Welcome to our next ‘campfire’ story.
The Campfire for the Heart project is a collection of true, international stories of human resilience.
Although every story is unique, they all highlight our ability to adapt positively to bad experiences and showcase our indomitable human spirit.
If you have an inspiring resilience story to share, or know someone who does,
please contact Natalie through www.stockdalewellbeing.com.
"Once you find your way,
everything will be possible as if God or the universe
is waiting for you take action".
My life as a child in Cairo was seen by others as very nice - a good school, maids, a cook and driver. My parents looked cultured and refined, but behind the thin veil of privilege was an abused little girl. My father (a famous author) was violent, big, tall and fat with a very loud voice. He was scary. Back then, it was common for parents to beat their kids and I was beaten for no reason.
One day, when I was four years old, a nun told my father that I was refusing to write, so my father beat me savagely, while it was not true. The truth was that I did not have a pencil to write with! My mother forgot to put one in my school bag! It was unfair and I could not fend for myself. Many other things happened this way and unfortunately, I found no sanctuary with my mother who also beat me a lot. There were no conversations between us. She would give orders harshly and leave me with maids who sometimes also beat me!
My saving angel was my grandmother who treated me how children should be treated- with care, love and compassion. Ma knew I was a smart and sensitive kid, ready to learn. She bought me books, taught me how to be a good person, to practise good manners, to never talk about the money I have, or show others that I was rich.
When I was eight, I had one of those compass-setting moments. While waiting outside my house for a school bus, I befriended a stray, white dog who later faithfully waited for me every day. I shared my school lunch with her and called her La Plus Belle de la Terre, “the most beautiful girl on earth” in French. Then one night, I heard a gunshot outside my house and an unforgettable howling of a dog. Sure enough, Plus Belle was shot.
Like me, Plus Belle was vulnerable and unprotected. From that moment, I was determined to help the most helpless in Egypt- the non-human animals.
I grew up to become a successful career woman, holding the positions of chief translator for Egyptian Satellite Television and Minister of Animal Rights and Environment in the Women's Egyptian Government (a shadow cabinet with the Egyptian Government). However, I never forgot Plus Belle who inspired me to establish the first animal protection organisation in Egypt- Society for the Protection of Animal Rights in Egypt (SPARE).
The resilience I grew as a child helped to prepare me for the challenges I faced when establishing SPARE. I was ridiculed from all social levels and criticised for caring for animals before humans, but when you’re following your heart, you can cope with enormous pressures. In fact, my critics made me more determined to change the mindset that there is shame in defending animals. I would say to them, “the one who will not have mercy on the weak animal will not have mercy on human beings.” We instil compassion towards all life.
Currently, neither the concept nor culture of animal welfare exists in Egypt. 5000 years ago, in ancient Pharaoh times, animals were revered and Egypt was one of the most civilized countries in the world. Today, tragically, it’s a very different place. The Egyptian government controls the dog population with poison and guns. They often only wound the dogs leaving them in the street to die in agony. Even children are drowning or burning puppies and kittens as if it’s a national pastime!
When you follow your passion, the universe supports you in the most unexpected ways. Through a dog I was adopting, I met my husband-to-be, Raouf Mishriki. I used to get so depressed about all the cruelty in Egypt, but Raouf told me to stop crying and get serious about stopping the atrocities. With sheer determination, we overcame a ‘pyramid’ of social and legal obstacles, and finally, SPARE became a registered charity, helping hundreds of dogs, cats, horses and donkeys in Egypt. It also paved the way for other animal protection organisations to form in our country.
I found my inner peace and happiness when I found ‘my way’. When you are in hard times, dig deep for your inner strength. It will be there when you need it. Draw your own life and use courage to not let other people draw it for you. Once you find your way, everything will be possible as if God or the universe is waiting for you to take action. When you follow your heart, the universe will work for you.