- Published on Friday, 24 February 2012 08:59
- Category: Grand Central Stories
p>Lena Alhusseini has been a leading activist for women and children’s rights around the world for as long as she can remember.
Born in Jerusalem, she currently lives in New York and serves as the executive director of the Arab American Family Support Center (AAFSC), which provides a plethora of services to both new immigrants and established Arab-American families.
Alhusseini said that there wasn’t just one turn of events that made her choose the work that she does. “As a woman in the Middle East, I definitely feel there is a gender difference by the way we are treated socially,” she said.
Alhusseini explained that she went to boarding school in the U.K., but her first job was doing social work in Saudi Arabia. She recalled being in an emergency room helping a pregnant 14-year-old who was legally married the year before. “That was my first shock,” she said.
Then, while in Thailand on her honeymoon, Alhusseini and her new husband took a wrong turn. They found themselves on a road where seven and eight-year-olds were up for sale. “I was sick for three days,” she recalled.
“It was really traumatizing to see kids with that type of abuse,” she said. “Doctors had to return kids back to parents even if they were being abused.”
Alhusseini said it is still a work in progress and they are still trying to create a new system. “The thought of a child totally isolated and not being able to cry for help — its unacceptable that anywhere in the world we would allow this to happen.”
Often asked if her work depresses her, Alhusseini says it’s quite the opposite. “It makes me feel very good that I am able to be involved with the children as their advocate,” she said. “Things will get better because we know about it.”
The AAFSC, which also serves as one of the only settlement houses for Arab-Americans, provides some groundbreaking services, such as a teen dating violence program, literacy programs, youth services, preventive, legal and health programs. They also work with the Administration for Children’s Services, victims of domestic violence and sexually assaulted teens.
“It’s important to help immigrants and acclimate them,” Alhusseini said.
The AAFSC is also a lead partner in the Khalil Gibran International Academy, the first Arabic speaking high school in the U.S.
Alhusseini guaranteed that anything discussed in her offices are confidential. “We have a nice environment where kids can come together and speak in their language [about alcohol and drugs],” she said. “No one in the community will know that they were here. Our professional services remain confidential.”
For more information on Alhusseini or the AAFCS, please visit www.aafcsny.org.By Denise Romano, Aslan Media Columnist
*Photo Credit: aafscny.org
About the Columnist: Denise Romano
Denise is a freelance reporter extraordinaire. She is Brooklyn born and raised with a Print Journalism degree from Brooklyn College. Though not of Middle Eastern descent, she started a blog to tell the stories of Iranians and Iranian-Americans after the 2009 election fallout. Ever since, she has been dedicated to giving voice to those who are marginalized by the mainstream media. When she is not writing, Denise spends time with her husband, sings in a barbershop chorus, cooks Italian food, and watches Saturday Night Live. Because she is in tune with the beat of the Big Apple, she launched this blog to share the everyday concerns of New York's Middle Eastern diaspora communities exclusively with Aslan Media.