Red Cross Volunteering: Nour’s journey to a new life outside Syria
“Volunteering for the Red Cross and helping people outside my home country, Syria, feels as if I’m somehow helping my own people and giving back to them,” says Nour Alyafi, a dedicated long-term volunteer for the Red Cross.
Currently working at Ria’s headquarters in Madrid, where she supports the Middle East, Nour dedicates most of her free time to assisting the Cruz Roja Española (Spanish Red Cross).
This dedication has already seen Nour receive several awards for her volunteer work, both in the USA and Spain, with Her Majesty the Queen of Spain also recognising her for her work with the Spanish Red Cross.
Nour was born in Damascus, Syria, where she studied Audiovisual Communication at Damascus University, not only the largest university in the Syrian Arab Republic but also the oldest dating back to the early twentieth century.
While still studying, she worked as a Data Analyst and provided administrative support at the British Council education facility, an addendum of the British Embassy in Damascus.
Her work as a volunteer for the American Red Cross started back in 2011 when she went with her parents to live in Phoenix, Arizona, USA for a temporary period. Volunteering, she said, opened new horizons in her life and also played a key role in helping her to adapt to different cultures. Steered by her affable nature and seeking to improve her English, Nour sought ways to interact with people, while making herself useful to the local community.
“It was clear to me at that time, that volunteering for the American Red Cross was the perfect institution to provide me with this opportunity,” she explains.
With her five spoken languages – Arabic, Spanish, English, Italian, and French – Nour served as an interpreter to the American Red Cross’ Grand Canyon chapter. She was involved in their health project and trained kids on how to provide CPR assistance.
She returned to Syria but her former employer, the British Council, was closed for security reasons. Nour then decided to go to Spain to finish her academic education. She went on to study Spanish as a second language in Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz.
Nour had planned to return to Syria after her graduation, but as the Syrian Civil War unfolded, her plans to return were halted.
“I never planned to stay in Spain, I wanted to go back home, but my flight was cancelled, and together with other fellow Syrian students, we weren’t allowed to go back,” she explains.
She was then granted a new career path in Spain, working with Ria.
Since September 2016 she has been working in the Customer Service department supporting Ria’s partners in the Middle East.
When asked about her life at Ria, she elaborates excitedly: “I feel at home. My colleagues are not only my peers but also my friends. Ria has also given me the opportunity to assist and get involved in new projects in the Middle East while learning a lot about the finance industry.”
Motivated by a sense of gratitude and driven by her good-natured spirit, she has never stopped contributing as a volunteer worker for the Red Cross. She enrolled with them when first arriving in Cadiz and now continues supporting them in Madrid.
Nour has now expanded her competencies within the Red Cross, including training as an Emergency Medical Technician as well as in preventive health services.
Nour, who wears the traditional hijab, explains, “When I’m at the Red Cross and Ria I don’t feel judged by my culture; I feel accepted and embraced for who I am, for my skills as a professional, and as a hard worker,” she concludes.
For Ria, it’s a privilege to have people like Nour as part of our staff, a woman whose generosity and work with those less fortunate are a shining example of the values we regard so highly.