Almost 10 years ago, United Nations General Assembly named October 11th the International Day of the Girl Child. On this day, we acknowledge and remember the challenges faced by girls all over the world. We also remember individual girls, like Haifa, who display great strength and inspire us with hopefulness.

One Special Girl

Haifa is a refugee from Syria. One day when she was at school in Syria, armed men stormed her class. Guns drawn, they ordered the children under their desks. Her heart pounded in her chest.

Lebanon, Haifa portrait outside, 2018.
Meet Haifa, a refugee girl living in Lebanon.

The stressful events of that day triggered a reaction in Haifa. Her heart didn’t stop pounding. She soon realized she was sick. At the local hospital, blood tests showed that Haifa had diabetes. The doctors said she would have to inject herself three times a day with insulin to prevent dangerously high spikes in glucose.

A Critical Need

Haifa needed insulin to live, but in Syria at this time, there was a shortage of medicine. One trauma led to another, and she began suffering from hyperglycemia. This made her constantly thirsty and caused her heart to pound in her chest. Now it wasn’t just fear and anxiety.

A Mother’s Love

To save Haifa, the girl’s mother decided to flee Syria for Lebanon. She had to whisk her children to safety, and Haifa needed medicine. If they stayed in Syria, Haifa would die.

For the past three years, Haifa and her five younger siblings have been living in a tented settlement on the outskirts of farmland. Haifa’s mom received training from Medical Teams International to become a Refugee Outreach Volunteer. Not only did this training provide her with invaluable information to share with her neighbors, it made caring for her daughter easier. She recognizes the signs of hypoglycemia and knows how to curb it.

“People are the doctors of themselves, so I learned from (our) experience,” her mom says.

Haifa continues to struggle with diabetes. The girl loves to cook and eat but has learned to watch what she consumes. She’s cut out all sweets, something she misses. But she knows taking care of her health is a way for her to be the doctor of herself—mom’s lesson.

Her mom learned about monitoring diabetes from the Medical Teams training. Now, she can impart this knowledge throughout the community. Chronic illnesses like diabetes are common in her community. They are only manageable with the help of trained volunteers like Haifa’s mother and the oversight of Medical Teams International.

Healthy and Hopeful

Haifa is much happier now that she is far from the fighting. Still, her heart longs for her old life in Syria before the war. She said she hopes to one day be cured of her condition, so she doesn’t have to worry about finding medicine.

International day of the girl. This is Haifa. Portrait taken in Lebanon, 2018.

“I have a lot of hopes,” Haifa said. One of those hopes, as broad and bright as her smile, is “to be someone special.”

Like so many other girls, Haifa’s strength and bravery make her special. Thanks to life-saving insulin, she is free from her pounding heart and spiking glucose levels. Now she is 16 years old, and her story brings healing and hope to other girls who face similar health and humanitarian crises.

More Girl Doctors

Haifa and Samira in Lebanon
Haifa with Medical Teams staff member, Samira.

Medical Teams International is training more girls like Haifa to be “doctors of themselves” by providing care and support for girls to understand and repair their health. Girls like Haifa inspire other girls to share her smile despite incredible hardship.

By supporting Medical Teams International, you bring care to girls around the world.  Just like Haifa, these girls get to hope and dream “to be someone special”. The life-saving medical care they receive proves to these girls that they already are special – to God and to us.

You can give the gift of medical care to refugee girls like Haifa.