When Dr. Nada Al-Naji graduated from Medicine School, she was finally able to fulfill her long-time dream of helping other people. That alone was not enough, however, and she looked for still more challenging horizons. That is why she decided to volunteer for two months with the Hope Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh, a non-profit organization in Bangladesh that focuses on providing health care to the needy in that country. Dr. Nada shared her experiences with Arwa Al-Rikabi of Arab News about her voluntary work in the town of Cox Bazaar were she served at a hospital.
Here is the complete text of the interview:
How did the idea of voluntary work come?
Well, I have always had this dream of going out in the world and helping people. I remember being on a plane back to Saudia with my family when I was 7 years old, and I had these foreign coins in my little bag. My father explained to me that I could not use them in Saudia. So I asked him what to do with them. He suggested I keep them in an envelope to help poor people someday.
For some reason, that moment touched me as a child and I have always had this passion for humanity, especially the needy. I was always been involved in different charity work while studying.
After I graduated, I thought it was time to branch out and do some serious volunteering. I looked into many countries and foundations and chose Bangladesh for its extreme poverty, lack of services, and high population density. It also seemed to me like I had a connection with Bengalis, since we have so many workers from there in Saudia.
I remember once trying to talk with a Bengali patient, and doing my best to use whatever Bengali words I had learned, when he simply told me that he could speak Arabic because he has worked in Saudia for 10 years.
Was your family nervous or worried about you going there?
Yes, they were. I am their only girl, and Bangladesh is a place they don’t know much about. I really appreciate how they supported me despite their worries. They always supported me in my mission.
What did you learn from these two months in Cox Bazaar?
It definitely taught me a lot about myself and other people. The main theme for me was: Wherever you go, people are the same. We all know that intellectually, but when you go to different places and directly connect with people, it really inspires you.
You realize that no matter what nationality, color, religion, or race we are, we posses similar type of feelings regarding to happiness and sorrow. It just makes you become more expansive in how you see the world and other people.
Another thing I learned was how sobering it is to live in places where most necessities are not available. This feeling makes you more content with your current standard of life.
What was the most shocking thing to you during your work?
It was to see children dying when they could have been saved if the parents were made more aware, or if better medical and transportation services were available. It is heartbreaking to watch a six-month-old baby die in front of his parents because what he needed wasn’t available at the hospital. The nearest large hospital in that area is almost three hours away.
And what did you miss most about home?
Fresh water. There were no heaters, so the water was very cold.
Did you make any Bengali friends?
Absolutely! I remember being invited by a Bengali family for Eid Al-Adha . I felt like home there. They are a very generous and welcoming people in Bangladesh.
What are your future plans?
For now, my plan is to tell my story. I want to encourage other Saudis to adopt the same path of working voluntarily in the parts of the world. It has been a great experience for me.
I am blogging about my work in Cox Bazaar trying to share my impressions, feelings, lessons, and stories.
So writing is also one of your hobbies?
Yes, I have loved writing since I was a kid. I remember participating in a short story contest held by the British Council while in college in 2005. The theme of the contest was “I Belong”. My story was one of the winning ones.
Nada’s Blog : http://nadaalnaji.blogspot.com/