A Habit for Humanity: Fatima Abou Nassif (COM’14)

Fatima Nassif, former Editor-in-Chief of the COMmunicator, possesses a remarkable sense of compassion and wisdom. Her enthusiasm for community, travel, and culture acts as a driving force for her humanitarian endeavors. Originally from Beirut, Nassif explored her passion for community service while at BU. During her 2014 spring break, Nassif volunteered in Potrero Grande, Costa Rica on her first Habitat for Humanity trip, a non-profit organization where volunteers build houses for those in need. While abroad in London, Nassif interned at non-governmental organization (NGO), Peace One Day—her first experience in the NGO world.

Professor Clark recalled her first encounter with Fatima Abou Nassif. “I asked her, ‘Why do you want to be the Editor-in-Chief of the COMmunicator?’

Nassif responded, ‘I think that whenever you are in a situation that gives a great deal to you, it is important to give something back. I think the position would allow me to do so.’

I told her she got the job,” Professor Clark said.

After graduating from BU with a Master of Science in PR, Nassif moved to Dubai in 2014. She worked in digital marketing for about a year before she concluded that the corporate world was not her calling. Nassif returned to Beirut in 2015. She currently works at Lebanese International University, where she teaches PR in the Communication department. Nassif loves her job, but a part of her longed for something else.

“I wanted to use my communication expertise to do something with a cause,” Nassif said. “Let’s just say that I had hope in the world.”

On February 4, 2017, Nassif and 14 other volunteers embarked on Habitat for Humanity’s trip to Homa Bay County, Kenya. The project was organized in a five-day working week model with two days focusing on cultural immersion. A typical build day began with commuting to the work site, meeting with local contractors, learning how to mix cement, making foundation pillars, laying bricks, and assembling walls.

Fatima Abou Nassif (left) with her Habitat for Humanity volunteer group in Homa Bay County, Kenya.

The team implemented these new skills to fulfill the contractor’s goals and expectations for a given day. During breaks, the team was encouraged to interact with the people and explore the town.

Fatima (COM’14) and her team working on a house with local contractor John.

“What I find interesting about Habitat Trips is that none of us come from construction backgrounds,” Nassif said. “The age range for this trip was between 18 and 76 years. The team came from different walks of life with one mission in mind: to build a house for a stranger we all signed up to help.”

Nassif’s group’s “stranger” soon transformed into a person Nassif holds close to her heart. Homeowner Susan has suffered from Polio since the age of 14. Her husband has prostate cancer and diabetes, which hinders his ability to work. The couple’s son passed away from AIDS, and left behind two children ages nine and twelve. Lacking an adequate home, the children lived in an orphanage. The children moved into the home Nassif and her team built. “It was a very touching moment to realize we didn’t build a house,” Nassif said with a smile. “We built a home.”

Fatima doing her “daily high five routine” with the school students.

“Just a simple five-day experience changed the course of these children’s lives” Nassif said.

Nassif’s goal is to volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity trip every three to four years. “It just makes you feel alive again,” she said. “I echo one of my teammates, who said, ‘I left a little piece of my heart in Kenya.’ This trip was life-changing.”

Nassif encourages all university students to step outside of comfort zones. She stresses how beneficial international volunteer experiences are for COM students. “I feel that it builds character in a way that no other experience can,” Nassif added. She believes there is a strong focus on networking in an individual’s own market, but emphasizes the importance of exposure to other cultures, opinions, and languages.

“Trust me, as cliché as this might sound, their smiles will be worth the trip.”

 

Shira Levin, Staff Writer

Shira Levin is a sophomore majoring in advertising in the College of Communication. Born and raised in the City of Angeles, Shira is your typical West Coast native attempting to make it through another East Coast winter. Spot her around campus in oversized sunglasses, exercise leggings and blacked-out Nikes.

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