From grief to self reliance
Najla, a widowed woman with four children to provide for, has transformed the lives of her family with the support of Islamic Relief Palestine.
In the summer of 1997, Najla Saqer, 23, and her family were enjoying a day at the beach in Gaza. That day, her life changed forever when her husband, Ayman, got into difficulties whilst swimming and drowned.
With three little children and a baby on the way, Najla, as she grieved for her husband, became the sole provider for her young family. Ayman earned a limited income from taxi-driving, but now his family was left with no income at all.
The family lived in a room in the home of Ayman’s parents, but Najla still faced the task of meeting the everyday needs of her children.
“I suffered a lot after my husband’s death,” recalled Najla, who depended on irregular assistance from charities. “I realised that living is very hard. While all my relatives were sleeping, I used to wake up at 7am to queue for canned meat or bread.”
A route out of poverty with Islamic Relief
Then, in 2003, Islamic Relief offered to enroll her youngest daughter, Rola, in our orphan sponsorship scheme.
“The regular sponsorship allowance which I receive meets Rola’s needs for school and clothing,” said the mother-of-four, adding that the family still needed “a steady source of income.”
In 2011, Najla was invited to join 19 other widowed women on our empowerment programme. The scheme enabled the women to study for a higher-education diploma at the University College for Applied Sciences. Islamic Relief covered the costs of tuition fees, a laptop, textbooks and educational materials and transport to university.
“I was surprised and overjoyed because my wish to continue my education came true,” said Najla, who had to overcome initial objections from her family before she began studying Child Education at the university college.
It was hard for Najla to balance her studies with the needs of her children, but she successfully graduated in 2013.
“Now, I have new knowledge and skills which will enable me to integrate well in this big community,” she said, describing how the programme has helped empower her to enter the job market for the first time. Competition for work in Gaza is fierce: even before conflict escalated in 2014, some 40 per cent of working-age people in the coastal enclave were unemployed.
Success and self-reliance
Islamic Relief was once more there to help. Najla received support to set up a small shop selling cleaning products and groceries, and in time has successfully built-up her business. The family now own their own three-bedroomed flat, which is connected to all the basic services.
Najla is able to meet the needs of her children and to fund their education too. Her eldest son, Mohammad, has used the earnings from his work in the shop to get married, and Najla has been able to undertake hajj, the pilgrimage held dear by Muslims.
“Frankly, without the Islamic Relief I would never be as self-reliant as I am now,” said Najla. “All of us should trust God, who never forgets us and sends sustenance to us from anywhere. May God bless you all and duplicate your rewards.”
Islamic Relief has worked in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 1994, delivering life-changing development programmes and life-saving emergency relief.