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Hiba ElKhatib (Community Spotlight)

I would say that my family is not the “strict” Arab family that people have in mind. I grew up in an environment where my mother was probably my biggest supporter no matter what I did and she taught me to seek refuge in Allah. A personality-identifying moment for me was when I decided to join the wrestling team in middle/high school. I kind of just joined it and in retrospect, I have to say that it has really helped develop my independent personality. I remember telling my parents that I just joined the wrestling team and from there on forth my mom didn’t miss a single game. She was so vocal in her support for me, that she was easily mistaken as the coach at times!

Being a public health major I joined every pre-health club on campus in hopes to learn more about the space and provide health support to countries in need. However, as much as I learned about other countries in need of medical support, I never felt represented as my country (Palestine) is in need too but was never mentioned unless I brought it up. I couldn’t find any club that was interested in having discussions about the lack of medical amenities in Palestine, let alone taking action about it. I brought this issue up with so many people that I thought it could help me address it but everyone turned a blind eye. It was disheartening; frustrating. So, I decided to solve it myself. During the Summer of 2020, I launched the first public health organization directed toward Palestinians' mental and physical health and their representation in the health realm.

Given my strong personality which was developed over time thanks to wrestling, I was ready to take on the challenges that would arise. I have never backed down from being the voice for others. I have always wanted to represent my people and my country and if that meant standing up in the middle of class and arguing against settler-colonial ideologies, I made sure to do it. Being a founder of an organization that represents the mental health of a community that faces discrimination constantly is not easy. However, I know that this initiative will help exemplify Palestinian sovereignty in the health realm and increase awareness of the health disparities and inequities in my country caused by injustice. You know, I wasn’t born in Palestine, and neither did I experience the pain that my people feel every day, but if I have an opportunity to share their voices and their stories with the world, I will take that responsibility. I want to be a bridge that connects Palestinians with the world and spreads awareness through their stories to the best of my ability.

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