In May 2012, I had the chance to participate in a program called CSR in Action. Participants had to apply Corporate Social Responsibility practices by working in a group of three on a sustainable project that helps the Lebanese community.
I personally worked with 2 other women on a cause that we really believe in: helping people fighting chronic diseases to find a job. Unfortunately, one of the team members left the group one month later due to personal reasons. And, here I am, working on a project, called Forsati, with one partner, a young, friendly, enthusiastic and extremely hard worker lady, Rima.
Forsati’s main mission was to help people with special medical conditions such as thalassemia, hemophilia, multiple sclerosis and others, to find a suitable job opportunity in Lebanon and to be financially and psychologically independent even if they depend on medication. Well, it was definitely a new yet hard to apply idea especially in Lebanon where there isn't a law to protect those people from discrimination while working or searching for a job.
Ever since our first meeting as a group during the workshop, I have been told that Rima is a cancer survivor. She had Leukemia in the past, of which she was cured and is living a very healthy life ever since. I worked with her on Forsati for 6 months. During this period, we were seeing each other every day to work, discuss ideas and assign tasks. We partnered with some corporate institutions and NGOs in Lebanon, we recruited candidates, we organized events and we even created a motivational video about a person suffering from heart disease. Everything we worked on was hard but we were extremely passionate and motivated.
As a marketer, I didn't find difficulties in doing all the activities but discovering the chronic diseases, meeting with the candidates and interviewing them was something unusual and different. Although I was a member in the Lebanese Red Cross, youth section, and I've already worked with lots of unprivileged people, this time it was different because I had to ask our candidates very sensitive and personal questions related to their medical problems and their capacities. In this area, Rima was the expert. She knew what to ask them during the interview. She knew how to approach them and how to address them. In her eyes I could easily see the fact that one day she was feeling what they’re feeling and that was the different part. In addition to the technical terms to some diseases, medicines and kinds of treatments, I was learning from her the skills of interviewing candidates who are suffering and looking for hope. She was just excellent! She was relying on me concerning the marketing which is an easy part compared to what she was doing during the interviews and while matching the vacancies we have with the candidates' profiles and capabilities. At the end, any team can work on the business part with the help of a mentor but no one can easily deal with those people and help them the way she did.
During our last week and while we were preparing our final report, I finally had the courage to ask her about her story. She told me what she went through and how she fought the disease with strength and faith. When she saw tears in my eyes, she tried to reassure me by saying: “Don’t worry, don’t worry, I am fine now. It has been 4 years and I am healthy, my tests results are amazing. I am really happy”.
Rima's positivity and strength were so inspirational they made me ask myself: If Rima hadn't had cancer one day, would she be able to work on this project the same way? Would she had the same passion while dealing with Forsati candidates? Definitely not.
Forsati didn't win the final prize but it was one of the best projects, and people’s feedback was amazing not only because we worked hard, but because there was a painful story behind it.
I remember in Helen movie where Helen and her friend were suffering from a clinical depression. Helen’s husband asked her about this friend: “What does make her so special?" Helen simply answered: “She doesn't ask me what I feel…she knows”.
One day, Rima knew and felt what Forsati’s candidates were feeling and this was the secret of our success.
Rima is celebrating today her 5th year of winning the cancer’s fight. This post is dedicated to her and to all survivors.