International Rescue Committee (IRC)

International Women's Day 2013: Everyday heroes

International Women’s Day is March 8. Today we honor four extraordinary women: everyday heroes who provide care – and a listening ear – to those most in need, and who strive for better lives for themselves and their communities.


Areej Obeidat, a nurse at an IRC clinic in Mafraq, Jordan, with a Syrian baby

Areej Obeidat is a nurse at an IRC clinic in Mafraq, Jordan, where Syrian refugees receive free primary and reproductive healthcare.

Photo: Ned Colt/IRC
Areej Obeidat, a 26-year-old Jordanian nurse, has worked at the International Rescue Committee’s Mafraq clinic since it opened in June 2012. She sees close to 50 patients a day, all of them Syrian refugees. They come for primary care: Colds, coughs, high blood pressure and diarrhea are their most common complaints. Now and again, someone recovering from a bullet wound appears, looking to have a dressing changed.
For many of the patients, just the chance to talk can be therapeutic. “They’re often lonely,” says Areej. “They’ve lost family, friends, all that they know and care for. They frequently cry when I speak with them about their homes and family in Syria. They want so much to talk. I soon understood they’re not just here for medical support—emotional support is so important, too.”


Bushra Naji at the IRC headquarters office in New York

Bushra Naji started over in the United States after fleeing violence in Iraq and gives back to her new community every day.

Photo: Christopher Anderson/Magnum in The New Yorker

Seven years ago, the daily threat of violence in Iraq became unbearable for Bushra Naji. She quit her job as a teacher and fled to Syria with her sons. After they were accepted for resettlement in the United States, the family moved to New York City, where the International Rescue Committee found them an apartment and helped them to adjust to their new lives. 
Today, Bushra works at a non-profit that serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and also works part-time for the IRC.  She is committed to ensuring that her children have the tools they need to excel in the United States. Three of her sons are in college and her youngest has just taken his GEDs. She is excited for what the future holds for all of them.

Brigitte writing at her desk

Brigitte's tenacity and will to learn helped her overcome the obstacles that had kept her out of school until she was 28

Photo: SInziana Demian/IRC

Her entire life, Brigitte dreamt of the moment she would be able to spell her name. When she was a little girl, her parents separated and she was sent to live with an aunt and babysit her cousins. They all ended up going to school, but she was kept at home. 

When she was 17, she moved to live with her husband. Although he knew how to read and write, he never taught his wife the alphabet. 
When the International Rescue Committee started a program to teach young people in the Democratic Republic of Congo the basics of reading, writing and math, nothing would stop 28 year-old Brigitte from enrolling – not even the age limit of 25. 
“We told her we could not take her, but she would just come and sit outside, in the sun, and peek through the window to see what we were writing on the blackboard,” recalls instructor Françoise Kondo Mwayuma. “She would plead with us until she would start crying, and just would not take no for an answer.” Brigitte’s determination paid off and soon she found herself sitting at a desk for the first time in her life, learning how to spell her name – the exciting first step of her education.

Nyibol and a colleague with a treatment box

Nyibol Akot Padiet (left) is an IRC-trained volunteer community health worker, who provides care to children under five in her village in South Sudan.

Photo: Sophia Jones-Mwangi/IRC 

Nyibol Akol Padiet, a 37 year-old community health provider, has been treating common childhood diseases in her village in South Sudan since receiving training from the IRC. “I have been doing this work since July 2009 and I still enjoy it,” she says. She treats between 10 and 20 children under the age of five every month. “At the moment, I have been seeing a lot of malaria and pneumonia cases and a few diarrhea cases. Thankfully, in the three years that I have been working for the IRC, I haven’t experienced a death.”
Nyibol is proud of her work and the difference she makes in her community. “Through my volunteer work, children’s lives have been saved,” she says. “There are many poor people who cannot afford to buy medication. So, for the IRC to provide medicines free of charge, it’s such a relief for everyone. Access to these medicines means they don’t have to walk long distances to the nearest health center.”
This International Women’s Day, share this story as a tribute to everyday heroes like Nyibol, Brigitte, Bushra and Areej.


No comments yet.