Nisreen Nasser is a Lebanese television producer and music instructor. She holds a Masters degree in Media and Communication, and a Bachelors in Audio-Visual Journalism from the Lebanese University. In 2014, she started an initiative to offer alternative education to children of Syrian and Palestinian refugee camps and underprivileged zones in Lebanon. In April 2015, she quit her career in television and co-founded Solidarity Through Humanity, an initiative that allows towns and communities around the world to come together and raise funds to support people in crisis. STH started a ripple effect across the United States, Europe and Asia promoting the concept that every single person can make a huge difference in someone else’s life, and that saving lives does not really take superheroes… it simply takes hope, a good intention and continuity.
Hope and Faith in Humanity Restored! with Nisreen Nasser #isharehope Episode 93
Summary: Nisreen’s answer to the five questions! Listen to the full conversation on the player above; also available on iTunes, Stitcher and Soundcloud.
Question 1: How do you define hope or what is your favorite quote about hope?
Hope is the belief that nothing is impossible and you are not alone. Humanity will never fail you if you just put out your good intentions and most importantly, put your ideas and thoughts into something practical. It is so important to be practical about hope. It’s not just wishful thinking. It’s doing. It’s action.
Question 2: Who has shared the most hope with you?
Every single phase of my life had a person who touched me in a certain way. My mother had really a huge role. The first phase of my life was my mother. At some point, there is an amazing human being, her name is Shannon Brandt. She is the one who helped outwork Solidarity Through Humanity with me. There are leaders who work with me on this journey. There is an amazing friend, her name is April Centrone. She has been teaching in refugee camps with me for about three years. There’s an amazing friend also, her name is Rea. She has been supportive to me in many situations. There are friends and their names are Adrian and David. They have faith in me and they have my heart and told me “you can really do this”. I was so hesitant about can I really help 600 people and they were like, “of course you can”. Their help and their faith actually helped me give hope to others.
Question 3: How have you used hope to make it through a difficult time in your life?
Every person has a story and sometimes when I meet people and I see a certain behavior, I would say, okay, don’t judge. These people must have had a story. For the first time I am sharing this story and even my family and friends are going to be a bit shocked with what I’m about to say.
Lebanon has been a troubled country for years. In the seven years, we have a civil war and we have no idea about the numbers of casualties. The Lebanese themselves were fighting and it was a really sad period in Lebanon. My father wanted to really stand up for those who weren’t able to defend themselves. My father became this political activist and he took bullets for people. He took bullets so that other people can live, other people can just escape with their kids to somewhere safe. He had to pay a price for that and he was taken into custody for 13 years. My father was imprisoned for his political activity and for doing what was right back at the time. For 13 years, I didn’t see my father and me and my mother, my sister and my brother had to figure ways to survive – not to live, to survive.
We had to evacuate the house we were living in and we had to move into a very, very humble place. We didn’t have doors. We used bed sheets to cover the door to keep the cold outside. Sometimes we had to burn charcoal to stay warm in winter. For 13 years, we had to find ways to go to school. We had to study by the candlelight to get a scholarship because we couldn’t afford books and the school fees. I got sick a lot as a kid and we couldn’t even afford my medication. I remember I had to skip school because I wasn’t able to walk at some point. My weight dropped to 25 kg when I was a teenager. I got really sick.
It was a fight. Every single morning it was a fight to go to school, to make a living. When my brother graduated from school, he had to work to support our family, then my sister, then me. We had to take roles. After 13 years, my father was released.
I don’t have a clear memory of my father. I was just eight. I didn’t have a male figure in my life for 20 years and my brother had to travel abroad, so it was me, my sister and my mom. As a result, I suffered from clinical depression. Last week, I was really having a really severe depression and anxiety attack. It used to break my heart to see my family, my mother feeling helpless. I have no appetite for life. I have no dreams, no hope, no aspirations – nothing. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t know what I’m going to do during the day. Waking up was an accomplishment. What did you do today? I managed to wake up.
It was so paralyzing. Depression was so paralyzing. Very few people understand how to deal with a depressed person, so I was in a really, really dark place. When I started doing what I was doing, helping people, helping people who need you started pulling me out of that dark place. “They need me. I have to be there for them.” I have been doing so much better doing what I’m doing. These people, the refugees, the underprivileged children, they are the ones who give me hope.
Question 4: How are you sharing hope today?
Solidarity Through Humanity started between Lebanon and New York. There is a small town upstate New York called Beacon. The women there started a bake sale and they raised $3500 and sent it to me and I bought heating fuel and it went to 600 refugees. A small town called Point Pleasant Beach in New Jersey gathered themselves and some musicians and had a fundraising concert. The women also started baking and raised money which provided another month of heat for winter. The word kept spreading in the United States. It reached California and someone there named Vicky asked if she could help. She had a fundraiser and raised $8000 with a music performance. Another accomplished woman, Loretta Sanchez heard about the initiative and she sent me all the way to Lebanon with a certificate. The word kept spreading and even universities, teenagers helped with the fundraising. The ripple effect kept growing and reached Taiwan and raised money through a concert.
I tell you, the people out there in the world really want to help. Humanity will always win over war. War can always destroy, but humanity and peaceful people around the world can bring these families back.
If every town in the world can adopt a refugee camp, can adopt a shelter, you can’t imagine the change that you can do. It doesn’t take much.
People think that saving lives or helping people needs funds, but actually it’s just people who have good intentions gathering and having fun selling muffin and cookies with good music. It can make a huge change in the lives of many people.
Question 5: How should I (the listener) begin to grow in hope or share hope today?
(1) Hope has to start within you. Have faith in yourself.
(2) Be a good listener.
(3) Just be your effective self as much as you can.