Dian and I became friends in 2004, as young mothers we bonded instantly and our friendship deepened. On December 26, 2004, the Tsunami, struck her homeland in Aceh, Indonesia. Not only did she lose 40 of her close relatives and friends, but she also witnessed her entire homeland shatter to pieces. That tsunami took more than 225,000 lives with 170,000 from Aceh alone, leaving behind many orphaned children.
Dian was shaken, the images of destruction and suffering affected her to the core. A group of her closest friends stood by her and offered to help in any way possible. Dian realized that no number of tears would change anything so she felt compelled to take action and turn the tragedy into something meaningful and positive. Within two weeks, we launched Project Noordeen to help orphaned children in Aceh. Dian’s uncle donated the land and that first home in Aceh became a success story, which allowed us to expand and help more than 1000 children around the world. Here’s the link to the video on how it all started
I feel fortunate that Dian trusted me, counted on me, and included me on this amazing journey. I needed something meaningful to add meaning and purpose to my own life. It’s been an honour and privilege for me to be one of the founding members and a lifelong volunteer. Even after moving to Canada, I continued volunteering to manage the GiveLight website alongside a dedicated team.
It has been my dream to visit our first home in Indonesia ever since. As a new mother, back in 2004, I was moved to see the picture of a little girl in a bright yellow frock named Soraya (same age as my daughter Sanaz), who had lost her father in the Tsunami and was left orphaned. I immediately took on her sponsorship and watched her grow over the years. Sanaz and Soraya kept in touch through letters and reading stories over Skype. This year as Sanaz graduated from high school, so did my distant girl Soraya. Little did I know that my dream of meeting her and visiting other children at Noordeen home would become a reality. Dian called me one fine day in June asking if I’d like to join her on a visit to Indonesia this July. I made the beautiful intention and the stars aligned. I started my journey on July 7th and got back on July 18th, spending incredible 10 days that have truly been life changing.
I was nervous just about everything regarding the trip, but most of all about how I would travel alone by myself. Dian reminded me that making a pure intention and putting my faith in Allah swt was the key and things would just fall in place. Before I knew, Sajida, a GL supporter and a dear friend agreed to join me wholeheartedly. I was over the moon to have her as my travel buddy and we embarked on this beautiful adventure together.
After 30 hours from Toronto via Hong Kong, I met Sajida in Kuala Lumpur (KL). She and her brother were very gracious to drive me around KL and tour the key monuments including KLCC twin towers. We enjoyed great Malay food and then rested at a hotel. Next day we took our flight to a city called Medan in Indonesia. Upon arrival we were shocked to find out that our next flight to Takengon was cancelled. Dian messaged and reassured that she would be finding a taxi with a good driver to drive us to Takengon the next day. We were nervous about a 10 hour road trip in a new country but then put our complete trust in Allah swt and rather decided to enjoy the halal KFC iftar at the airport! Next day after Eid Salat at the airport musallah and a hearty Indonesia buffet breakfast at the airport hotel, we waited for the driver to call.
When I went to check out at the hotel counter, I was pleasantly surprised to meet our driver. There was Dian and I screamed with pure joy! It was her plan all along to surprise us on the flight to Takengon. She along with her sister Lilly and son Ammar had just flown in from Jakarta. The road trip was absolutely amazing with all this beautiful company! We got a real feel of the country driving through little villages with beautiful mosques every couple kilometres.
We arrived at Noordeen home around midnight greeted by Uncle Samsuddin and were treated to some comfort food by Nada, the home chef. There was a comfortable guest room provided to us and we caught up on some good restful sleep. The next morning, we woke up to a beautiful recitation of the Quran and the Fajr azaan. As we started our Salat at the home musallah, the girls started lining up in neat rows. Our hearts simply melted as they greeted us after the Salat, kissing our hands and holding to their forehead, a beautiful Indonesian greeting.
None of the girls wanted to go back to sleep and were excited to take me on an early morning walk to the lake to watch the sun rise. What I experienced was simply amazing! The Noordeen home is nested in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains right next to a lake. It’s like a piece of paradise on Earth.
The day proceeded with celebrating Eid. We had four Qurbanis done and while the boys participated in cutting the meat, the girls helped with marination and making more than 400 skewers of Satay! Alhamdulillah it was a blessed and joyous celebration.
The next day we went for an 8km hike up and down the mountain. The children were faster than the adults. Upon reaching the top of the mountain they rested, ate snacks and enjoyed playing on swings. The views on top of the mountain were simply breathtaking! Later in the day we did English and Arabic calligraphy lessons with the children and read stories together. We also had a Quran recitation competition and a games night playing charades, crossword puzzles and all. I had taken along some board games like Spot it and Exploding kitten which the kids really enjoyed.
Another highlight of the trip was picnic at the lake. Some children swam and the older children had organized outdoor games such as fishing game, eating “ keropok” on a string without using their hands and marble-and spoon race in which children had to balance the marble on a spoon and race it to the finishing line. It was thoroughly enjoyable to see the children compete and cheer for one another.
The next morning, Sajida and I treated the kids to some home made Canadian pancakes. Dian had brought along some delicious syrups donated by Wabry Syrups. Later in the day I taught the older ones coding and making games with a program called Scratch. We spent time with the graduates giving them advice and guidance before they move to their respective Universities Inshallah.
Dian did a careful survey of the home having visited after a long period due to COVID travel restrictions. With your kind donations we first undertook the masjid renovation project. The children scraped old paint and the walls were painted with fresh new colors. The children also painted their desks and replaced old vinyl. Here are the before and after pictures.
KFC treats are something the kids look forward to and that what we ordered for the next day. And the night was all about presentations, cultural music, graduation ceremony and party. We were all left with overwhelming emotions as this would also be our last night at the home.
Farewell day arrived as the tiny tots bid their goodbyes at the home while the older kids can to see us off at the airport on their motorbikes and scooters. We split up on Medan catching our flight back to to Kuala Lumpur while Dian, Lilly and Ammar headed to Jakarta. After a night at KL, Sajida and I were Toronto bound leaving with many special memories and hopes of taking this beautiful project to new heights.