Ummul is currently working on her first book, ‘United Nonsense’. It tells the true story of a start-up in Syria helping traumatised child refugees and abused women, and the efforts of its founders and staff to negotiate the precarious terrain of the humanitarian aid industry. In doing so it asks a key question: in a sector worth over $143 billion, why does only 2% of that money go to local people and local organisations?
Ummul lived in Damascus when the Arab Spring started. It was there she met Tarek Alsaleh, a German-Syrian entrepreneur. Together they founded a capoeira charity, using the Brazilian martial art as a therapeutic tool. When the war in Syria began, Tarek’s family became refugees. But he remained committed to helping young people and wider communities in conflict zones, and from there the charity has grown into an award-winning enterprise.
The story provides the backdrop for a fascinating insight into cultural difference, and a startling analysis of the international aid sector – an arena that continues to belittle, limit and lock out local people from accessing money and support (in spite of the best intentions of many well-meaning professionals). This power balance has a devastating impact on those whose lives are fractured by war and disaster.
The book is a testament to all the people that Ummul worked with during her 10+ years living in the Middle East, and their unique stories of war. Hers is a one-of-a-kind voice and perspective on what happens when a system is not doing what it was designed to do.
She raises moral and ethical questions about the complex world of international aid, and points the way to how we can give, better.
If you would like to find out more about the book and to stay up to date about its launch, please get in touch.