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This article first appeared in our February 2007 issue.

February 2007


Thoughts from the heart:

My family in Gambia

By Susan Karim

Thoughts from the heart

In the deep darkness of my heart,
In the hollow loneliness of my life, and
In the shallow grounds of my existence,
Suddenly comes a thought...
A thought followed by a promising hope,
Sweet as the rain...
When it hits the dry sands,
Light as a summer's breeze,
Passing the wild heathers,
And as real as the North Star,
For whoever has lost his soul in the night,
That thought is you... Baghdad
I wrote in the middle of the darkest of
Nights.



My name is Susan Karim, I was born in Iraq 27/01/1952. In 1980 there were three reasons that forced me to leave the country; Saddam Hussein, my mother and my mother in law (not necessarily in this order). Now I live in a small and very old town in beautiful Scotland called Kirkcaldy which sits on a bay on the North Sea. I love it.

I am a business graduate from one of the oldest universities in the world, a chef/ caterer by trade and currently a fashion student. In 1999 I was nominated for the title of Business Women of The Year and in 2000, I was one of three finalists in the Outstanding Scottish Women of The Year Award. I have three children, Lulu 29, Muhammed 27 and Bahr 26, I love them to death.

My family. It is difficult for me to put a precise definition on the term family. Is it the parents who give birth to us then deprive us of love? Is it the children who we call brothers and sisters that we love very much? Or the parents we share that have different plans, for one reason or another? Or is it the little ones that we bare, love and sacrifice everything for, then, they leave and literally forget to call and ask about our welfare or even say we miss you? Or is it the once upon a time strangers that unforeseen circumstances that brings us together? Well all these are true.

However, this time I will introduce you to my new found acquaintances and hopefully future friends. These new friends without their knowledge have brought a new meaning to my life and have given me the will to live, strengthened my faith, renewed my hope. These friends changed me personally and I have become a better person from within. It is a wonderful feeling and this is how the story begins.

In 1995 I started a new job which allowed me access to the internet, while I was looking for information about a British charity called Victim Support UK, I stumbled on a relatively new British based charity called Muslim Hands http://www.muslimhands.org. Muslim Hands at that time were asking for donations in the form of shoe boxes filled with gifts to be send to Ethiopian children.

The web site was basic, inviting, clear and very informative so I looked through it and discovered that they provide a variety of sponsorships one of which was Orphan Sponsorship. I was intrigued. In Islam looking after an orphan’s welfare is highly regarded. In the Holy Koran, God says anyone who touches an orphan’s head with tenderness or feeds an orphan; puts a smile on his/her face, wipe their tears, clothe them, put a roof over their head etc., God will have a great regard and will reward them highly on Judgement day. So, I thought that I am working very hard to make this life better for my brothers and sisters as well as my own children so why not invest for my life after death through giving a couple of orphans a chance to have a better future, and that's how it all started.

In 1996 I sponsored my first child, a three year old, her name is Habby, from Gambia whose dad died leaving the mother to look after her and her younger sister. Habby’s sister later died after a chest infection, Habby is now is a beautiful 13 year old young lady, doing very well at school and aspiring to become a nurse in order to look after other children so they don't die as young as her sister.

My second child in Gambia is Sulayman whose sponsorship started in 1997 and is now a blossoming 17 year old young man with excellent potential and a promising future. He is aspiring to become a teacher. The sponsorship only cost £20, a month or $36. The money provides the child with 2 new full sets of clothes a year, medical help for all the family, books and school requirements and most of all it gives the child the chance to stay in education until they are 18 and beyond if they wish to go to college or university.

The money and sponsorship takes them off the street, protects them from abuse such as child soldiers, prostitution or child labor, early-imposed marriage (especially girls) and provides the family with basic food. The orphan sponsorship gives so much for so little.

This is my new found family branch in Gambia. Next time I will tell you about my big family in Baghdad.


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