Amjed. Giving homelessness a name and a face.

Please click on this link first to watch this short video of a beautiful act of generosity.

Homeless man receives home

Having watched the video of this generous act of kindness initiated by one that dramatically changed the life of another, I was overwhelmed by emotion and a feeling deep inside me, wanting to help some one like that. It was less than an hour later , while I was sitting in the park, happily reading my book, when I was approached by Amjed. In my peripheral vision I saw him approach but I kept my head down not wanting to be disturbed. He spoke to me. I pretended not to hear. ‘Hola,’ he said again, and this time I looked up. He sat down beside me, much to my dismay and struggled to find words to communicate, not surprisingly, as Amjed is from Pakistan.

My initial reaction was to politely nod and smile and return to my book but then I saw the emotions and sadness across this strange mans face as he rambled unintelligibly and pointed to his dust covered shoes. I could see he needed some one to talk to, some one to listen, some one to be his friend so I put the book away and gave him my full attention.
Amjed, came here to Barcelona 12 days ago. I met him on the 5th day. Having lost his nice office job in Pakistan due to the company closing, he received a phone call from a fellow countryman living in Barcelona, offering him a job. With all his savings, he booked a one way flight, said goodbye to his mother and two sisters and off he went in search of a new life, one that could support him and his family in Pakistan. Upon his arrival, the number of his friend was disconnected and he has no other contact information for him and so he is alone with no friends here in Barcelona.
This exchange of information was mostly conveyed through the use of body language and hand actions as his level of English is minimal and Spanish is non existent. He showed me a photo of his family and his home in Pakistan. He explained that he has no papers to work here and despite spending all day walking around Barcelona in search of work, he is unable to find a job as he has no legal rights to work here and cannot speak Spanish. I gave him the number and address of the Pakistan embassy here which were closed for the weekend so I told him to ring on Monday, hoping that they could speak to him in Urdu, his own language and assist him in finding work. He was so grateful he cried and I hugged him. It was obvious he hadn’t had the luxury of a shower in a while but I let him hug me as long as he wanted and tried to send him calming positive energy and strength to get him through this tough time. I wanted to help so much more but felt a bit helpless so I tried convincing myself that listening to him and talking to him had already helped him feel less alone in this unfamiliar city of strangers. I gave him hope.

Almost a week later, today, I met him again in the park. He had been unsuccessful in his attempt to receive help from the embassy. I asked him would he just go back to Pakistan but he explained that there are no jobs there and he doesn’t have the money to go home. He had rang his mother to tell her there are no jobs here and she cried. He said he has walked and walked in search of a job but I understand that it is near impossible to get a job here if he doesn’t have the language skills to even ask for a job. His money ran out quickly and he is now sleeping in the park beside my apartment and a local shop is letting him keep his bag there. My heart is struggling with the sadness of his situation,wanting to help, but not sure how. I decided I would start by teaching him English and today, in his little milka chocolate notebook, we started with some greetings and the questions. He was eager to learn and picked it up quickly, although it was a little funny explaining the words I and you, while pointing to myself and then him, making him think he should use the word you for himself and I for me! We spoke (tried to) for ages and he told me he is good at bowling and he showed me a little game you play with your hands, again, reinforcing his poor background where they entertain themselves with nothing but their hands.

I spoke to a Spanish employee lawyer today, that informed me legal work rights can only be given to people who prove that they have been here illegally for three years and have integrated well into the Catalan society. What options does that leave for my poor friend Amjed? I could just appease myself with thoughts that I’ve done what I can to help and there’s nothing else I can do, but I cannot. This is a lovely man with a gentle soul, who has fallen victim to unfortunate circumstances. I have always wanted to make the world a better place and I feel that the universe orchestrated it so that our paths would cross so I can help him. He is not begging or stealing, nor has he ever asked me for anything, but I wonder how long until homelessness results in those desperate measures and will he become one of the many people I see every day searching the rubbish bins on the streets of Barcelona?

I would really appreciate any advice in how I can help or what I should do to help this man get back on his feet. I know he would work harder than anyone I know and really deserves to be helped.


If life is a shopping basket, how do you fill yours?

Clothes, shoes, iPhones, go pros, the list goes on. On a daily basis we are bombarded with an assault of tantalising temptations that cleverly try to steal our attention and our hard earned money. As a reformed shopaholic myself, I am all too familiar with the lure of shiny, pink things in every shop I see. Stationary and suitcases are some of my more customised weaknesses. But what are our possessions really saying about us? I am what I have? Are we defined by our material purchases? Furthermore, does society evaluate our worthiness based on what we wear, what car we drive and what we own?

In fact, it is apparent that our own self worth is intrinsically bound to these material aspects of our lives. Indeed retail therapy is a not a new trend. A bad day in the office is often cured by a new dress or pair of shoes. Another issue with this consumer lifestyle is how it satiates our dangerously growing need for instant gratification. Attaining those desired, yet equally unnecessary purchases with a credit card,when you can’t really afford it, equals short term happiness at a very high price. We do feel better if we look good but to what extent are our experiences of happiness correlated with the accumulation of paraphanelia in our lives. Travelling is one of the best things you can do to gain perspective on this. By observing the poverty in other countries we can begin to fully appreciate how fortunate we are and also realise that life is just as satisfying only having one (pink!) suitcase of clothes to choose from.

Why is it that we are constantly seeking happiness from the environment around us when what we really should be doing is looking within? The answers to all our questions, thoughts, fears, the inspirations and ideas we need to move forward, everything we need can be found within ourselves. Fill your shopping basket with friends, activities that you enjoy, time to be alone to reflect on all the amazing gifts you are given each day and most importantly fill it with love. These are the most valuable commodities you can attain in life.

Wealth is not in possessions… but in time. It is the only thing we cannot buy. When our time is up it’s up and as most of us will not be given a warning as to when that will be, it is imperative that we make the most of now. Many of the generation x abide by the unstated law that you must work hard your whole life to enjoy a well deserved retirement. That may seem the sensible thing to do but is it the best that we can do? Considering that we can take nothing for granted, not even tomorrow, today is the most precious gift we can be given. Appreciate today. Enjoy the now. Whatever small task you are completing, do it with love and attention. Life is made of small, insignificant moments but when you appreciate each of those precious moments they become your greatest life.