24May2024

SCM Medical Missions

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Category: Refugees

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Community EventsHumanitarian AidLebanonPalestineRefugees

Supporting Gaza Children Event

The SCM clinic in Lebanon recently held an event to show support for the children in Gaza. The clinic staff and volunteers welcomed the community to share in this event, to gather and enjoy each others company and participate in activities like painting and games, and showing thier support for the children suffering in Gaza. The families that visit the clinic come from the surrounding neighborhood and are Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian.

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LGBTQNewsRefugees

SCM Board Member to be Honored at Benaroya Hall for LGBTQ Refugee Rescue Work

SCM Medical Missions is proud to announce that board member Michael Failla will be honored at the Seattle Men’s Chorus production of Love Beyond Borders on February 18, 2024 at Benaroya Hall. Failla is being recognized for the work he has been doing, and continues to do, to rescue LGBTQ+ refugees in countries that put them at risk for their lives for being gay. He has been the driving force behind SCM’s efforts, including fundraising and identifying aid recipients, and he helps to relocate them to countries that will accept them for who they are. He is literally saving lives with his work. You can read more about his work, which has continued in earnest since the date of this article, at the following link:

https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/28/us/michael-failla-lgbqt-refugees-middle-east-cec/index.html

LGBTQ+ people are among the most vulnerable of all refugee groups. In the original oratorio, Love Beyond Borders, Seattle Men’s Chorus celebrates the power of love. Compelling video interviews are woven throughout this extraordinary, one-of-a-kind concert. Hear the inspirational songs and stories of refugees escaping persecution in this must-see performance, February 18, 2024.

More information on the performance and tickets is available here: https://www.seattlechoruses.org/2023/09/09/love-beyond-borders/

Promotional video of the concert: https://youtu.be/RKDm4cOWXsU

More about the concert and Michael Failla’s work

by Michael Failla

“Love Beyond Borders” Concert: February 18, 2024

Please stream or join us live at the “Love Beyond Borders Concert” that is debuting in Benaroya Hall in Seattle on February 18, 2024.

This is the first concert of its kind, written about LGBTQI refugees.

Paul Caldwell, the director of the Seattle Men’s and Women’s Chorus’ was inspired after seeing “Out of Iraq” to write a concert about LGBTQI refugees. He asked me to introduce his chorus members and songwriters to some of the refugees I was helping. Soon, some of the refugees, who were in hiding and in active migration and struggling to stay alive were communicating from their hiding places on What’s App or attending zoom meetings to talk with and inspire the songwriters and chorus members.
Out of Iraq” is the dramatic love story of Nayyef; an Iraqi translator for the US Marines and Btoo; an Iraqi soldier. They met and fell in love in Ramadi, during the most dangerous time and place of the Iraq war.

The movie illustrates the dangers and hardships LGBTQI people go through to become safe, free and resettled. It will keep you on the edge of your seat and have you both laughing and crying. It won two Emmy’s in 2016. Nayyef and Btoo are a very happy and successful couple in the Seattle area. They continue to help and inspire LGBTQI refugees world-wide.

“Thank-you SMC!” from Nayyef and Btoo

World of Wonder Video app for “Out of Iraq”

United Nations /Samantha Powers / UNHCR panel discussion

Many of the chorus members became very involved in supporting the refugees during their darkest days.
Their love and support were lifesaving and amazing! Thank you Seattle Chorus’!.

“Love Beyond Borders” concert article

One of the songs; “Love you in the Light” was inspired by Ibrahim and Mahmoud, a young, loving Syrian couple who were “outted” in the Syrian military. After being imprisoned and tortured for several months they escaped with bullets flying over their heads. They escaped over border after border through the forests of the Balkan trail at night hoping to cross the Hungarian border and reach freedom in Holland.

Videos of Ibrahim and Mahmoud crossing borders and thanking Chorus

The border was impenetrable. There were roving bands of criminals preying on refugees. It was time to give up. We found a place for them to hide in a country where they were illegal. Gary and I called them on video chat. They were sad. We were sad. I played them the song written by Bonnie McKee and inspired by their love story. We watched them start to smile and hug each other. Gary and I hugged each other. We all had a good cry and found the strength to move forward.

