It takes courage to go after your dreams, and many times life throws at us curve balls deferring us from accomplishing them, however a mother of three young girls Palestinian Dalia El Athamna residing in Canada is fighting to peruse her dream of becoming a nurse and making a difference in the world by being a proactive volunteer and social worker.
Arab Woman Mag had the pleasure of meeting Dalia and getting to know what inspires her to make a difference,
She begins by saying “I’m a mother of 3 girls Salma 8, Sara 5 and Jenna 3. I graduated from high school from Australia; my interest has always been in the medical field. In grade 8 when many of the students did their 2 weeks work placement in McDonalds and supermarkets, I did mine in the hospital, in a Pathology laboratory. I have always loved the medical field and it’s something I knew I wanted to pursue a career in from a young age.
I went to RMIT University in Australia to study Laboratory Medicine, majoring in Microbiology. I worked in a Microbiology laboratory before moving to Canada. After I moved to Canada I got a Laboratory Technician diploma and I am currently finishing up my nursing diploma.
Although you have completed your BA as a lab tech. why did you decide to peruse nursing?
During my third year of university, we were placed in hospital labs to work for the year. During this time I realized that yes I do love Microbiology, and I really did enjoy working in the lab, but my heart was somewhere else. I felt that I needed more interaction with people. I realized that I have a passion for helping people, listening to their stories, being physically there to touch their hand and put a smile on their face. I couldn’t get that interaction with patients in the lab. I realized then that I should’ve gotten into nursing.
Some Arab societies look down on nurses, just as the way they look down on many well respected jobs in the west; house keepers, plumbers and painters, just to name a few. We see these jobs as jobs for the ‘less skilled, less educated’ perhaps even ‘less fortunate’. When in actual fact these are the jobs that require the most precision and most skills to perform.
Some Arabs have always looked down on the profession of nursing, it is seen as a degrading job, and it’s a job that’s usually given to ethnic groups that are ironically also looked down upon in some of the Arab countries. I’ve been asked many times why do I want to be a nurse? So you’re going to clean after people? You’re going to wash people and take them to the bathroom?
There is a huge misconception of what nursing really is in the Arab world. There is much more to it than taking patients to the bathroom and cleaning them. Nurses are the front line health workers, interacting with patients and their families more than any other healthcare professional. They are the ones performing the assessments and gathering the information that physicians base their diagnosis on. They are the ones that provide the listening ears, the shoulder to cry on, the friendly touch and the compassionate smile. They are the ones giving your loved ones their medication in the middle of the night; they are the ones seeing the patients in their weakest moments. This is not a job that should be looked down on but one that should be honored and respected.
This image needs to be changed through education and promotion of the nursing profession. Just as we have engineering conferences and events to promote so many professions, we are in endear need to promote the nursing profession and to elevate the status of nurses in these Arab countries. We really need to understand what nurses do, we need to have an open mind and realize that nursing is not just about taking patients to the bathroom and cleaning them, and if this is a part of our job, think about the empathy, compassion and humbleness one must have to do such tasks.
I know that besides earning your degree, you are enthusiastically active in social work, what motivates you to be proactive? Do you have a special cause close to your heart and why?
There are so many versus in the Quran and our Prophet’s teachings that talk about charity in all its forms. People think of community work and charity as giving money. But I see so much more than that.
The Qur’an states: ‘And be steadfast in your prayer and pay charity; whatever good you send forth for your future, you shall find it with Allah, for Allah is well aware of what you do’ (2:110).
Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) said “Your smile for your brother is Sadaqah. Your removal of stones, thorns or bones from the paths of people is Sadaqah. Your guidance of a person who is lost is Sadaqah.” (Bukhari).
Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) said “A Muslim does not plant, or sow anything from which a person, animal or anything eats but it is considered as Sadaqah from him.” (Bukhari).
When I read these verses and teachings two things go through my mind. One, Community work is not limited to giving money, it is more than that, it is taking from your time to give to others, it is stepping out of your comfort zone and placing yourself in someone else’s shoes, it’s about comforting, loving and creating some hope for others.
Two, I feel that community work and charity is more of an obligation than it is an option. If one has the physical ability, the time, the support and the mental capability to volunteer and give back to the community, what is stopping all of us from doing so? Community work should be a part of our life, it should be a lesson we teach to our children, our children should thrive on volunteering and giving back to their communities. What better way to getting countless good deeds than to give hope to others, to feed a hungry person, to smile in the face of someone that is less fortunate than yourself. What better way to meet Allah, than to know you have left something beneficial and honorable behind for people to remember you by.
What motivates me the most are my children, I want to plant the love of community work in them. I want them to see further than themselves and their lives. I want them to know and understand that life is temporary and the only thing we get to take with us are our deeds. We are so consumed with materialistic matters that we forget to plant the love of helping in our children. I want my children to live and grow up in that environment, the environment where they are able to see beyond their cell phones, clothes and make up.
I don’t really have a specific cause that I am passionate about. I have volunteered in different events and they all bring me the same amount of happiness and love for volunteering.
What are some of your other passions and hobbies?
I love reading, especially books that talk about our reality. I am not a science fiction or a romance book reader. I love reading books about Palestine. I also love reading medical related books and articles. And as an amid reader I also love writing, and when ever I have the time I do so on my blog. I really enjoy playing sports like table tennis and badminton, I don’t get to do it very often but when I do I realize how much I love it and miss it. I love cooking and baking, I do that all the time.
How do you manage your time between your studies, volunteer work, hobbies and raising three girls? Who helps you and supports you?
My husband is my support system. I wouldn’t be able to do any of what I do if he didn’t support me. My husband is a religious man and he knows very well why I do what I do. He knows that I want to be a nurse to be able represent Islam in this profession. I know that many Muslim patients feel comfortable when they see me in the hospital and they call me to help them, this makes me so happy to know that I can help my community in this field. He knows that I volunteer because my intention is to do something that is pleasing to Allah. He knows that I take my girls with me at times to see me volunteer because I want to plant that seed of love and compassion in their hearts. And for these reasons he supports me in every way he can.
What are some of the valuable lessons you instill in your girls to empower them to become active members in societies?
I get my girls involved with many things I do. They’ve baked with me for various bake sales I’ve helped with. They’ve helped me sort clothes for clothes drives I was involved with. They’ve helped me collect food from different locations for food drives I was involved in. I always explain to them what I am doing and who things are going to. I’ve arranged for a family visit to our local food bank next month. I believe it’s important that we explain to our children what is happening around us and around the world. I am not one to sugar coat everything. I know some parents want their children to live in fantasy and Disney land all their life and shield them from what is happening around the world. But that’s not what I want for my children. I want my children to understand and know that there are people that are poor, there are people that are sick, there are people that are homeless, I believe this is the only way I can empower them and plant compassion in their hearts.
Many women once married and have kids give up on their dreams and turn their focus on raising their children and running their homes, what message or advice would you give them?
Three important things here; 1) Do you believe that you ‘don’t have time’ to do anything outside of that circle? 2) What is it that you are passionate about? 3) Do you have a support system? Answering these three questions really summarizes my message. You need to make the time if you believe this is important, you need to find a cause that you are interested in, and most importantly you need the support to be able to volunteer.
What are your goals, dreams for the future?
I am a bit of a late bloomer! My future should have started long time ago!
My goal is to become a great nurse, one that can ease patient’s pain and make them feel comfortable.
My goal is to be the best mother I can be, to raise strong, caring, passionate and selfless children.
My goal is to be the best wife I can be, to do what pleases Allah and to have a loving and safe home environment.
I dream of a life where my family and I are constantly giving back to our community and helping those in need.
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