Thanks very much to Colin for forwarding me this material. It tells us more about how important Riad was for his people and how his generosity changed the world for the better. He will live forever in the hearts of those whose lives he has touched.
A few months back I sent an email about Riad Hamad. He was the director of the Palestinian Children’s Welfare Fund and the email described how his home had been invaded and searched by the FBI and all his papers, documents and computers had been taken.
On Wednesday his body was found drowned in a Lake in Austin Texas.
Riad was one of the most generous people I have been honored to have known. Thousands of Palestinian children benefited by his work. But I want to focus on the story of a young family from Lebanon who were directly supported by Riad.
When I was living in Beirut I received a phone call from Riad asking if I would visit a family in Saida, south of Beirut for him. He was sure they needed some specific equipment to help look after their two handicapped children. He also wanted me to find out about the schools that would accept the children and how much the fees would be.
I visited the Palestinian family who were supported solely by Riad. (It is not possible for Palestinian refugees to get paid work in more than 72 professions in Lebanon. The father of the family drove a taxi but this provided little enough money to cover food costs.) The family were wonderfully grateful to Riad. We sat with them for a few hours and listened to them speaking about Riad as if he were a father to them all. It was very moving and I remember writing to Riad on my return to thank him for letting me see the direct effects of his generosity. Out of his own pocket by the way.
Thousands of children have lost a dedicated fighter for their cause. As we have lost a strong comrade.
Ahmad and his family have lost their father. I am hoping to raise some funds for Ahmad’s family in the memory of Riad Hamad. I will visit them in the last week of May and give them whatever donations I have managed to raise by then.
It may help them to continue until someone with the means and as generous as Riad can support them again.
Please if you feel you can give anything contact me or Wissam (my friend in Beirut who made all the visits to the family with me and has also put out an appeal in Lebanon in memory of Riad)
UK contact: Eliza Ernshire.
0044 7506174080 (mobile)
Lebanon contact: Wissam Alsaliby
The following is an extract I received from a close friend of Riad’s and apparently one of the last people Riad spoke to:
Riad Hamad, 1952-2008
“Hi, Riad.” I knew it was him from the caller ID, even though the phone had never been in his own name.
“Hey, Bolos. How you doin’?” He used the Arabic translation of my name.
“I’m good. How about you?”
“I’m OK.” His voice didn’t have the usual energy, but perhaps he was in a place where he couldn’t speak loudly.
“I sent you a couple of email messages.”
“Yes, I saw them.” The messages were about my role in helping with his charitable work on behalf of Palestinians. There were a few things I didn’t understand about the messages, so Riad cleared them up for me. “Now it makes sense,” I said.
“OK. Well, that’s all I wanted to tell you.” Typical Riad. Always in a hurry to get off the phone.
“Wait, I’ve got some good news!”
“Oh yeah? What is it?” He sounded surprised.
“We’re finally getting donations here. A check for a thousand came in today.”
I had set up a nonprofit account to receive donations for Riad’s work.”Was it from __________?”
“Hang on a second.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter.” Still anxious to get off the phone.
“What do you mean it doesn’t matter? I’ve got the name right here. No, it’s from ____________.”
“That’s nice. Well, gotta go.”
“OK. Take care of yourself.”
“You, too, Boulos.”
Those were apparently Riad’s last words, spoken from his car near Ladybird Lake in Austin, Texas. At the time I had thought it slightly odd that Riad was repeating what he had already told me by email. I think he just wanted to hear a familiar voice. The police found the phone and car keys on the seat of the unlocked car. Typical Riad. He was thinking of the person who would find the car.
I wish I had told him that the person who sent the check had also written a letter thanking him for the gifts of handmade Palestinian crafts and other items that Riad had sent as a thank you for a previous donation. He had also included handmade thank you cards from his two young daughters. The older daughter, age 11 had written, “Live in peace on the world. Everybody should LOVE! I am sad because people should be nice to you, but they are not.”
“I have included 2 checks for the needs of Palestinian children. It is my hope that you will use it to create hope for those oppressed. As we both see the dollar’s value sink, the value of life especially in the eyes of the Creator never loses value. I extend this help to you and these children as if they were my own. We have the misfortune in living in very dark times, but in that darkness hope, love, and peace shine like the sun. To those that plant hope, they shall harvest peace.”
Harvest peace, Riad.
SHUKRAN for your work and support