The woman who challenged poverty, cancer, and ISIS

She knew there might be traps or improvised explosives waiting for her. She knew ISIS might be there, waiting. But she went anyway. Om Hassan had to see what was left of her home.

The answer, it turned out, was nothing.

Where her family’s house once stood was a charred pile of concrete. “All my sweat and hard work, gone,” she sobbed.

Not long before, Om Hassan and her family had escaped the destructive path of ISIS. After fleeing, their house was burned to the ground. Not even the walls were left standing.

Om Hassan and her family had few places to turn. They couldn’t stay with parents. They had no way to earn a living or provide for their three young children. In desperation, Om Hassan looked at her husband and asked, “What can we do?”

Once again, the answer seemed to be, “Nothing.”

Except, Om Hassan is not the kind of person who settles for “nothing.” Not when it comes to her family.

Instead, she made a sign. In Arabic, it reads: “Hasan’s Mom: Sewing for Ladies.” If her old life was going to be taken from her, Om Hassan was going to build a new one.

That’s where you come into this story. You helped fund an empowerment grant for Om Hassan, which she used to get her sewing business off the ground. Now, she is able to secure her children’s future, even as uncertainty creeps further into her own.

Today, Om Hassan is facing another adversary: cancer. She does not know if she will live or die. But with the profits from her sewing business, she’s able to get treatment and keep her children in school.

“If I die soon,” she says, “I told my daughter to take care of her siblings like a mother.”

Some days, cancer makes it difficult for Om Hassan to keep up with her sewing business. The illness saps her strength. Her hands and feet often ache. Her husband helps around the house, doing what he can to ease the burden for his wife. But there are nights when Om Hassan’s pain is so great that she cannot sleep.

Still, Om Hassan keeps going.

She continues to battle cancer. She keeps on sewing for the sake her children. She dreams of the day when her oldest daughter will finish school. Om Hassan takes pride how she’s been able to build a new life for her family, rather than depending on handouts.

“It is better to work than to beg,” she tells anyone who will listen.

Displaced families like Om Hassan’s don’t need a handout. They need someone to stand with them, empowering them to reclaim their future.

Om Hassan’s future is uncertain because of her illness. But she knows she doesn’t face the future alone. “Thank God, I’m here because you helped me,” she says.

However many days she may have, Om Hassan is using each one to make sure her family is safe.

You can help provide empowerment grants for women like Om Hassan, who refuse to let ISIS have the last word!

Photos: Christine Anderson