There and Back Again - A Trip To Qatar

Insha’Allah.

This phrase is heard throughout the Middle East and summarizes the ethos of the region: “If God wills it.”

And in the fervently Muslim nation of Qatar, Insha’Allah is a way of life.

Kelly Powell, Program Director for Safe Kids Palm Beach County at Community Partners learned the impact of this phase during a recent trip to Qatar to teach a child passenger safety technician course.  

“Religious beliefs in Qatar play a major role in this Muslim community, including child passenger safety.” explained Kelly. “The belief that preventing death interferes with Allah’s wishes influences most of the people’s decision to not use seat belts and car seats.”

Dr Khalid Abdulnoor Saifeldeen, Director of HITC and a Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Hamad Medical Corporation, wants to tweak that perspective and create a safer Qatar.

While official statistics are unavailable, physicians at the Hamad Medical Center estimate that 25% of children brought to the ER upon being involved in a car crash die of their injuries.

It was this knowledge that lead Hamad Medical Center, Safe Kids Worldwide, and ConocoPhillips Qatar to come together and create a meaningful and sustainable child passenger safety program. This partnership lead to the genesis of Kulluna – a health and safety awareness campaign named for the Arabic term for, “All of us.” The campaign hopes to take action and improve health, wellbeing and safety for Qatari children and families across the nation.

Qatar’s National Vision in 2030 and the National Strategy for Road Safety brought Safe Kids Worldwide to help build the mission though a grassroots initiative that focuses on motor vehicle safety for the country’s smallest citizens.

“The roadways are a mess,” Kelly said. “There are very few traffic lights, roundabouts everywhere and so many cars on the road. Imagine a lane – one lane – with three cars sharing it, side by side. That’s a typical sight in Doha. Imagine that and realize that no-one wears seatbelts.”

Teaching at the Hamad International Training Center in English, with materials in both English and Arabic, Kelly’s students were a mix of doctors, nurses, paramedics and even a member of the department of the interior.

“Dr. Khaled is a true visionary,” Kelly said with a smile. “He’s very methodical and has brought this  movement the medical community and other targeted partners.”

In addition to working with the Qatari medical community, the initiative is also making in-roads with the country’s sizable Filipino population.

“Doha has a population of about a million and of these million, about 300,000 are Filipino,” Kelly explained. “So, there is a focus on this community, as Filipinos have different beliefs when it comes to injury prevention.”

Even though Kelly was in the region for almost two weeks, she didn’t spend the entire time in the classroom. She got a chance to explore the city - visiting souqs (marketplaces), traditional Qatari restaurants and even attending an awards ceremony for one of her students in which she got to witness a ceremonial dance complete with chanting, drumming and swinging scimitars.

“Qataris are the kindest and most giving people I’ve ever met. They really want to ensure that you are happy and taken care of,” she said.

Beaming with pride at her students who worked so diligently, Kelly calls the experience the biggest honor of her life and connects her work in Qatar to the Community Partners mission.

“Being in Qatar was a life-changing experience and it really made me reflect on how we take our safety for granted here in the United States,” she said. “Knowing that we’re part of a grassroots movement in Qatar and creating something that didn’t exist before? I feel we really are Changing The Odds.  Our words and our mission? It means something.”