“Love you in the Light”: Trailer

Ibrahim and Mahmoud were resettled to Canada in May 2022. They are happy and building new lives.
Jasem and Mahmoud were attacked and beaten several times as they fled and hid in several countries in the middle east. Gary and I applied to sponsor their resettlement to Seattle. Their application was approved. They arrived on November 11, 2019. We welcomed them at Seattle Airport with a large group of chorus members. Two days later we took them to the Chorus’ yearly retreat. They were welcomed by 300 LGBTIQQ chorus members onto the stage. I watched in tears. It was hard for me to imagine what it must have been like for these 2 young people who hid their identities their entire lives to be welcomed by so many so openly.

Soon they were invited to spend holidays and dinners with the chorus members who also helped them find jobs and housing. Thank you, Seattle, Chorus”

Jassem and Mahmoud and the chorus video

Here are some additional links you might find interesting:

Digital Underground:

Zona PVR Magazine article, 2023

LIFELINE

In October 2021, after the allies had left Afghanistan, one of my friends put me in touch with people who were getting evac flights out of Afghanistan. They gave me nineteen seats.

It was hard to pick who would get the seats. We prioritized kids who were so effeminate; they couldn’t hide. Some traveled for 10 hours through multiple Taliban check points disguised in traditional clothing. It was scary! We had them wipe their phones clean. They had codes to remember my phone number. When they got to the airport, they reinstalled What’s App and called me. When the final 2 arrived and called they all started to cheer. I had to get on the phone and tell them.

“Boys Behave! You are not safe! This is a Taliban run Airport!”

They arrived at a large refugee facility in Abu Dhabi for 9+ months. They were not allowed outside. Many fellow Afghan refugee inmates were continually harassing them. They called them “sissy boys” and other derogatory names. Some were physically attacked. Their depression and suicidal ideation were huge. All I could do was to encourage them toward the future – to count their blessings that they were alive, and someday would be free. That “someday” has finally happened. They are now “free” and beginning new lives in Canada.

In October 2021 CNN interviewed me about LGBTQI refugees. It was shortly after coalition forces had withdrawn from Afghanistan. For several years I had been helping 8 to 12 refugees at a time. That number has since grown to over 200 at a time.
Here is the Interview:

CNN article about Michael Failla

Hiding:
In August 2021, I received a desperate call from two young men who I was helping to hide from the Taliban. They were targets because they are LGBTQ, Hazara, and were Christian converts. They were sobbing. Taliban fighters were searching for them door to door. Soon they would be at their door. They were afraid of being burned alive or beheaded. They decided to go to the roof to do a suicide jump. Both boys had seen their father savagely murdered by the Taliban. I encouraged them to sob and let it out. After a while I said “Boys! It’s not over yet. I have been here before.” We discussed other places they could hide. We identified a hiding place in the basement of the building next door. They hid. They survived! We got them survival money. Not an easy feat. We tried many ways to get them to safety. We are forever grateful to Rainbow Railroad for rescuing them out of Afghanistan to Pakistan and then finally resettling them to the UK.

Hazara LGBTQ Boys in Danger CNN article

WE PRIORITIZE LGBTQI, FEMALE GENDER EQUALITY ACTIVISTS and HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS!
The blossoming of Afghan Women’s Rights came to an abrupt halt when the Taliban marched into Kabul. We are helping many of the leading female gender equality activists of Afghanistan. Because of their previous activism they and their families are targets of the Taliban. Please help us get them to safety so they can continue their human rights work and educate and inspire the generation left behind. Help us keep the flame alive!

The Taliban discovered the hiding place of one our activists and came to her house. Thankfully she wasn’t there. They shot and killed her sister.

The 71-year-old matriarch of one of our families of 10 who previously ran schools for girls in Afghanistan had her husband, 2 sons, 1 daughter, 3 daughter in laws, one son in law and 2 nephews. They were either outright killed or arrested by the Taliban and never heard from again. They were anti-Taliban proponents of education for girls. We have them in hiding as we are working on getting them resettled to Germany. This past week her son and 2 grandsons were arrested and taken by the Taliban. We are trying to locate them now.

Three of the activists and their families we are helping are hunted for their anti-Taliban, female gender equality and LGBTQI activism. They previously were leaders on the Human Rights Commission and were 3 of the very brave women who staged this well documented protest of the Taliban when they marched into Kabul:

Afgan female gender activist protesting Taliban

Special Thanks to Rita Zawaideh and SCM Medical Missions of Seattle for her amazing work in both rescue and resettlement of so many!

