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Muslims Without Borders volunteers took part in craft activities with orphans in Mexico as well as some adventurous walking on a mountain path. Photos courtesy of Muslims Without Borders.
"Take advantage of your youth before your old age,” Prophet Muhammad sallahualayhi wassalam said, as narrated in the Five before Five Hadith. As I just turned 20, I have been pondering on this particular point. I am only getting older as the years pass by which is why it is important I take advantage of the time, enthusiasm, energy, drive and passion I have now.
This June, with the generous help and support of many friends and family, I embarked on my first journey to the Tashirat Orphanage in Tepoztlán, Mexico, along with a group of nine other women as part of Muslims Without Borders' Volunteer Abroad program.
The lessons and values I learned as a result of being around the Muslims Without Borders volunteers, the Tashirat children and staff really made a lasting impact on me. The children left an imprint on my heart and soul through their generosity, selflessness and kindness.
In this society, we have grown attachments to things rather than people. When bored on a metro ride, who do we turn to, Siri or the person sitting right next to us? It seems like we have developed a relationship with gadgets and gizmos and have neglected our relationships with other human beings.
But by breaking out of my shell, and trying new experiences like a volunteer abroad trip to Mexico, I learned that there are other important things in life -- besides shopping, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
I got a chance to actually see the world through the eyes of young orphans. I always knew there was something missing in my life -- perhaps happiness, or a heightened state of iman, but when I was in Mexico, I just felt whole. I felt fulfilled like if I died on the way back from Mexico, I would have been okay because I accomplished something greater in life -- not just getting straight A's or winning an honorary award -- but making a difference and realizing that it is imperative to work on the self in order to truly feel satisfied.
Admittedly, I was nervous. But when we entered the yard on the first day, the kids came running to us, toys in hand, ready to play and meet the new faces that stood in front of them. All of a sudden, I felt an arm weave into mine, I looked down to see this beautiful Mexican girl smiling at me. Shocked by the instant connection, I smiled back and said, "hi." It was that easy. I thought how could it be? I just met you and you are already holding hands with me? This is lesson one I learned: I thought to myself, "wow how can I be so closed off?"
I realized I was so drawn back because in America we don't usually open up immediately. Even with neighbors with whom we exchange Eid cakes and Christmas cookies, it's always small talk, with five feet in between. It makes me wonder if it’s fear of getting close or if it is because most of our relationships are based on interests.
Other lessons I learned as a result of being with the children was that they aren't attached to materialistic things, they love unconditionally and they are genuinely happy.
Contrastingly, we (not to generalize, but yes, we) are attached to materialism, we don't tell the people we love how we actually feel about them, and we are unhappy, despite the blessings Allah has bestowed upon us through knowledge, family and wealth.
Obviously having the innocence of childhood helps block out the tragedies of this life, but some of these kids have gone through more hardships than we will ever go through, yet they don't victimize themselves despite their respective situations. So how is it that they are so happy, loving and free with all that they went through when we are drowning in sadness as we sit in our fully furnished homes watching our flat screen TV’s.
Is it greed, the victim mentality, the lack of emotions or our unhealthy lifestyles? Well maybe it's a combination of all the above and it's worth trying it out and seeing what's missing in our lives, or rather what we need to add to our lives, whether it is stepping out of our environment, or an increase in health-consciousness and God-consciousness.
I share the same sentiment as one of the Tashirat staff members expressed to us, “This place has been the biggest blessing. I knew I needed something, something of substance.”
By watching this video I am featured in (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGPQ5Fz7Ojw) from the June trip, you may better understand the crucial work MWB does, as well as why I would like to volunteer for a second time around.
However, in order to go, I need to raise a total of $2,500 for the trip and orphanage.
Therefore, I am kindly requesting that you contribute as much as you can to help me reach my goal, and to ultimately contribute to the Tashirat Orphanage.
Any donation is appreciated: ($5, $10, $20, $50, $100...) Please visit the following link to donate: http://www.gofundme.com/3xjdgg. Also, if you are interested in sending the following items, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org : Art and school supplies; Clothes in good condition; Socks, underwear and shoes; Individual size sheets, pillow cases, blankets and pillows; Books in Spanish or English
Please visit www.tashirat.com for information on sponsoring a child and www.mwbvolunteerabroad.org for more information on the work that MWB is doing and to apply for the Winter Mexico and Palestine trips.