I come from Jordan, where “lucky” men are called by the name of their oldest son, and “unlucky” men take on the name of their first daughter. I am the oldest of three daughters, so my dad was always addressed as “father of Sara” in Arabic.
While my dad did not seem to mind, I saw the looks that people gave when they realised that he would not have a boy to carry on his legacy.
When we moved to the U.S., our standard of living fell dramatically. We could no longer afford a lavish life. I learned how to sleep on the floor and relied on my free lunch in school to get me through the day. I walked a few miles to the store instead of taking the bus.
Because we looked different, my family was the victim of hate and threats. But, my parents persevered. When life punched me in the face, they inspired me to slap some ice on it and move on.
After attending USLS 2017, I felt empowered to break free from the cage that my old culture had locked me in. I went home and immediately began filling out the paperwork needed to start a non-profit organisation.
I founded the 3Sisters Foundation in 2017. We have started a free helpline for Arabic-speaking refugees in the U.S.
These refugees deserve an outlet that cares about their mental health in a culturally acceptable way. We encourage refugees who feel alienated to reach out to us, even if they do so anonymously.
I managed to connect the organisation with mental health professionals across the country. I’ve sent hundreds of emails to social service organisations to create partnerships.
My team is currently developing a website that will connect resettled refugees to a nationwide database of resources. We are also working on a mental health module. This will be tailored for Arabic speakers, but we have plans to include other languages in the future.
I hope 3Sisters offers an original solution to the refugee crisis. I have realised that I am not defined by how others see me. I am no longer the shame that others have attached to my father’s title.
USLS gave me a new sense of confidence, which is rooted in my desire to become the role model I never found in my culture — a passionate, powerful woman.