New Life Fund

“Yes I AM” is a movie about the life of my dear friend Ric Weiland who was one of the pioneers of both the information age and the LGBTQI movement. It also is a good historical synopsis of what our generation of LGBTQI faced and accomplished. I tell my refugees: “It hasn’t always been like this. We had to fight hard!”

You can rent “Yes I Am – The Ric Weiland Story” on Amazon, Apple TV, Vimeo, Google Play and Vidu

YouTube trailer, “Yes I Am – The Ric Weiland Story”

GENOCIDE
The definition contained in Article II of the Convention describes genocide as a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, in whole or in part. It does not include political groups or so called “cultural genocide”.

If sexual minorities were included in the UN Definition of Genocide….. The systematic murders of LGBTQI people currently happening in places like Afghanistan and Uganda would be getting more attention. Unfortunately, it is not part of the definition. Most people are unaware.
Please educate yourself and others. Let us stand together against the rise of hate crimes, religious extremism and superiority, autocracy, fascism and the LGBTQI genocide.

Don Kilhefner Articles: Feb 23, 2023 LA Progressive article

Los Angeles Blade article

A very special THANK YOU to the people of Canada and Germany for recognizing this genocide and human rights catastrophe and welcoming so many! Your diversity is beautiful. Your countries are much stronger as a result. Germany has agreed to accept 100 LGBTQI Refugees per month. We are working hard to fill their spaces.

Thank you!

Michael Failla

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Humanitarian AidMoroccoRefugeesSyria

What a busy 12 months SCM has had!

SCM has had a busy 12 months helping resettled families from Syria with 23 families welcomed and helped by you, our amazing supporters. In February the devastating earthquake in Syria and Turkey took all our efforts for several months, as we continued to welcome more families to Lynnwood, Spokane and Federal Way. Again, our supporters stepped up and we had an amazing response to help the people get shelter and building supplies, medical supplies, solar panels and electrical systems, fans to combat the heat, food, and they were even able celebrate Eid!

Then, on September 9th, another major earthquake hit, this time in the mountainous region south of Marrakesh, devastating outlying villages and damaging historical monuments in Marrakesh. Oh, but mother nature was not done yet! Daniel, a Mediterranean storm, hit the eastern part of Libya, particularly the area around Derna. Due to years of neglect during the civil war there, two dams collapsed and the torrent swept away thousands of people in its path, wrecked buildings and flooded a wide swath of land. SCM is stretched too thin but we continue to try to put people and organizations together that can help Libya. We are helping to find mental health professionals that can help with PTSD, and will be launching a campaign to buy drones that can find land mines – mines from the civil war that had been previously mapped but are now scattered all over the landscape. This will help keep recovery personnel safe as they work on clearing away debris and cleaning up. More details on our Libya efforts coming soon.

Your support means more now than ever. From helping families begin their new lives in the United States to getting essential supplies to survivors of natural disasters, and supporting our free clinic in Saida, Lebanon, we can’t thank you enough. Please donate today to help us continue our mission of providing humanitarian and medical aid to those in need.

Thank you!

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Humanitarian AidLebanonMedical AidRefugees

Join Our Clinic Fundraiser

Help Keep the Clinic Open

SCM's free clinic in Lebanon is open and helping people in the community right now. Help us keep it open and serving refugees and disadvantaged Lebanese people in the area of Saida. The clinic is important to community development and the wellbeing of the residents. Your support will help so many people!

Download and share the flyer or scan to donate. 

LGBTQ flag
Humanitarian AidLGBTQRefugees

Helping Vulnerable Refugee Minorities

LGBTQI people are an extremely vulnerable refugee minority. They face inequality; violence, torture, rape and execution—because of who they are; how they look and who they love.

What other refugee group faces honor killings by their own families?

What other refugee group is harassed, beaten, raped and sometimes murdered by their own fellow inmates and countrymen in a refugee camp?

The trauma refugees experience before, during and after fleeing their home countries is hard to comprehend for those of us who have always lived in relative safety.

In about 70 countries same-sex relations are criminalized. LGBTQI people are imprisoned. Many do not arrest or prosecute the murderers of LGBTQI people…..especially if the murders are carried out by family members protecting the “honor” of the family. They often turn a blind eye to religious extremists and militias who hunt and murder in the name of “God.” In six countries it is punishable by death. Sometimes public executions happen.

