Way up top, a fascinating, in-depth profile in the Boston Globe hints at a strong religion angle:
NASHUA — In a warehouse on a cold spring night, volunteers heaved boxes from a truck parked in one cargo bay to a 40-foot shipping container in the next.
A woman in a sea-green hijab helped lug the last of the boxes out and swept the truck floor clean. Another truck, packed to the ceiling with boxes, was waiting to pull in.
She hopped onto the platform, long skirt brushing the tops of her black Pumas, and called out to the crew to unload the next truck even faster.
“They need to leave in five minutes,” she said. “My God, this is a crazy house!”
Not long ago, Nadia Alawa spent her time home-schooling her eight children in East Hampstead, N.H., ferrying them to soccer practice and robotics competitions and volunteering commitments. But as revolution exploded into civil war in Syria — the native country of her husband and her father — the crisis reordered her life.
“This was my cause,” the 44-year-old Alawa said. “I couldn’t stop.”
With little more than a computer, a cellphone, and a knack for getting people to help, she created an international relief agency out of her house. In the last two years, NuDay Syria has sent 53 shipping containers packed with medical supplies, clothing, food, and toys to conflict zones in northern Syria.
"This was my cause."
Is there a possibility that cause has a religious motivation? That was my question as I kept reading the Globe's riveting account of the circumstances in Syria and Alawa's passion to make a positive difference.
Later in the piece, readers find out more about Alawa's motivation:
Alawa believes that sending containers remains worthwhile. Shipping costs are low compared with the value of the cargo, she said. And physical goods, she said, can be a bond linking American donors to Syrians, reassuring those in the war zone they are not forgotten.
“One person at a time, one humanity closer” is NuDay’s motto, and it is how Alawa keeps herself from feeling overwhelmed or hopeless.
“This is my project,” she said. “I can touch it and I can feel it and I can see the result, and that’s all I’m going to worry about.”
But still, the potential faith angle remains unexplored.
Eventually, readers do learn this:
Raised in Denmark, Alawa converted to Islam as a teenager and married her husband, Aiman, in Syria. They lived in Japan, New York state, and Massachusetts before moving to southern New Hampshire a decade ago. Aiman, an engineer, runs a small solar energy business in Woburn.
Alawa, who has a degree in pedagogy, devoted her 20s and 30s to educating her children. Syria’s crisis began as her oldest children were leaving home.
“I think my mom has always wanted to do something bigger than herself,” said Laila Alawa, the oldest child, who is 23 and runs a digital media startup she founded in Washington, D.C.
This vague reference is as close as the newspaper comes to addressing — directly — the faith angle:
Anne Webber, a 58-year-old volunteer from Portsmouth, met Alawa at a vigil Alawa organized for journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by militants.
“She is obviously a religious woman, but at the same time, she’s free, and she’s loud, and she’s funny,” Webber said.
Finally, the Globe alludes to religious conflict — but doesn't delve into it:
As a woman running a nonprofit, Alawa is unusual in the Muslim Arab-American community, and she has faced hostility, her daughter Laila said.
It can be lonely, Laila Alawa said, but, “My mom draws her energy from the fact that this isn’t for her.”
The Globe story certainly provides a nice snapshot of Nadia Alawa. But I couldn't help but wonder if the newspaper missed the full portrait.
Yes, the Globe notes that "NuDay volunteers collect donations in mosques, churches, and clinics across New England." But the profile never mentions whether Nadia Alawa attends prayer services or what role she sees faith playing in her relief organization.
As a result, holy ghosts abound.