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Libyan Red Crescent volunteers: stories of courage and dedication

09-03-2011 Feature

Fawziea, Mohamed and Reem are volunteers of the Libyan Red Crescent Society. During the recent violent unrest that shook the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, they were suddenly confronted with shocking scenes and challenges they had never faced before. These dedicated individuals describe what it feels like to be a Red Crescent volunteer in the middle of armed violence.

Fawziea

"I always wanted to do good for people and working for the Red Crescent allowed me to do so. My role now consists in supporting women and helping them build their capacities in Libyan society.

When the violence began, I was present from day one at the Central Hospital. I was terrified by the injuries I saw. I was not used to those scenes but I found myself just doing my job. The mothers of the deceased came to the hospital and I had to give them psychological support. I was sad but the only thing I could do was talk to those mothers and comfort them. I am a mother myself and I can't imagine what it must feel like to lose a child.

My husband is also a volunteer. He's a psychiatrist. That first day we joined the team together. My six-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son were at home with their nanny. On 18 February, my son called to tell me that our neighbours' house had been hit. I was terrified. All our neighbours went to the basement and my children went along. I stayed at the hospital. I could not leave those mothers alone.

I feel fulfilled now and satisfied by my work. I am even readier now to go on working."

Mohamed

"My brother was working as a team leader in the Lybian Red Crescent Society (LRCS). When I joined the LRCS he did not know. The first time I came here he saw me and was so surprised. From then on we came to the centre together.

During the events, I felt I could not stay home. I needed to be with my friends and colleagues to help. For three days I went to Al Jalaa hospital to help with the injuries that were brought in. After that I also worked in the tent that we had set up on the sea side, where the demonstrations were happening. I provided first aid whenever it was needed.

When I told my parents I wanted to go to hospital to work, they panicked. I told them I wanted to help and I did just that. Every time my mother heard gunfire, she would be so scared. However, eventually my parents accepted the fact that I should be at the hospital and wherever I was needed and they never questioned me again. I was not scared at all. I never thought about what I was doing. I saw a man getting shot in front of me. I even got closer and tried to find someone to help. By the time I got to him some young guys had put him in a car and rushed him to hospital.

I don't want all of this to happen again but I know that if it happens, I will be here to help."

Reem

"When I wear the Red Crescent emblem I feel like another person with more will to help others. In my childhood I wanted to be a doctor. I always thought my ultimate goal is to save people. In my family, the value of a person is determined by his willingness to help others.

Although I graduated as an engineer, I jumped on the first chance I saw to realize my old dream: joining the Red Crescent (RC).

When I told people I was getting training at the RC I often got replies such as "… but there is nothing going on in Libya. No crisis. No war." The first days of the violence here in Benghazi, my parents would not let me go out. I felt frustrated, especially when I knew that other girls could go and help. The first day I got out I headed for the RC and resumed my designated task: providing psychological support for families.

Who says words are not enough? I also wanted to do more but when I realized how much people just needed to talk to someone it struck me: we are not just helping people physically, but also mentally. We are letting them know that they are not alone."


Photos

Fawziea with her 9-year-old son 

Fawziea with her 9-year-old son
© ICRC

Mohamed 

Mohamed
© ICRC