Mosque in Virginia Starts Hospital Visiting Program

21 August, 2016

A young member of a Muslim religious center near Washington, D.C. has created a program for people who are suffering health problems. But the program does not try to heal their bodies; it aims to help their hearts.

Eliya Hammad is a Palestinian student at George Washington University. She encourages volunteers to visit people who are in the hospital who do not have friends or family members who can visit them. She created the volunteer program at the Darul Hijra mosque in Falls Church, Virginia.

Some people who come to the United States do not yet have friends or family members in their new home. Being alone in the hospital can make even small medical problems seem major. Hammad says this experience happened to her.

"I'm here in this country mostly without my family. I have, like, a stone in my kidney and it's a one-day surgery, but I felt the need. A lot of people, they don't have family here."

So in 2009, Hammad created a program to send visitors to lonely people in the hospital. More than 30 people volunteered in the first year of the patient visitor program.

Reverend Graham Bardsley is the chaplain of Virginia Hospital Center.

"Visitors from the mosque have badges that look very much like mine -- a picture, an indication of the fact that they've had a TB test, which is required annually, for the protection of the patient."

Lyali Khalf is one of the volunteers.

"I started (with) the program in January. And I visit approximately between three or four patients a day. So maybe about 12 to 15 patients a week."

Surraya Hussain is also a volunteer.

"Minimum is once a week. But sometimes I come by myself because I have the kids, so sometimes I sneak (in at) nighttime, when it's not a visitation time. And I can talk to them."

Imam Johri Abdul Malik is one of the leaders of the Darul Hijra Islamic Center.

"The people who come and visit patients in the hospital, many times we think they're giving something to the sick person. Really? That is between you and Allah -- that you gave a gift to a person who is sick or who had a baby and you were there."

Hammad says it is not easy to find volunteers for the program. But she and her team say they will continue the program because it is so rewarding.

I'm Christopher Jones-Cruise.

VOA's Tabina Naeem reported this story from Falls Church, Virginia. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

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Words in This Story

mosque – n. a building that is used for Muslim religious services

kidney – n. either of two organs in your body that remove waste products from your blood and make urine

surgery – n. medical treatment in which a doctor cuts into someone's body in order to repair or remove damaged or diseased parts

chaplain – n. a religious leader who performs religious services for a military group (such as the army) or for a prison, hospital, etc.

badge – n. a small object (such as a tag, pin, or metal shield) that is worn or held up by a person so that it can be easily seen, that has writing (such as a person's name) and often a picture on it, and that shows who the person is

TB – n. abbreviation for tuberculosis, a serious disease that mainly affects the lungs

approximately – adj. close in value or amount but not precise

sneak – v. to move quietly and secretly in order to avoid being noticed

rewarding – adj. giving you a good feeling that you have done something valuable, important, etc.