Tapestry of Humanity

In commemoration of our 50th anniversary in 2018, we posted a new image and story each week to create our #TapestryofHumanity.

Often we hear refugees and other vulnerable communities discussed in terms of numbers or their level of victim-hood. Our tapestry features humanity through the stories of diverse individuals from Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon.

"I fell in love with horses when I was really little. My early drawings were all shapes resembling horses. I've never been afraid of them, despite their large size. My mom used to take me to pet the horses while she held me in her lap. I guess that's where my interest started. The sky’s the limit as far as my ambitions. I hope to be known worldwide and be the first girl from Middle East with a prosthetic leg who jumps fences on horseback."

Heba, horseback rider
(Gaza City, Gaza)

Read her full story here...

Each photo and story will be featured for a week on this page, after which they will be ‘woven’ into Anera's Tapestry of Humanity below where they will be archived.

"I never finished school. I loved studying at home but I didn’t like the school environment. Ever since I was young, I've liked handmade embroidery. I even tried to teach myself how to do it. Now I'm working at the Tatreez Embroidery shop. When I got my first paycheck I bought this necklace I'm wearing. It’s a reminder that I can depend on myself." - Amine, a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon (Ein El Hilweh Camp, Lebanon)
“My friends told me that girls don’t play basketball. I told them that’s not true! Girls can be basketball champions. Girls can be anything they want!” - Farah, fourteen-year-old basketball player (Ein El Hilweh, Lebanon)
“We're a very small community and our neighborhood's quiet. Everyone here is very friendly. In Abassan, as for all people, water is a source of life. My son loves to water the roses in our garden every morning, and we enjoy watching them grow. For me, I like to show off how fresh and clean my laundry smells to the neighbors.” - Rasmiya, mother (Abassan, Gaza)
"I came to Lebanon in 2013 with my family. We left Yarmouk [Palestinian refugee camp in Syria], because they were sending all the young men to the army and we decided to leave to protect our family's boys and men. Besides, Yarmouk was being bombed. A bomb fell close to our home. Half the houses were burned and half were destroyed. When we were leaving Syria, we hid my brother's hands. They were burnt and we were afraid the soldiers would think it was from fighting...We left without anything. I had a gold bracelet that my father gave me as a present. I never got the chance to wear it!" - Aya, 18-year-old Syrian refugee & participant in an Anera embroidery class (Saida, Lebanon)
"I have been playing football since 1998... Sports teams bring us villagers together, and our accomplishments are something the whole village can be proud of. They reflect the best of the community. Most of our footballers are university students, and the [Beit Liqya] club helps fund their studies. We're all one big family. We always say that 'sports unite and never divide.'" - Jawad, physical education teacher (Beit Liqya, West Bank)
“l absolutely love everything that has to do with cooking. As I grow older, my passion for cuisine has grown. Back in 1988, when I was in the 6th grade, there was a curfew imposed on Gaza and people were not allowed to go outside and buy food. I watched my mom make bread at home during the curfew and that’s when my fascination with cooking started. Now I watch TV shows, read cooking books, and educate myself on food preparation. I’ve learned that many times it takes just a small amount of an ingredient to make a great dish.” - Hadeel, cook at the Bureij Women Cooperative (Bureij, Gaza)
"It feels great to educate children in music and give them the opportunity to try new things. Unfortunately children here, especially in this village, don't have very many opportunities. For me, I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a violin and learn my craft at a young age. My own experience has shown me that all children deserve to try new things and find their passions. In the end, maybe they will like studying music. It can open new doors for them in life. I find that when my students know how to play their instrument, it builds up their confidence in confronting the world's challenges." - Hala, violinist & teacher from the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (Silwan, West Bank)
“A few months ago, after a lot of encouragement from my father, I decided to take some sewing and knitting classes at a nearby center. I was 10 years old when I became blind, but before that age I used to be fascinated by people who worked with their hands, especially people who sewed or knitted. When I learned that these classes were on offer, I thought it was a great chance for me to prove to myself that I am as capable as anyone else. Plus, I get to learn skills that really interest me. Having something to take pride in has definitely improved my outlook on life and makes me feel like I am breaking barriers. One day, I hope to apply these skills professionally.” - Salma, Syrian refugee (Bhannine, Lebanon)
