In the womb of suffering Hope is born.
Likewise, Nawal Al-Soufi was the means of rescue for groups of Syrian refugees from the rough, choppy seas.
Mama Nawal, as the Syrian refugees call her, is a Moroccan woman who lives in Italy and devotes herself to saving refugees on crowded boats that could sink anytime in the Mediterranean Sea. These migrants are human beings that face the fate of drowning as they travel in huge groups on plastic boats; among them are the elderly, women, and small children.
It all started when Nawal used to pass by the train stations from time to time to meet the arriving refugees, check on them, and provide assistance. In addition, Nawal used to give them her phone number, hence, her number got circulated and she became the sole link between the refugees in the middle of the sea and the Italian coastguard. After that, Nawal got used to receiving many calls from the migrants.
The refugees consider Nawal as their mother. She has a strong, warm, relationship with them, as she always treats them with kindness and generosity.
Although Nawal faces a lot of obstacles on her way to helping these people, her passion and empathy strengthens her resolve and beats all the odds.
In her interview with Al-Jazeera by Sheila MacVicar, Mama Nawal mentioned a situation which happened to her, where 17 refugee boats were seeking aid in the middle of the sea all at once. She received an extensive number of calls from eight boats of them. Eventually, all eight boats were rescued!
On May 28th of this year, Nawal Al-Soufi was granted the Arab Hope Maker Award by Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The winner was chosen by a three-judge panel and through a voting process by the audience.
“I do not turn off my phone at all,” said Nawal during the ceremony. She communicates with those desperate human beings in order to locate their positions before sending the information to the Coast Guard. This initiative did save a lot of individuals who were forced to flee from the fateful death that many others faced as they were attempting to cross the sea and reach the coast.
Moreover, Ahmad Alshugairi, one of the panel’s judges, asked her about her motive and then followed his question stating, “you could’ve turned your cell phone off after the first call, you could’ve taken the easy road, but you choose to help those people.” She replied, “The reason I didn’t turn this cell phone off is that I am not Nawal! I am Jasmine, Ala’, Bara’, Mostafah, Mohammad … I am everybody who couldn’t make it to the coast, alive!” Then she added, “The word Mama Nawal has many meanings behind it, one of them is the sensation that pervades my heart once a person calls me from the sea, and I feel like he\she is already a part of me, as if I am entering the labor stage, as if I am a mother in pain. That magnificent moment when the coast guard finds the refugees is the moment of birth, the moment that every mother craves when she knows that her baby took his first breath.”