By Samiya Majid
My motivation for wanting to be a doctor [isn’t traditional.] Instead, it comes from my desire to be a more helpful volunteer. I’ve always loved volunteering. I think it just made me feel useful and more fulfilled in my heart. In middle school, I would spend my lunches going to the library to help organize the books. My [desire] to [become] a doctor came from watching videos of Doctors Without Borders and seeing the incredible work they did, [and imagining] the fulfillment [they] felt. I knew I wanted to do [something similar] with my life, but I stuck to local volunteer opportunities, and hoped for an opportunity to [step] outside of my comfort zone [and] experience what life might be like with Doctors Without Borders, and if it would even really be for me.
That opportunity came on a random Wednesday as I was checking my email. I saw a message from Islamic Relief USA, announcing a deployment of volunteers to Florida to help with Hurricane Ian. I immediately expressed interest in the opportunity, without having figured out what I would do about my college classes and assignments for that week. I figured, what was one week of college compared to something I have been wanting to experience for my whole life?
I left for Florida, and I admit, the first few days of the deployment, I was very timid. I had no idea what we would be doing, and I didn’t know a single person in our group. The long car rides to and from the damage assessment sites served as great catalysts for conversation. We got to know each other so well, and every person in the group had something new to bring to the table and add to the conversation. Our blue shirts read “Islamic” front and center, and a lot of the people we saw at the sites weren’t happy to see us — something I had never experienced in my years volunteering. We would talk about the less-than-friendly encounters we had on our car rides back and laugh.
However unhappy someone was when they first saw us, it was always solved within [the first] few minutes of conversation. The friendliest people I encountered were the ones who had very little, who lived in mobile homes right down the street from multi-million dollar mansions. One man I encountered while doing an assessment was coming back from the grocery store, bringing a sandwich for his ill wife. He had a deep wound on his neck that looked like it needed treatment. He told me that he’d lived through several hurricanes before, and that Ian was the most brutal one yet. His kindness struck me. It showed me selflessness in a way that I’d never experienced before.
I never thought a seven day trip could have such a lasting impact on me. It was truly one of the most eye-opening, heartwarming trips of my life. I made lifelong friends, and learned so much from them. I hope everyone gets to experience this kind of human solidarity at least once in their life. I hope that Allah accepts this trip from me, and makes me a better Muslim and a better human because of it.