"Nature was an integral part of my childhood. I remember running around in fields and climbing trees, even engraving my name on the inner wall of an old cave around here. The presents my parents used to give people were boxfuls of fruits and vegetables... gifts the earth bestowed upon us. The closer you are to this earth the humbler you get and the more humanitarian you are in your feelings towards other people. We were created from this soil, and it's this soil that sustains our lives, and it's where we all will eventually return." - Amjad, farmer & part of the Marj Ibn Ammer Cooperative (Jenin, West Bank)
"This organization is important because it supports women. There are so many us who have no one to count on and are jobless. I, for one, am a widow and live alone. The work I do here at the Y builds me up and makes me feel self-reliant. Of course, I benefit from my job because I get paid and have something to occupy myself with. But I am also really pleased that what I do benefits other people who buy the things we make. Though I'm 71, I plan to keep on working for as long as I can. Why not? I love working here! We're like a big family." - Farida, food production line at the YWCA (Jericho, West Bank)
"Who wouldn't enjoy working on a farm? I come down here every morning around 5:30. When I don't have morning classes I stay here until noon and then come back again in the evening after catching up on my studies. Harvest time, for me, is the best part of being a farmer. When I literally hold the fruits of my hard labor in my own hands. I feel how my effort and work haven't been wasted." - Ahmad, farmer (Thinnabeh, Tulkarem, West Bank)
"The first refugee tent ever erected in this camp in 1950 by the Red Cross was my father's. Most of the refugees here originally descend from either Al-Lud or Al-Ramle...Life is harsh here but we try to rise above it. Our football team is an example of that. It was crowned the champion in professional football in Palestine for three consecutive years. There have been many ups and downs for the team, and we've lost some players along the way during...We have won many trophies and titles, managing to win the respect of others and building a very strong reputation. This is a small and humble camp, but it is not to be taken lightly. I used to be on that same team [as a teen]... I was elected to be mayor of the refugee camp four years ago and I'm working on my reelection campaign right now. I haven't forgotten football. I occasionally play with my old friends, as well as my son Qais. He made the team too, and I sometimes train him and give him some tips to improve his performance. His coaches tease him sometimes and say 'you still need to best your father,' but they're just joking. What I would really like for these young men to nurture is their feeling of belonging to the team, and realize that they are representing the refugee camp and Palestine wherever they go and in whatever they do. It's not just about sports." - Taha, mayor of Al-Am’ari Refugee Camp (Ramallah, West Bank)
"I'm more like a sailor who navigates the ship. Exploring, searching and experimenting are things the children do themselves. You find the kids completely immersed and invested in their activities. A child is full of passion and love for knowledge and always wants to be included in the teaching-learning process. When you include children and help build their confidence, they reciprocate with love." - Maha, early childhood development teacher (21 years) (Ramallah, West Bank)
Ayyoosh: "I'm 71 and my husband is 77…We're from different villages and we first saw each other on our wedding day. That was the tradition back in the day. I was 14 and a half. But I knew how to cook and prepare traditional flatbread…I still like to pamper him…We have four girls and seven boys, but we live alone now." Daoud: "And we have 85 grandchildren! How can we not love each other after spending a lifetime together?" - Ayyoush and Daoud, shopkeepers (Bani Na’im, Hebron)
"I’m 5 years old and in first grade. Today, I came with my teachers and friends to visit a strawberry greenhouse. I have a sister and a younger brother...I am a girl scout and I love to discover. I’m not afraid of animals. My mom lets me pet them. One time I saw a stray turtle and I asked if I could adopt it. Mom said “yes!” People say I’m a brave girl. This is what makes me a girl scout.” – Joudy, girl scout (Beit Lahia, Gaza)
"Although I love Aunt Mona, my favorite time is when she is away at university. When she's away, she puts me in charge of taking care of the family chickens. She even taught me how to hold a baby chicken. Chickens can run fast and sometimes I have hard time keeping up. They do some weird chicken moves that look like funny dances to me and make me laugh." - Amir, second grader (Beit Hanoun, Gaza)
"I chose to learn the piano because it felt the closest to me. I love how the piano invokes feelings in me and allows me to express myself. After five years of music lessons, I feel like this instrument and I have become one." - Omar, 18 year-old pianist attending the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (Bethlehem, West Bank)
