Nouria Naji: Nothing is difficult for those who are willing [Archives:2007/1027/Reportage]

February 22 2007
Nouria Naji displays the trainees sincere efforts by proudly wearing a piece of their unique handiwork.
Nouria Naji displays the trainees sincere efforts by proudly wearing a piece of their unique handiwork.
By: Nisreen Shadad
“My inspiration to bind myself to the poor and build the Yemeni Education and Relief Organization was Fatin Abu Bana, a little girl who couldn't go to school because her family was unable to provide her and her brothers with the needed school materials. She used to sell booklets for YR 15 each. Along with her little brother Ali, they struggle to help support their family,” states Nouria Naji, director of the Yemeni Education and Relief Organization, also known as YERO.

Her inspiration, Abu Bana, recalls, “I used to work when I was 6 years old. When I look at other girls living gleefully with their families, I pity my situation. The only question in my mind is why we're different. I have a father just as they have; however, he can't give to us as theirs can. As we get older, we leave this job because it's for children.

“Being a needy child doesn't affect my self-esteem. However, when knocking on car windows to sell my booklets, some drivers chide me, saying, 'Don't make the window filthy!' It hurts me a lot and I wonder at their behavior. Does money give man the right to behave in such a way?” she asks.

The bus from the Fight Child Begging Center often caught her and children like her. “I became well-known at that center because I was caught repeatedly. We would stay several days until someone from my family came to claim us. The last time was different, since the one who vouched for me and my little brother was [Nouria] Naji,” Abu Bana explains.

Naji affirms the possibility of making a difference in people's lives when they have peace in their minds. According to her, “We can create great people, if only a few give them the chance to be so.”

By affirming a love that depends on believing in others' rights, Naji established the center to teach children and provide them with the materials they need for school. The chance to go to school caused Abu Bana to have a complete range of emotions and conflicts, but she readily agreed because she had long hoped to carry a school bag and wear a school uniform one day. “I was satisfied with dreaming about carrying a school bag – I even dreamed about which type of bag I would carry!”

YERO provides children who are skipping school, begging or those who are actually poor with study materials such as books, notebooks, pens, school bags, etc. They come to the organization's office three times a week to receive help with their studies and do their homework. There's interest at all levels – from first to 12th grade and all subjects are taught.

The group also provides them basic food and clothing needs, especially in winter.

To enrich children's talents, YERO cares about teaching children drawing and taking pictures. “We now have 11 creative artists and an exhibit will be held Feb. 22,” Naji notes.

“In the summer, we take them to places like Dar Al-Hajar, the National Museum and the Military Museum,” she adds.

The organization also contains a sewing and needlework institute to train women in those things that are in-demand in their community. Such an institute empowers women, who suffer needlessly because of poverty, and makes them independent.

Naji explains, “We train the women in sewing and embroidery. We train them in what's in-demand to empower them and make them independent. We also give them money as a form of encouragement. Marketing their products gives them the chance to be more independent. Today, there's a bazaar at our organization premises to present the women's works, with all profits going to them.”

Trainee Shafeeqa Al-Qadasi recounts, “I married when I was 17. I didn't receive any education. I lived with my husband happily for 12 years, but because I was barren, he decided to marry a second wife because he longed to have children. His marriage was a reawakening of sorts for me. It's certainly something I've known all along, but for some reason, was afraid to live by.

“I spent year after unfulfilled year, waiting for things to change, until I realized I'd have to take control of my life and be independent. What makes my life worse and unstable is my husband's situation. He's poor and since he now has six children by his second wife, he finds it difficult to support us both. I know he's still fond of me and I'm fond of him too; however, life is so difficult.

“Now I can sew dresses for children and consequently, I sell them and receive the profit. I also enrolled my husband's children at the center to study and receive the necessary school materials,” Al-Qadasi concludes.

The center also gives trainees YR 400 per week. “I use this money to buy medicine because I suffer from rheumatism and must have a vaccination every two weeks,” high school graduate Ameena Abdu Omar explains.

“My family forced me to stay home and not complete my studies due to the money required for university,” she adds.

There were 18 trainees, but now there are 23. Although YERO sees high demand, Naji limits the number in order to be able to educate the trainees well. The organization also supports numerous needy women to build their own simple business.