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A Guardian Angel in the Era of Refugees


Salam Shebani’s mission to help Syrian refugees is a lesson that we all need to hear this time of year.

Salam

Salam Shebani didn’t grow up in war-torn Iraq—the nation his father fled in 1991. As a family of refugees, he grew up in a lower-middle class family with four siblings in the idyllic town of Malmoe in the south of Sweden, far from the carnage the world has grown used to seeing in small swathes of the Middle East.

He learned at a young age that you have to work hard to provide for your family and to be ready for the type of challenges that most normal families face in their lifetimes. What he wasn’t ready for was just how bad some of the challenges people face can actually be, and the realisation altered his path.

The path Salam took to go from apolitical to humanitarian started in 2013, but his pursuit began in earnest in 2015. He was watching the news and saw the images of Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach. The pictures sent shockwaves around the world, and impelled Salam to action.

Horrified by what he saw, the UAE-based entrepreneur knew that he had to do something to help these people who were fleeing their homes and risking their lives in droves with destination unknown. He asked himself, “how can I enjoy life knowing there are so many people that are victims of circumstance out there unable to help themselves?”

Coming from a family of refugees, Salam understands their pain plight acutely. He explains, “Through the stories of my father, I understand what it’s like to lose everything you have, including your country. My father taught us to be grateful for our good fortune and instilled a sense of purpose in us to always help those in need.” Tearing up, Salam adds, “I remind myself every day that any of these people could be me or my family. Our neighbours are suffering, and we must help them.”

A HUMANITARIAN VISION IS BORN

Salam’s work started small and organically but has evolved to help people with all kinds of need within his orbit.

One of Salam’s first goodwill efforts was to help Syrian refugees moved to Lebanon. He began by offering small monetary donations to families who weren’t able to find jobs there, but he quickly discovered they need were far greater than just financial. “Some of the refugees were very sick with health issues, such as cancer, diabetes, and infections, and weren’t able to get the treatment that they needed because they were uninsured.” Salam adds, “there was a list of one thousand or more people that needed help, and I bought health insurance for them all.”

“Hearing the success stories and helping these people made me feel so good that I knew I had to carry on and find more people to help, so I asked around, and just about everyone knew someone in desperate need of assistance,” says Salam.

And with each ask, the list of his good deeds grew longer. Moyazzem Kader worked as an office boy in Dubai. His mother had a tumor in her brain, and they had no money for the surgery. The story was shared with Salam, and he immediately paid the hospital and the surgical expenses.

“Salam is a brother to me. He was there for my family during desperate times.” Commenting on the impact Salam has had on his family, adding, “we all thought that we would lose our mother, but thanks to his kindness, our mother is sitting here with us today and, for that, we are grateful.”

In Salam’s case, a few good deeds have gone a long way to enacting his life’s missions. The entrepreneur now has plans to build a charitable institution here in the UAE to help people in need worldwide. He furthers, “people everywhere need help. My passion for helping people knows no boundaries or borders, so someday I hope to help people in need around the world, not just my neighbours in my community.”

The story of Salam Shebani is a timely reminder that compassion, not political ideology, should dictate our actions.

Salam

To learn more about Salam Shebani or to help further his goodwill efforts, please email ghostmodehelp@gmail.com.



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