being trying to better myself and I’m excited to share the lessons I learn along the way.
Thanks for reading.