Tuesday, April 12, 2011


There lives a girl in Um el Sharayet who is like no other girl in Palestine.

When she was born her brothers were detained in Israeli jails and her family went through great hardships. So they named her Sabreen, from the Arabic word for patience.

From the stories she tells me, it must have been obvious from early on that she wasn't going to let the world tell her who to be or how to act. When her mother told her to behave, she did exactly the opposite; when her brothers told her not to get involved in conversations they thought she didn't understand, she raised her voice.

She still does, by the way. Every time they discuss politics, religion, or anything else that she is passionate about.

She came to the office where I work last summer because we were looking for women journalists to take part in a project we were just starting up. Like expected (that is, if you knew her, which we didn't at the time), we noticed quickly that she wasn't like any of the other young women who came for interviews. She wasn't satisfied with just being interviewed. No. She offered to volunteer to help us find more participants, and before we knew it we had five new candidates each day, sent to us by Sabreen.

Not before long, she quit her old job at the TV station she worked with and started working with us instead. As my project assistant.

At first I thought,

"How is this ever going to work? She doesn't speak English, I barely speak Arabic. How are we going to work together?"

And I must admit I was a little bit... well, unhappy with my boss who had hired her.

But that's because I didn't realize that he had just hired the best project assistant (and soon-to-be friend) in all of Palestine, and that she would improve my Arabic tenfold in a matter of months by just being patient with me, overlooking most of my mistakes, and respectfully correcting the ones that were way off target.

Other people I work with will forget to do what they should, or postpone it into a distant future, but Sabreen always does exactly what is expected from her, and then helps me with what she can, and if she doesn't know how to, she will ask me to teach her so that next time she can do it.

This way, and because she has way more spunk than I will ever manage to mobilize in me, she soon took over a lot of the everyday coordination between ourselves, our young trainees and our TV partner. She took on the fights, solved the problems that arose and directed everybody's role in our TV show.

I was left with the slightly more boring evaluation, reporting, donor relations, and the never ending making-sure-we-follow-the-regulations-and-the-budget work. (And the even less exciting project planning and fundraising for new projects, of course. The dark side of development work in a small NGO).

Sabreen had her share of boring work too, mind you; she took over most of our administrative assistant's and our accountant's work as well. Not because they quit, but because she is much more organized than both of them put together.

Anyway, our project is finished now, and the two of us sit in our room with more time on our hands than before. We still work, of course, but with my squiggly Arabic we also find the time to share our life stories, some secrets, and our plans for the future.

But if my planned move back to Sweden comes up, her eyes get teary. And so do mine.

Bookmark and Share


tarek said...

very nice, and yes shes wonderful.

Ruby said...

isn't she? :) thanks

Mirja said...

I love her too! :)