It is not the first event of this kind that WLT organizes. This has been going on for years now; it’s just that it’s the first time that I take part of it. It’s been almost two months and maybe more that I have last joined them in any activity and I actually miss those guys. The idea was to gather volunteers in the elderly house in Abou Samra to cheer the residents up, and distribute “maamoul” because it’s Eid after all.
It’s not my first visit to the elderly house, I have been there many times as a student with the school and I always ended up weeping. However, it is always healthy to be around less fortunate people to appreciate what you have, especially when you think you’ve hit rock bottom and you’re unable to go on in your life. Visit a hospital and you’ll understand how lucky you are & whatever it is that is worrying you, you will forget and you’ll count your blessings instead.
When I entered the hall with Abdallah, I greeted everyone with a wide smile. I saw lot of eyes hanging on the entrance of that door. Everyone was waiting for a familiar face to visit, maybe? I’m not sure. I tried to escape the disappointed looks of the elderly that followed me anyway to find my friends at the back of the hall. It was so great to see Karim, Hassan & Taha who seemed equally joyous with our presence. I saw a lot of WLT T.shirts around but couldn’t recognize everyone; many new volunteers have joined which is a great sign. New blood is always a great sign and it offers variety and freshness to the group.
– “We’re so happy you’re with us” exclaimed Taha and Hassan as well. “Please help us create some positive energy around, most volunteers are not familiar with this.”
And so this is how it began. I looked at the volunteers and saw them willing to help and do something but they had this frozen look on their faces, the look that says I’m helpless and scared with the ambiance: show me what can I do? As a matter of fact, it is not easy to deal with this age range especially if it’s the first time you’re among them. But a smile can always help, so I flashed my widest. We started clapping, singing dancing with the residents. Some preferred to sit aside and watch, while others got into action. I loved the interaction of the volunteers and whenever I shouted “Clap” the claps would rise. We made circles around the elderly; nurses joined in, even people on wheelchairs clapped and sang.
Amongst the crowd and in the middle of the party that the “Derbakeh” made more alive, I spotted a familiar face in the residents & it broke my heart to see her there, even if she was among the happy group. This woman was so spoiled as a kid, she was an only child. It ached me that after her parents passed away, she had a couple of nervous break downs and she was sent to this shelter. I approached her but she didn’t recognize me, and I wish I didn’t either. When I was a kid, she used to tell me stories and was always so hospitable.. To find her in this state troubled me actually, but it was not the right time to cry. I took her hand and danced with her, made sure she enjoyed every minute of it.
When it was the coffee break time, a group of the volunteers went to the rooms to start distributing the “maamoul” and another group preferred to stay and wait to join them again the “Alzheimer’s” section. While staying there, the party went on. Saad, Abdallah, Rim, Nadia and I sang like crazy people but didn’t really care because it was apparently appealing to the crowd & cameras, too. Randa & Hassan stayed with us while Karim & a new volunteer went with the other group to capture the moments.
Suddenly Abdallah says: I’m turning the music off, some resident wants to sing. And so, we all circled around him and he started with a couple of “Mawwals”. He was a bit shy at first but with all the clapping around him he felt confident and sang with all his heart.
When he sang “مالي من بعدكم عيش مالي= How can I live after you” tears dwelled in my eyes and I couldn’t stop myself really. His words seemed like he was describing his state. He is alone, in an elderly house with no loved ones around him. Are they dead? Did they just leave him here? Do they come to visit? Not sure of any of those but the voice of “Ammo Abdullah” was so touching that everyone tried to hide their tears.
We said goodbye and left this section to join the other group. This time, a talented young lady with a guitar was at the front and we sang along. We went into the Alzheimer’s section; most of them were in beds a few in the waiting salon. And when I saw some of the elderly crying I was so upset because we were supposed to cheer them up not vice versa! “Please change the songs!” I thought the lyrics were sad “ya nasini” and so on… But Hassan told me, it has nothing to do with the songs, they get emotional because people are visiting them or because we reminded them of their loved ones. I think Hassan was right. You can never predict everyone’s reaction because not all the people are the same. We do what we can but it’s no magic.
I think WLT has done a wonderful job. It is not just a one day visit. This event is spreading awareness among the young people and I’m so happy that there are many eager to help and make a difference. To Saad, Abdallah, Taha, Hassan, Karim, Rami, Rim, Noura, Fatima, Rayan, Mahmoud, Randa, Nadia, Aya, Fadwa, Farah, Lina, Siba, Mariam, Fadwa & Nazih I say: Bless your efforts. You were the jewels of Tripoli today, you and every volunteer up there, have brightened the residents’ day and forced them to smile and this alone is rewarding to both sides.
It just saddens me that we are too busy in our everyday living to worry about the elderly. How many institutes are there in Tripoli that actually take care of the elderly? Sadly, less than a handful. What’s actually painful and heartbreaking are neither the mentally ill nor the ones who got Alzheimer’s because they are both unaware of their state. It’s rather the men and women who just got old with a perfect state of mind but with no one to stay with. I used to say they are the least fortunate people, but then again, they have a place to stay in, unlike many left in the streets without any care. Where do you see yourself in 40 years? Always remember, this could be you. Will you change anything for your own sake?
Photo credits to WLT page.Photographers: Randa Merhebi, Hassan Osmani, Rim Rafei