After a decade-long battle with illness, Nawaf Mohamed Alfares, a Syrian refugee in Jordan, underwent vital surgeries that saved his life. Previously, he had given up hope of recovery. Now he embraces his second chance at life with profound gratitude.
Struggles in Jordan
Nawaf, 67, is a native of Aleppo in Syria. Even before the civil war in his country, life was challenging for him. A farm laborer, he moved wherever there was employment and lived with limited means on the land of other people.
He and his family fled the Syrian civil war in 2013. They found themselves in Jordan, facing similar struggles. Nawaf is a father of four, two boys and two girls, and now resides in Mafraq, close to the border of Jordan and Syria. His eldest son, 25-year-old Rakan Nawaf Alfares, is married with four children of his own and serves as the entire family's sole breadwinner.
Life in Jordan is difficult for Syrian refugees, especially in the Mafraq Desert; they endure harsh sandstorms, scorching hot summers, and freezing cold winters. The family of 12 resides in a tent that barely protects them from the elements. Rakan’s income from daily labor can barely cover the family’s living costs, let alone pay for his father’s medical expenses.
Desperate for A Cure
For 10 years, Nawaf was suffering from a tumor in his bladder, a hernia, and an enlarged prostate; his condition was getting worse. On May 26, 2023, his son accompanied him to seek help from Dr. Mohanad, one of the TIMA doctors at Tzu Chi’s Medical Day in Mafraq. Leaning on crutches and carrying a urine bag, he arrived with little expectation.
Tzu Chi's Intervention
Tzu Chi accepted Nawaf's case, with Dr. Mohanad arranging surgery for his hernia in June. He was also referred to a urologist, Dr. Bahaa, for the bladder tumor and enlarged prostate. By August, Nawaf’s condition had worsened; the tumor had taken over almost all of his bladder, causing him unbearable pain.
He went to Basheer Hospital, a public hospital in Amman. Since the tumor had been there for 10 years, the doctor estimated that surgery to remove it would cost 3,000 Jordanian dinars (US$ 4,230). During the initial assessment, Tzu Chi offered to pay for half the surgery. However, not wanting to ask more from Tzu Chi, Nawaf and his son decided to make do on their own. Instead, Rakan borrowed 500 dinars (US$705) to help his father get a urinary catheter inserted and returned home without further treatment.
In September, when Tzu Chi volunteers learned that Nawaf’s condition had worsened, they immediately went to visit him. At the time, he was feeling helpless and expressed acceptance of his fate. But, wanting to see what more could be done, the volunteers appealed to Dr. Bahaa once again. They shared with Dr. Bahaa the work that Tzu Chi does and its spirit of Great Love. Moved, Dr. Bahaa decided to reduce the surgery fee to 2,000 dinars (US$2,820). In October, with costs fully covered by Tzu Chi, the tumor in Nawaf’s bladder was successfully removed at Kindi Hospital, Amman. During the operation, Dr. Bahaa discovered that Nawaf did not have an enlarged prostate, so the medical bill was reduced again by 500 dinars (US$705). After surgery, when Nawaf was pushed out of the recovery room, he repeatedly thanked Master Cheng Yen and Tzu Chi for relieving him of his decade-long suffering and giving him hope to live again.
Gratitude Knows No Boundaries
When Tzu Chi volunteers returned to Mafraq on October 13, 2023, to distribute relief goods, Nawaf walked 30 minutes to the distribution site just to see the volunteers and expressed his gratitude. He said that Tzu Chi's support had alleviated his suffering and restored his desire to live. Once again, he wished to thank Master Cheng Yen, Tzu Chi Foundation, the Taiwanese people, and all Tzu Chi volunteers.
Nawaf's journey to recovery is a testament to the profound effect of love and how hearts are interconnected – both recipients and volunteers have found true joy through the shared experience of compassion and gratitude for life.
Story by Lamiya Lin from Jordan