I am eternally grateful to SCM Medical Missions and Rita Zawaideh for partnering with me in helping so many! Since 2010 I have learned a lot from Rita and her vast network of international contacts. We have worked closely together in helping many refugees find places to hide when their lives have been threatened as well as getting them survival money, advice, and emotional support while in active migration. We work closely together to help these people through the ups and downs of the many years it takes to resettle them in a more welcoming country. Once resettled, we help and guide them to build happy and successful new lives.

We prioritize helping LGBTQI, Female Gender and Human Rights Activists and their families who are actively being hunted by repressive regimes. We are helping many who are currently in hiding, in active migration or have been resettled. Many would not have survived without the hard and smart work of Rita and SCM. We hope once they are resettled, they will inspire the generation left behind and help the newest arrivals.

During the time I have been working closely with SCM, I have witnessed them getting medical and basic living and survival supplies and professionals to people living through the devastation of war, poverty, and natural disasters in many countries. SCM got medical and living supplies to people living near the front lines during the Syrian civil war and had people working in the refugee camps in Jordan and Greece. They ran an orphanage in a cave. Recently, they opened a medical/ dental clinic in Lebanon. They have been sending supplies to help to victims of the February 2023 Earthquake in Syria and Turkey.
Meanwhile, back in Seattle; SCM has been helping hundreds of refugees mostly from Syria and Afghanistan begin their new lives.

To the refugee community I helped resettle to Seattle… Rita is “Mom.” She has the biggest heart of anyone I know!

Thank you SCM and Rita!

Dr. Michael Failla
Seattle

Amazon list post SCM
Humanitarian AidRefugees

Update on Resettlement Assistance

We want to express our gratitude to all our generous donors who have purchased items through Amazon to assist the recent influx of refugees in Washington state. Over the past few years, we have found that utilizing an Amazon wish list streamlines our efforts at SCM, enabling us to effectively support these new refugees and raise awareness within the community about their pressing needs.

In comparison to past refugee family arrivals in the Seattle area where we could physically transport donated items to them, the current situation in Spokane presents logistical challenges. With nearly 20 families arriving in the past several months, primarily in Spokane, the demand for essential items is substantial. Therefore, we have established Amazon wish lists to alleviate the burden on refugees, who receive a modest amount of welcome funds upon their arrival in the country. By reducing their expenditure on incidental items, we hope they can allocate these resources towards critical matters such as acquiring a vehicle for emergencies and addressing other unforeseen expenses during their initial three-month period of support provided by NGOs like IRC, Jewish Family Services, Lutheran Family Services, World Relief, and others.

We understand that financial circumstances have been difficult for many individuals this year. However, we earnestly appeal for your assistance in helping these refugees integrate and become active members of our community. Your support will also contribute to our ongoing efforts in aiding other incoming refugees. In the event that you come across items on the Amazon wish list that are relatively more expensive compared to alternatives available at Target, Walmart, or other retailers, we encourage you to purchase those items and inform us. We will promptly provide you with an address to directly mail the donations to our clients.

We kindly request you to review the Amazon wish lists we have created, featuring the most recent five or so families who have arrived. Due to challenges in determining American clothing sizes and their location in Spokane, it would be more practical to provide gift cards for stores like Target, Walgreens, Fred Meyer, or others, where they can select the necessary items, which can be sent to our office in Seattle. However, items such as kitchen supplies, bathroom essentials, hygiene products, kids’ bedroom necessities, bed sheets, towels, and pillows would be greatly appreciated delivered to their doorsteps.

We extend our heartfelt appreciation for the unwavering support you have demonstrated towards SCM over the past couple of years. This collaborative endeavor has been a remarkable achievement, and we value your continued involvement. If you or anyone you know is interested in adopting a family in Seattle or Spokane, or if you have connections with regular visitors or residents of Spokane who might be willing to assist a family in need, please reach out to us. By offering support such as English language tutoring, accompanying them to the store, or simply being a reliable point of contact during emergencies involving their children, you can significantly enhance their journey towards stability and self-sufficiency. Every contribution at this stage is immensely meaningful and greatly appreciated.

While SCM remains actively engaged in various projects abroad, which have been our primary focus for years, the impact of the pandemic and restricted travel has necessitated our attention to the refugees in Washington state. We sincerely thank you for your continued support.

To see the lists click here.