"Our only concern as farmers and herders is to provide food for our livestock. Before we provide for ourselves, we have to provide for the sheep. Because in the end, they feed us. But, the land is our most treasured possession." - Mahmoud, farmer (Marj Ibn Amer Valley, Jenin, West Bank)
“Paramedics and other health responders are on the front line during a humanitarian disaster. The smiles on patients’ faces when we are able to provide the medicine they need at affordable prices is our incentive. It makes my day!” - Ghadeer, pharmacist (Tel El Hawa, Gaza)
“I never imagined that a book would change my life, but funny enough, it was the push that I needed to become a nurse. As a teenager, I was lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I even dropped out of college... I was sitting in my room one day when I noticed a pile of my brother’s books. He was studying nursing at the time, so I started reading one of them. The next thing I knew, I was at the Sidon Institute in Tripoli asking about their nursing program. Now I’m a full-time nurse!” - Montaser, nurse (Beddawi Camp - Tripoli, Lebanon)
"Many people in Gaza find ways to make a living. It’s the dignity of work that keeps them going. I have met families who rent out sports fields and other open spaces for events. There are also many young entrepreneurs with stands selling coffee, tobacco, small toys or slushies. I had to do a double-take the other day when I saw a smoothie truck drive past me. In Washington, DC, where I live, food trucks are everywhere. In Gaza, they are a miracle." - Hani, father, brother and son from Gaza (Beit Lahia, Gaza) [Photo: Hani seated next to his mother in Gaza, who he hadn't seen in five years. Summer, 2018]
"I wrapped up my affairs in Beirut in July and returned to Washington, where we opened the first Anera office on August 12, 1968. Jim Sams [Anera founder] had rented office space in a handsome but somewhat rundown structure anchoring the southeast corner of 15th and H Street in what was then called Washington’s financial district. I remember that early on we purchased a heavy office safe and were trying to figure out where to put it. While I studied the situation, Dr. Davis [Anera's first president], a white-haired, dignified man, single-handedly pushed the safe across the office floor to its final location. Anera only had four staff in those days." - John Richardson, First Executive Director & Second President of Anera (Photo: Allenby Bridge, Jordan, 1967)
"Unfortunately, I was born with weak muscles and my Mom had to take me to several doctors when I was very young. She has never given up on me and always tells me that she is proud of my abilities. Because of her love and support, I am one of the top students in my class. I recently took part in a marathon for people with special physical needs and my whole school came to watch. I felt like the whole world was by my side when I received the winning medal. I am proud of my medal and of my Mom too." - Islam, student (Gaza)
"I am trying to make a difference in the lives of our young people as head of the Boy Scouts. The boys I mentor are between the ages of 12 and 14, and I encourage each one of them to study hard and always educate themselves. I see it as a way of planting good citizenship in them so they can better serve Palestine. I tell my five children the same thing. I want them to recognize the right path in life, build up their character, and plant the seeds that will grow into success." - Imad, Head of Al-Am'ari Refugee Camp Boy Scouts (Al-Am’ari Refugee Camp, Ramallah, West Bank)
"I live in the rural community of Deir El Balah and was recently introduced to the agricultural practice of grafting. Grafting is new to Gaza and helps produce disease-resistant seedlings that will flourish in our fertile soil. This will help me produce plants that will survive and grow to become strong and bountiful. I am hoping to harvest fourfold the quantity of delicious tomatoes than I have in years past.” - Noha, farmer (Zahera, Gaza)
“I try as much as I can to erase sadness from our house. We play, we dance, we sing. We play oud. We laugh. We share stories and jokes with each other. We never miss a thing. Everything depressing stays outside the house. Fights are not allowed in our home. They shouldn’t exist because nothing is worth fighting over. We solve our problems through nice words. Everything has a solution.” - Ziad, oud player (Burj El Burajneh Camp, Lebanon)
"I decided to go back to the farming methods of my ancestors and opened my own organic farm. Safe organic farming is all about the proper management of water, using compost, and most of all, treating the soil as a living organism. With my strawberries, I am trying to bring back the old days and underscore the need to alter the farming culture here away from fertilizers. Every farmer should make the decision to organically farm.” - Ayman, farmer (Beit Lahia, Gaza)
"The preschool has helped me build myself. I’ve found in it a breathing space for my artistic side and a chance to contribute directly to the youngest members of our community, who are literally its future. Every success one of my former students achieves feels like my own success. I feel proud learning about former students who have grown up to become university graduates, because I feel that I had something to do with it, albeit a small part." - Amal, teacher and director (Al Majd, West Bank)
