Ahlam Abdullah, Past FORWARD volunteer

While studying anthropology I was constantly curious and eager to find avenues to help others in the diaspora. I was particularly interested in issues such as immigration and integration. What led me to FORWARD is quite the mystery and a coincidence that turned out to be the best luck/blessing you could call it, but I call it my path to healing.

For me the trigger came when I watched documentary, based on compiled ethnographic research, which dealt with the issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Africa. I knew I went through the procedure but I had never confronted the harsh realities. After class, I sat there numb, motionless. My teacher sensed there was something wrong and invited me into her office. I couldn’t find words, except denial that everything was fine and that the video was a little unexpected for me.

As I walked back through the long corridor there was a poster from FORWARD seeking young ambassadors for a research project. That was my first introduction and through that research FORWARD has become my haven for creativity, friendship, healing and much more.

I felt empowered by volunteering with FORWARD. The experience allowed me to heal through helping others, collecting data, knowing that every minute I contributed empowered me to face and deal with my own demons and overcome my denials and seek help. It started as an emotional healing process that later progressed to tremendous moments as a young woman facing her culture with much more clarity.

As Jean-Louis Sarbib once said, “behind every statistic is a person, a child, an orphan, a mother.”  During my time as a volunteer I was driven by helping the faces behind those soaring statistics, in putting faces and names to numbers. What hit home even closer was that, although I, my mother, grandmothers, sisters and aunts may be seen by some people as just statistics, I was not ready to allow those statistics to become a reality for my nieces or anyone else.

I did, and continue to do, all within my power to make a difference and educate people about FGM, in any ways possible. It also helps having a father who is a true advocate for what’s so wrong about our culture.