Nina Ghaffari serving in Kentucky during The Salvation Army’s ongoing tornado relief response
‘I feel so honored and humbled’
By: Nina Ghaffari
It was the day after Christmas.
On December 26, 2003, at 5:26 a.m., a massive earthquake rocked Kerman Province in Iran. The earthquake lasted 10 seconds and measured 6.6 on the Richter scale. In those 10 seconds, over 34,000 people lost their lives, more than 75,600 were left homeless, and 85 percent of the city of Bam was destroyed. The entire nation was brought to its knees and mourned as the numbers of fatalities rose. Shortly after, a 6.3 earthquake hit my home city of Tehran, killing over a thousand. As severe aftershocks continued over the next four days, families slept in fear in make-shift tents in ravaged city parks and under vehicles for cover.
Having witnessed many other natural disasters—haboobs, sandstorms, fatal flash floods, landslides, and droughts—it was surviving these deadly earthquakes and experiencing first-hand the overwhelming fear, desolation, and hopelessness blanketing the country that led me to move from a career in international fashion design to emergency services. I felt God had placed me in the path of destruction to truly understand the pain and suffering on the other side.
I could never have imagined that all of this would lead me to realize my destiny of helping so many through The Salvation Army.
After battling my way back to America to pursue my passion for emergency work, I was working on an ambulance and finishing up my degree when one difficult call opened my eyes to the importance of meeting the emotional and spiritual needs of those in crisis. A young girl was caught in the crossfire of gang violence that had spread throughout the city. As she slept peacefully in her bed, a single bullet shot through the wall of her family’s home, striking her and waking the entire family. As we rushed her to the hospital, her mother sat next to me in helpless anguish while her daughter lay in her arms, asking if she was going to die. The one-hour ride to the hospital felt like an eternity. With God’s help, I was able to create a safe and caring atmosphere where she openly shared her fears and vulnerability. After her daughter was stabilized at the hospital, she embraced me tightly and gratefully thanked my crew for being her heroes.
Shortly afterward, I was humbled to be hired as the Emergency Disaster Services State Liaison and Recovery Manager for The Salvation Army Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Division. As a child, my mother always ensured that we understood the kind and selfless work of The Salvation Army, so I was excited about this opportunity.
I believe The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services is one of the most powerful forces of hope in the bleak world of disaster. Upon arriving at the scene in response to the desolation and destruction of Hurricane Ida, it was the exhausted sighs of relief and hope breaking through heartache on the survivors’ faces that brought me to my knees. People in the streets would exhaustedly wave and silently mouth “Thank you” as our trucks pulled in to assist. I saw the trust and hope on their faces established by more than a century and a half of The Salvation Army’s dedicated community service and emergency work.
I feel so honored and humbled to be standing behind this shield of trust built on the shoulders of the giants before me who dedicated their lives to pouring out compassion, humility, and service to those in their times of greatest suffering and need.
And on the day after this Christmas, The Salvation Army stands ready to respond to the needs of survivors of natural disasters or pandemic poverty because of our enduring commitment to meet human needs wherever and whenever they exist.
Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.
– Nina Ghaffari is the Emergency Disaster Services Liaison and Recovery Manager for The Salvation Army’s Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Division