"When I was in eighth grade, I went through a tough period where kids bullied me. I used to cry every day, but I never told my parents how miserable I was... One day, my aunt took me aside and had me draw a palm tree. She said, 'you must be strong like a date palm tree.' That was an invaluable lesson that changed my perspective and the entire experience taught me to be self-reliant. I've grown to really appreciate the palm tree. It carries a lot of meaning to me and reminds me to find my strength in everything I do. I even admire the date pickers and how hard they work to gather the fruit. They're persistent people who don't let obstacles stand in their way." - Ilham, GNSF program, teacher training (Deir Al-Hatab, Nablus, West Bank)
"I wasn’t scared. I don’t know why, but I had no fear of the bees from the beginning. I think they [the bees] sensed it because I didn’t even have to put on the mask and long gloves after a while. The secret is to be calm and get to know the bees and in turn they get to know you. In one day we collected 11 buckets – that’s about 275 kilograms of honey. Imagine! We filled up hundreds of jars and distributed them around the village for free. There’s always a big celebration when something good like this happens. It’s tradition to hand out sweets and share in the happiness. We also wanted to prove to everyone that we were capable of doing something good for the community and that we could produce something of value. Everyone loved it!" - Ilham, beekeeper (near Ramallah, West Bank)
"In the past, fishermen lived a good life. I had two boats. I would always catch fish and I was always happy. I miss it sometimes. All types of fish used to be found in Gaza. Working the sea is something we inherited from our forefathers. It runs in our blood. Now I have this one fishing net to remind me of the tradition my parents passed on to me. Hopefully the old days will return and we can fish and feed the people again." - Mamdouh, fisherman (Gaza)
"It’s been 27 years since my father died. Toward the end of his life he encouraged me to learn and preserve the heritage of our Jerusalemite town of Lifta, which is famous for its beautiful embroidery patterns. When he died I had just finished high school and had no interest in handicrafts, but his words never left my mind and they propelled me to learn embroidery and become the trainer that I am today... Women are here [in my embroidery workshop] so they can support themselves or their siblings or parents or children. Others want to develop their own businesses. And others are searching for a passion and want to express themselves creatively." - Sabah, embroidery teacher (Ramallah, West Bank)
“We need to make sure that every refugee child gets an education, every refugee family has a decent place to live, and that every refugee adult can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community.” - Rouba, 31-year-old Palestinian refugee (Beddawi Camp, Lebanon)
“Making date cookies in the winter always reminds me of warm memories and the festive times when these cookies are in high demand. When I smell them baking, it transports me back to when Gaza was beautiful and at peace." - Sohair, Head of Al Hakoura Women’s Cooperative (Deir Albalah , Gaza)
"I have always seen myself as a captain with my kitchen as my ship. I like to get creative with the simplest ingredients, and produce the yummiest meals. The ultimate reward is watching the expressions on my family's faces as they enjoy my food." - Ahmad, chef (Beirut, Lebanon)
Thabet (left): "We work until we finish the day's produce of olives, even if it means working around the clock. Today we opened the press at five in the morning, and we'll see how things go. I expect it will be another late night." Adel (right): "Olive oil is green gold and we need the continued support of local and international organizations to preserve it." - Thabet and Adel, olive farmers (Idhna, West Bank) [Photo: Brothers Thabet and Adel, standing in front of their olive oil processing facility in Idhna]
“My parents passed away when I was very young. So I've been working for as long as I can remember, and never really had a proper childhood. All my brothers and uncles work in the aluminum business. I’m the only one in the family who doesn’t. Instead I wanted to study car mechanics because it is something I have always loved. Life is really tough in the camp and many of us have to work day and night to survive. Although this is true, I’m very happy here [at the vocational center], and my instructor is friendly, helpful, and always doing his best to encourage us.” - Ahmad, Palestinian refugee studying car mechanics (Ein El Hilweh camp in Saida, south Lebanon)
“During summertime, I look for any openings available to work on construction sites. Opportunities like these are slim, so I am fortunate to be working on this water well. Once the well is finished, people will have access clean water. These projects provide an opportunity for people like me to earn some money. I hope to use it to pay for my upcoming university semester. Despite the situation in Gaza, I have big dreams and chose to enroll in engineering school this fall." - Hassan, student and construction worker (Beit Hanoun, Gaza)
