Assalamu Alaikum (Peace be upon you),
My name is Seynab. I’m a 21-year-old Somali-Australian female who is learning to trust god, spread love and connect with all. I’m currently in my final year at university studying a dual degree in Nursing and Paramedic Science.
Despite growing up in Australia, I come from a typical Somali family. The struggle of being a girl in any Somali family is frustrating and unfair. I was fed up with having the same old boring summer every year. I just wanted to break the shell, be free and experience life.
As a result, by the will of God, I made the decision to backpack and volunteer in Nepal for 6 weeks post the 2015 Earthquakes. I understood volunteering alone does not bring about change, however, this journey was very much about personal growth. I wanted to do it by myself and also none of my friends/ siblings could do it with me.
The biggest challenges I faced was convincing my family to let me go and saving money. It was a huge deal. I was never allowed to sleep over or go to a school camp, and now I’m attempting to travel to a region affected by a disastrous earthquake and where I have no relatives. I had to brace myself for the lectures. I practiced my compelling arguments on my siblings for days before I had the nerve to tell my fierce, yet sweet, ayeeyo. She said no countless times but I wouldn’t stop, “this is my life I would scream”. I changed my tactic after receiving sound advice from my aunty and realised where she was coming from. Post explaining, I was going with an organisation and literally with seven other girls, she wasn’t ecstatic, however, she understood and let me be. She advised me to pay for all my expenses and that I was responsible for everything – a challenge willingly accepted.
I had to balance working more night shifts, university assessments, house chores, babysitting, volunteering and other extra- curricular activities. It was so hard and at many times I felt discouraged and burnt out. My older sister was very supportive in encouraging me to do it. It wasn’t easy, but the experience and lessons I learned were worth it.
Now I’m back at home safely, I still haven’t deciphered the things that I have seen. In terms of my profession/education, this journey expanded my horizon and consciousness. In a fantastic group of seven, we participated in projects that aimed to positively educate and empower the Nepalese community.
One project that warmed my heart and shifted by career vision, was the free medical/nursing camp we ran in a rural village. We worked alongside Nepalese doctors, nurses and pharmacists in providing health care to rural people who were severely affected by the disaster. Additionally, like the Somali tribal system, the Nepali people are also divided by a class system. The people in the village we worked with came from the lowest caste system and are identified as the ‘untouchables’. This corrupt social structure meant they were treated inhumanely and unjustly – they were ostracised and had limited access to basic health facilities and education. The majority of them journeyed long distances for the nursing/medical camp and were so responsive and understanding, especially when we ran out of medications. I felt so empowered because I was finally using my education in a positive and impactful way.
Volunteering in Nepal was an experience that instigated deep contemplation and consequently shifted my direction towards my education. I realised it is a beautiful world, despite all the sham and drudgery, and I have a duty towards a region I’ve never seen but I’m connected to. I’ve never thought that I would one day say I aspire to get into medical school and either be an emergency doctor or an obstetrician for the sake of God and benefiting the people. I understand it’s going to take a lot of discipline and hard work, but God can make easy whatever he wishes.
To myself and anyone reading this, please don’t feel discouraged if you’re uncertain of what you want to do with your life or if you fail. This world can break you spirit easily. Just do something productive and when you discover what your soul aches for – protect it fiercely and work hard silently.
Peace & Love,
Find Seynab on: Twitter