by Rakmi Shaiza
Not long ago, I heard a live interview broadcast on NPR about a four-year-old grandson saying goodbye to his grandfather because his family was no longer safe to stay in the Syrian border region. With so much love, anguish, hurt and emotion, the grandson asked his grandpa, "Why are you not coming with us? I'm going to miss you so much." As I was listening to the broadcast, I felt the pain, the anger, the love and emotion of the grandson and the grandfather. I wasn't forced out of my hometown. I left my loved ones on my own terms, but I fully understand the pain and suffering of separating from them. It's very painful to see so many innocent people getting hurt, separated from their loved ones and dying because of wars and unjust systems.
Five years ago, I knew that I was taking a risk, financially and with my future career prospects, when I made the decision to start a grassroots organization called Stitching Change. But I also knew, deep in my heart, that I couldn't look away from the real suffering of people that I heard and saw because I'm a firm believer that there is more good out there than war, hatred and oppression. If enough of us care, I have hope that fewer grandsons and granddaughters will be separated from their loved ones by force. It is because of that commitment to care and to work to bring some goodness into this life that I started this journey to help empower women and their families. In these five years, we have empowered each other's lives beyond measure and encouraged our community to care deeply and to accept others more. Today, we trust and care for each other so much that, even from the hospital, our women will call and inform us that they won't make it to class. Our volunteers will let us know that, even though they're on vacation, they are thinking of our group and will be back soon. That, I think, is a commitment to doing more good than harm.
After contributing more than 4000 volunteer hours to this journey, I look back and say to myself, it is so worth the journey in spite of my fears, struggles and doubts, because through leading this project, I'm learning the value of treating people with love, dignity, and respect. I have failed many times, but through those failures, I have challenged myself to overcome my fears, my insecurity, and my comfort. I'm also learning to have more faith in God, in myself and in my fellow human beings. I hope through my small contributions, somewhere in the world, a child, a woman, or a man can experience some peace and hope in their life.
Rakmi Shaiza founded Stitching for Change in 2014 to help refugee women empower themselves, learn job skills for sustainable income, and create community. Rakmi graduated from Central Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree and currently is a member of the Buttry Center for Peace and Nonviolence Advisory Group.
Posted November 2019