“For years after the accident, I missed the feeling of using my hands to draw. At times, it was unbearable. But I never lost hope. When my treatment began I had hoped to be able to walk within a year. Life didn’t work out that way. Years passed, and then my goal became to simply regain use of my hands. And eventually I did it! I still couldn’t write or draw, or even hold a pen, but the feeling itself was fantastic. After months of training and many long hours of physiotherapy, I managed to control my fingers and I could hold and move objects. I also could use my electric wheelchair and move from one room to another and from one building to another. It was like going from hell to heaven. My first experience with a computer was challenging, but returning to creating art again was the best thing that has happened to me after the accident. I had fun again! I could put a crocodile’s head on a frog’s body and draw lines and create colorful backgrounds without needing to use a paint brush... Now, I can look people in the eye and tell them to never give up on their goals.” Mohammed, graphic designer (Tripoli, Lebanon)
"I am blessed to have two boys and two girls. Now that I am 65, all my children have grown up and are married. I see them regularly, but sometimes it gets lonely when I am at home alone. For the last six years, I have been taking care of three turtles that I found. Having pets definitely helps me feel a little less lonely. I can’t begin my day without checking on my little friends. Any time I pass by a grocer, I buy them their favorite snack, cucumbers." - Fatima, mother (Gaza City, Gaza)
"I started working as a laborer in the seventh grade. At the time, I decided to quit school since my father was a construction worker too. Nothing is easy in construction, and I feel proud of what I've been able to do. My hard work feeds me and my family, and I never have to ask others for money. The only thing I regret is not finishing school. I have five children now and I want all of my children to get an education. I want them to be better than me and become teachers, doctors, architects or business owners. The most important thing I tell them is to dream big." - Fadi, construction worker (Qibia, West Bank)
"I am the mother of 6 children, one of them is a preschooler. In my village, life is very simple and little things make our children happy. Every child is an independent personality and has their own abilities and character. Parents are responsible for boosting their children's' strengths and helping mend their weaknesses. I like for my children to play with colorful toys so they learn the beauty of these colors and then, eventually, the beauty of the world around them." - Kifah, mother (Sawarha, Gaza)
"Every day, I come to this land. The land is my eyes. I've never said I was too busy or tired or I'm not going out today... We are taking care of our land and making sure no one can harm us or take it away from us. Any tree, any fruit, any olive tree or vine tree or grape, I kiss it. I kiss the land because I am living off of it." - Ni'ma, farmer (Beit Duqo, West Bank)
"In Jericho we have checkpoints and barriers... We also have the story of Zacha (Zacharias), who climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus as he entered Jericho. Zacha was very short, but he didn't let that stop him from reaching his goal. The lesson Palestinians take from this story is, despite obstacles, we need to find ways to persevere to achieve our hopes and dreams." - Mario, Franciscan Monk, Church of the Good Shepard (Jericho, West Bank)
Mohamad: “Clinic, community center, social hall… it’s everything really. Shelter sometimes... We know everyone in our community and all the issues they face.” Om Hossam: “They each share with us their hopes, dreams and secrets knowing they can trust us to never tell anyone. Our doors are open for all. That’s why we are here. To serve.” - Mohamad & Om Hossam, Injured Child Association Medical Clinic (Wadi Salqa, Gaza)
“I had difficulty adapting [to arriving in Lebanon from Syria]. I’m the type of person that likes solitude, but I have a passion for learning new things. My mom told me to look for scholarships and that’s how I found Anera. When I got the scholarship from Anera, I felt like, finally I will do something, I will be able to live life on my own, to be independent.” - Rayan, nursing student and refugee of the Syrian War (Sidon, Lebanon)
"I am a doctor because it was my ultimate dream. Of course, the beginning wasn't easy, especially since I studied and specialized abroad in countries that spoke completely foreign languages to me. My parents always encouraged us to get an education and develop ourselves. Among me and my 11 siblings, there is an attorney, a journalist, an engineer and several school teachers. I am the eldest, and usually, when the oldest goes for higher education, the rest follow the lead." - Ismail, doctor (Idhna, West Bank)