November 13th, 2016 marked the day we surpassed 100 women and children assisted at Nisa Homes. In light of this, our house operators decided to share some of their most memorable moments, the heartwarming ones but also the heartbreaking ones.
Yasmine Youssef, Vancouver House Operator:
One of the most incredible memories I witnessed was when two of our residents sat together and read Quran. In any other situation this might seem normal, but what was amazing here was that these two women did not speak the same language, they didn’t even speak Arabic, the language of the Quran, yet here they were trying to read together. It turned out that one of the ladies knew the Arabic letters from her childhood and stayed up the night before practicing so she could teach the other. She told me she could feel the sadness in the residents eyes and saw that she was holding onto a Quran but didn’t know how to read, so she vowed to teach her.
We see women from all walks of life come to Nisa Homes, in this case the first woman was not what you might categorize as a “practicing Muslim”, she wore shorts and tank tops, while the second woman was 20 years her senior, wore a abaya and was constantly praying. But being at Nisa Homes, and knowing that they’re going through tough times, bought them together.
Zena Chaudhry, Toronto House Operator:
The best moment had to have been at a recent house meeting where I proclaimed that I was the fastest runner in the house. Volunteers, residents, and children alike disagreed. We decided to have a race that very night to determine once and for all who was the fastest.
All eighteen of us walked over to the local track and warmed up. First the adults raced, then the teenagers, then the children and the winners of each had a final race. As we got ready for the final race, of course I was one of the finalists, I was terrified. I knew the teenagers were much faster than I was. So, when the race began, I gave it my all but still came in third. Alas, the children had won and I admitted that I was not the fastest in the house.
Seeing the look of pure happiness on everyone’s face definitely made it one of the most amazing moments I’ve experienced at Nisa Homes.
I recall once I received a call at 4pm from a frightened resident. Her son hadn’t come home from school and he was usually home by 3:30pm. We checked the school, nearby playgrounds, the restaurants close to Nisa Homes, and even called the few friends he had to see if he was with them.
An hour later, as we were getting ready to call the police, we heard the doorbell ring. Thankfully, it was the boy. His mom rushed past me to hug him and after a few tender moments, they broke apart and she was livid. She pushed him to tell her where he was and if he was with his father, her abuser. He tearfully shook his head and said that he was at the local library. He had a project to finish with his group and knew he wasn’t allowed to be at anyone’s home.
Witnessing the stress, relief, anger, and sorrow between the pair was a rollercoaster of emotions and it was, by far, one of saddest moments I’ve experienced at Nisa Homes. I felt sadness for the mother who was extremely stressed and afraid and sadness for her son who wasn’t able to go to the library like his classmates, without having his mother worry. It put their situation back into perspective for me – it’s never easy for families who come to Nisa Homes.
One of the absolute worst days of my entire life was when three children, from two different families, were removed from their mother’s custody. The ministry decided it was safer for the children to be in the ministry’s custody until certain conditions were met by the mother. It was absolutely horrendous, there wasn’t a person in the house who didn’t have tears in their eyes. All I could think about was why I couldn’t stop this from happening, even though this was the result of many issues over a long period of time that culminated in this, I couldn’t help feeling guilty.
It was terrifying seeing one of the mothers scream, cry and pull her hair, while her son, being carried out by the police officer, was crying and yelling “Mom don’t let them take me away”. The second mother, who was told in advance about the removal, simply sat there sobbing. We had tried doing everything in our hands to meet those conditions to stop the removal from happening. Her youngest daughter clung to her mothers arm, begging her, "don't forget me!”. Both mothers eventually moved out, and although they see their children regularly, they haven’t gone back to living together yet.
The Lessons Learned:
Looking back at the past two years and 100 residents, I can say that there are a lot of lessons that I’ve learned. I’ve learned to not take anything for granted, to ensure I appreciate the strength and struggle in every woman and child that comes through the doors of Nisa Homes, to empower myself and let them empower themselves, and to always be open to improve. There has never been a single case or a single day that has repeated itself. No family has ever reminded me of another and no day has ever been a déjà vu. Through volunteers, I have learned to offload and ask for help. They have helped me understand that sometimes I need to take care of myself too. Nisa Homes has changed my life and I could never imagine my life without it now.
What I see time and time again at Nisa Homes is how the women support each other, even after they leave Nisa Homes. They create a bond of sisterhood I rarely see anywhere. They pick up and drop each other off for interviews, appointments, work and school. They cook and clean for each other when they’re having a bad day. They cry together when someone gets bad news, and celebrate when it’s good news! They stay up late, giggling and joking some nights, crying on others and working on their resumes or searching on Craigslist/Kijiji on other nights still. I find the strength they derive from each other to be the most powerful force that pushes them forward on their journey at Nisa Homes and beyond. Sadly, I think it’s this sisterhood that we lack as a community, the sisterhood that supports and protects one another and helps prevent situations like those that result in a need for Nisa Homes.
We would like to thank our volunteers, supporters and donors for making this possible. Nisa Homes is only able to assist these women and children thanks to the incredible time, effort, donations and du'as you have dedicated to us. May Allah accept it from all of us and allow us to continue providing safety and shelter to every woman and child in need.