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A Change of Heart: #SuccessStories

#SuccessStories is a new series highlighting inspiring stories from clients, employees, volunteers, and/or any other AAFS affiliates. It is our belief that genuine love for the community we serve combined with hard work leads to nothing short of magic. Our first Success Story submission is from Salah-Aldean Abdullah, one of AAFS’s social services case workers.

“When I found out that you guys help out with electricity, I couldn’t help but think: Cr*p! I’m going to have to deal with these camel jockies,” she said loudly, walking into the AAFS office. “I’m very angry,” she repeated as I directed her to a chair so she can sit while she informed me of the poor conditions she was living in. Her basement had flooded, electricity had been out for days, mold was growing in the basement and the intense heat was only exacerbating her situation.

As my client, who was a white female in her fifties, continued explaining her situation, I began to understand exactly what she was feeling. Despite her racist comments upon first arriving, she was clearly anxious about her distressing circumstances and having to seek help from people she had never interacted with was daunting. As she spoke to her frustrations, the woman began to recognize my patience and empathy at this realization and softened. She acknowledged my efforts and demonstrated a sense of trust in me.

Fast forward a couple days after our initial meeting. Work continued non-stop as it usually did with an overload of clients filtering in and out. My client came in demanding an update on her hardship application. Together, we reached out to the necessary contacts and found a way to expedite the application process. Finally, she had electricity again!

A while after her application successfully went through, my client came in one day to say hello. She explained to me and my coworker how her negative feelings and attitudes towards Arabs and Muslims have quickly altered after seeking our services. She further informed us that she even told her friends about AAFS and about the positive and gracious manner of “our people.”

While this is only one out of countless great experiences I’ve had as a case worker at AAFS, this story in particular demonstrates the incredible power of communities coming together for a shared purpose to empower one another. Through this interaction, I’m happy to say our client changed her previously negative opinions about Arabs and Muslims. Till this day, she is a client we look forward to seeing in our office.

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