Friday at eight

Ugh, don’t you just hate it when you’re on an airplane and you get seated next to the guy who sleeps with his mouth wide open and ends up leaning against your shoulder and drooling all over you? Or the obese individual who takes up half your seat, or the mom with her annoying child who seems to only cry when he’s next to you and once he gets off the plane he’s back in la la land again. I travel every vacation and I’m always wishing I get someone interesting and it just never seems to happen. All until my last trip back to Amman where I sat next to this guy who just looked interesting.

He had a large carcass, barely fitting into the seat that offers no leg space at all [damn Royal Jordanian economy class]. I walked in late, everyone was seated except me, and holding a cup of coffee from Costa, I struggled to fit my luggage into the overhead compartment. Yousef, as I later found out, gladly asked me if I needed help, and held my coffee himself. I thanked him and then sat down beside him. He had on a pair of headphones, scrolling through his iPhone looking at what appeared to be audio books [yes I peeked, I’m curious like that :P]. Out of nowhere, a conversation was born, if I remember correctly it was either over books or iPhones, maybe even both. One thing led to another and soon we were discussing what we did in life. Finding out I was a medical student already involved in volunteer work, he started telling me about Tzu Chi, a Taiwan-based global non-profit organization that has helped more people than you can count on two hands. Yousef told me about all the volunteer work he had done, since he was fresh back from a trip to Taiwan, and he encouraged me to participate in the weekly events held by Tzu Chi Jordan. I was super excited about it and made sure I got his number, promising to call him as soon as my schedule cleared up.

Tab3an, as usual, we all get this. The sudden surge of excitement to do good and help the needy and it soon blows over as the stress of work, school and exams bombards you from every direction. You start to forget what really matters in the world and we all turn selfish, a trait I have come to know exists intrauterine, always getting the better of us. The human want, an ever growing feeling as we grow older to shift from our wants to our desires, fed rapidly by our ever-growing media and “shiny objects”. That’s all they are, objects, but they make it seem vital to us. The “appeal” to modern day man, a nasty yet genius marketing trick.

To break the cycle, right after my pediatrics exam, I decided selfish I shall be no more, and went on my first Tzu-Chi charity event. I woke up at 8 am on a Friday morning, an act I was condemned insane for, and headed down with my friend and colleague Hisham to Mr.Cheng’s house, the usual meeting point of all Tzu-Chi events. We loaded some food in the back of the car, put on our Tzu-Chi volunteer vests and drove down to Wadi Abdoun. A 3 minute drive from your favorite cafes and pubs, namely Blue Fig and Avenue, but a totally different world. Known to most of you through pictures captioned off with “Old Amman”, not a single one of you has had the guts to drive down there and check the place out for yourselves. To summarize life down there, hygiene is reduced to a leaking tap in an empty room with a floor you can barely make out, soap being a luxury they rarely encounter, showers taken on religious holidays. Clothes mere rags on their bodies, never washed, hung or dried. Food consists of a meal per day, devoid of any nutritional value what-so-ever. The truth behind Wadi Abdoun, a tragedy better left captured by the lens of an amateur photographer with a Canon EOS SLR.


The family we helped consisted of a blind father who had just been released from prison, two mothers, an uncle (who also served time) and eleven kids. They all slept in the same room, conditions being beyond awful. The people over at Tzu-Chi Jordan built the family two extra rooms, also replacing their front door and the doors to the rooms. We pitched in by painting the doors and the rooms and it sent goodness right into my soul (as cheesy as that sounds). The massive difference between knowing about this and getting your hands dirty (and your only pair of jeans which later had to be rubbed in “kaz” to get the paint out, so I ended up going home smelling like a petrol station) is the significant change you make in a family’s life. The smiles on their faces, the happiness we brought to them, simply by painting their doors was unforgettable. We all sat together later and shared falafel sandwiches with the whole family. An experience I will not soon forget.

“My first attempt at house painting, I’m proud!”
IMG_0514“Me and some of the children.”


To be part of Tzu Chi Jordan, and contribute either by donations or by becoming a registered volunteer, please visit their facebook group here. You can also keep up to date with all our future events and charity runs. To know more about Tzu-Chi, please visit their official website here.


Filed under Life, Saving the world

9 responses to “Friday at eight

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Yameen-Shmal : يمين – شمال » Friday at eight --

  2. wow Shadz, proud of you! this is really amazing.. god bless!

  3. raya

    Now i know what tzu chi was 🙂 il hamdilla for everything we have,, our vision is so limited until we experience things. I wish I can participate in such organizations regularly like you, God bless you, so proud of u 🙂

    And about the unexpected people that sit next to us on the plane, tell me about it! last summer I got seated next to “um il abed” , very fat “funny” sweet teta like old lady,I helped carrying her bags,I helped with changing channels on the screen in front of her n I guess I helped her in telling the story of her life! I even know the amount of her granddaughter’s “shabkeh” from her husband – yeah,, very long trip it was.just so u knw she also lives nxt to blue figال , yes she insists on the -al- hehe

  4. OmarAlJamal

    الله يكون بعون المحتاج و فاعل الخير
    really there’s a huge gab between the two areas.
    may Allah bless you Shadi =)

  5. there is good in your heart, Shadi. I had no idea. Good for you. Volunteering, while expecting nothing in return, is a very noble thing to do. I commend you for giving up a morning for the benefit of the needy.

  6. @mudoveee

    Outstanding buddy, simply awesome, that was so generous. Keep up the great work

  7. Ali

    This is just amazing shadi, Wish i have the time to do that!

  8. I wish I can meet exciting people like you. On my last flight on the abu dhabi toronto route, the girl sitting next to me asked for 2 sleeping pills and a glass of vodka that hammered her for the 16 hours of flight. Ya3teek il 3afyeh ya zalameh. Next time I am in jordan, I plan to do at least one of those humane activities..and hey, you learned how to paint a door. I can count on you next time I need a paint job, and don’t worry, the pair of jeans is on me. 😛

  9. First of all, I salute you for your captivating narration 🙂 I just love reading your writings, no matter how long, and I read them more than once :D.

    Second I salute you for the “shiny objects” paragraph. The best of anthropology, sociology and personality growth comes out from mere observations, auto-analysis and conclusions. I’m proud of you, but that carries a sense of “T know more than you” -which may be the case :P- but let me say I’m proud that I’m your friend.

    As for volunteerism I think you already got the credits for that.But let me tell you that as I read their principles and missions, I knew why you fit among those people :).

    I’m very interested in the organization actually, but I noticed they have no office here in Leb. I was wondering how to contact them to see if we can do anything here.

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