Leaving the once beautiful Lebanon behind, 1984 saw Dee and her family flee the impacts of a raging civil war in pursuit of a better life in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Life would not be easy for Dee, her five sisters and brother, but the tenacity of her parents and the charity of others would inspire Dee to become a Chosen child sponsor many years later.
"When we migrated, we were helped by charity organisations. Although my parents came as migrants we still started from scratch. They came from a war-torn country and charities helped us,” recalls Dee. Paying it forward Dee’s family strived to help others, understanding the value of support for people in need as life opened up with possibilities for them.
When Dee’s parents arrived in Australia, they couldn’t speak English and came literally armed with a suitcase but through a combination of will and opportunity they would go on to run businesses and buy property, giving their seven children a good life. “They left everybody and everything to come to a foreign country, a foreign culture … they’re survivors. Whenever I’m having a hard time, I think about what they went through,” said Dee.
Conscious of her parents sacrifices, Dee who would go on to study Information Systems at University shared the learnings of her upbringing with her own children, her son Aiza 10 and daughter Mayada who is 13. Never leaving food on the plate or the lights switched on when not in the room, were lessons imparted by her parents and while she thought them annoying at the time, she now realises it is because her parents were always in survival mode. And to this day Dee always has as stockpile of perishables because the memory of the struggles of Lebanon and her migration to Melbourne is never too far away.
Dee grew up in a loving family and a tight-knit community enriched by Lebanese culture. Her love of family compelled her to reach out to others. “There’s a lot of people in need but I couldn’t think of anything more important than a child,” says Dee, “… our childhood shapes us to be who we are and that our start in life whether you have things or don’t … can make or break us, and if my sponsoring a child can change a life then I think I’ve hit my life goals.”
Dee joined another community when she welcomed Swahim into her life. Swahim, 8 years old chose Dee at a choosing party in Nabukalu, Uganda. For the first time children can chose their sponsors and Swahim chose Dee. But the greatest gift was the choice itself. Now Dee will step into a life-changing relationship with Swahim, his family and community, and help shape a brighter fuller future for all.
“I think I’m probably going to get more out of it than my sponsor child because there’s comfort in knowing that I’m contributing. I can already tell by his personality … he is an amazing kid. He’s going to go places and he’s going to do great things,” says Dee.
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