NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Experience with Red Cross while growing up in Iraq leads Edmond woman to service with organization in U.S.

Hiba Jameel Photo Provided - 
Photo Provided
Hiba Jameel Photo Provided - Photo Provided

It was wartime, 2003, when 19-year-old Hiba Jameel heard a knock on her family’s door in Baghdad.

Volunteers with the International Committee of the Red Cross had brought pouches of water saying “that the water system might not run in the best quality.”

“They kept delivering water every day and to all residential neighborhoods for weeks despite the dangers and the volatile situation,” Jameel said. “I was very inspired and promised myself to do the same thing one day.”

Jameel, of Edmond, now works in volunteer services in the Central and Western Oklahoma Region of the American Red Cross. She is responsible for recruiting volunteers and placing them in positions.

Jameel kept her promise to herself — where there was a need, whether it pertained to war or weather, she would help.

“The moments I felt blessed are uncountable,” she said.

She vividly remembers helping a man through a program called “Restoring Family Link.”

“The most incredible moment is when I got a call from a gentleman saying ‘I found them.’ We’ve been helping trace his family after losing contacts in a civil war. It was one of these moments that takes your breath away.”

A great example

Jameel’s mother was a pharmacist and worked at a local primary care facility. Her mother helped with the Iraqi Red Crescent before Jameel was born.

“Then when I grew up, my mother told me stories about her time at the Red Crescent,” she said. “Later she started working at the primary care.

“Given the economic sanctions and the political instability in Iraq back in the 1990s, health care and medications were not available to everyone. My mother and the medical cadre went above and beyond to provide the best health care with scarce resources.”

Her own efforts

During Jameel’s junior year at Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad she got a job as a translator for the U.S. Army, and loved it.

“The best days of my life were there,” she said. “I do appreciate what the military has done for the Iraqis and the opportunities they helped us with as youth. So working for them was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot about America, what it means to be a free person and a free woman. I also gained friends for life.”

Jameel journeyed to the United States, joined ROTC in graduate school, the Broncho Battalion at the University of Central Oklahoma, and “tried to join the Army just to give back and join them in their mission which is protecting the American freedom.”

Meanwhile, she searched for ways to help the Army before joining and learned about the American Red Cross “Service to the Armed Forces.” Jameel joined immediately and became a volunteer. She started by following up with families who received emergency services and make sure they received a quality service.

Home and abroad

Then, in 2012, a tornado struck Woodward.

“I received disaster training and became a disaster responder,” she said. “I resumed both service to the Armed Forces duties and then May 2013 tornadoes took place, when I got further disaster training and volunteered many times.”

She witnessed a community coming together to help people who had suffered damages, she said.

“It was an amazing experience and a lesson I told all my family and friends in Iraq about,” Jameel said. “I also helped respond to a house fire in the community of Oklahoma City. I saw the reaction of the people and the firefighters when we provided relief for them. It was very rewarding.”

Ken Garcia is the regional director of communications, for the American Red Cross of Central and Western Oklahoma Region. Jameel’s response to what she saw from the Red Cross in Iraq has re-emphasized the significance of outreach, he said.

“Hearing Hiba’s story truly exemplifies the Red Cross mission. Not just here in the United States but around the world,” Garcia said. “She has a kind heart and a willingness to help others.

“In her role with volunteer services, Hiba is able to take her life experiences and show volunteers just how much that comfort kit or even a hug can bring hope to someone who is at their most vulnerable following emergencies.”

Bryan Painter

Read more ›