My home has been destroyed, but we will rebuild Gaza

As he grapples with heartbreaking news, an Islamic Relief aid worker* in Gaza struggles to plan for the future amid so much uncertainty.

When I was around 10 years old, my father built a new house for us. Having lived with his parents and siblings in a refugee camp since 1948, being able to provide a shelter to protect his family, a safe haven for us, was the most meaningful moment of my father’s life.

However, it wasn’t an easy process. My father had to borrow money from the bank, working extra hours and scrimping and saving wherever possible to pay back the loan. These were lean times for our family, when my 3 sisters only had around 20p between them to spend at school. We spent a couple of winters without proper windows or floor tiles. There wasn’t even paint on the walls.

This is life for many Palestinians. When we build our homes, we invest our lives in them. Having a place of our own is our ultimate goal in life because we have been evicted and expelled from our land continuously.

A hole torn in our safe haven

Yesterday was the final day of the humanitarian pause. It was also the day I learned that my own home has been damaged.

I can’t confirm what the flat is like inside yet, but I can tell from pictures of the outside of the building that it was hit by a shell. There is definitely damage to the children’s room and the bathroom, as well as part of the storage room. I can’t travel north to check the building or see if our belongings are okay. It is too dangerous now and we do not have enough fuel for the journey. When I told my wife, she said: “Alhamdulillah, we will repair it inshallah”. She had been dreaming of relaxing and having a long sleep when we eventually returned to our home but now there is a 4-metre-wide hole in the building.

I can’t find words to convey all my thoughts right now. My wife and I went through tough times to buy that flat. Like my father, we invested everything we had into that place. We have so many memories in that place, it’s where we had our 2 children. I remember the long nights we stayed awake trying to get them to sleep. I remember the sofa by the window that gets the sunlight and the sea breeze. I remember my son preparing his clothes and bag for his first day of school. When I told my children that their room had been damaged, my son asked, “Is my schoolbag okay? Where will we play when we return?” I told him that I did not know, and he simply said he would sleep in the living room if his bed was broken.

When I told my daughter, she showed how caring she is by immediately asking about my room. I wanted to tell her, “My baby, you do not need to worry about these things. You need to live the normal life of a child where you can play with your friends, go to school, watch cartoons, play video games, and just have fun.”

The memories are flooding back to me.


I remember when we redid my kids’ room. We discussed every detail with them. Our daughter wanted pinks and purples. Our son didn’t care about the colours, he was only interested in making a place for his toy cars. He had cars of all colours and sizes all around the house back then. Now, I don’t even know if our real car will stay working long enough to get us back to our damaged home. I thought back to the new bookshelf I’d designed just last year. My wife and I always argued about my books being strewn all over the place. I don’t know if I’ll be able to find any of them now. Our souls are damaged, our thinking, our lives, our friends and families, our Palestine. Our home is just the latest thing.

‘I don’t know how I’ll begin to fix everything’


Everyone is telling us to be patient, at least we were all fine. I agree and thank Allah for everything, but I can’t stop thinking about our loss. I know that there are people who have lost much more, but this is my home and my memories. I do not know how I’ll begin to fix everything. I have started planning, but there are so many obstacles in my way. I do not know if Israel will allow construction material into Gaza again. I do not know if I will be able to find aluminium windows at the market. Maybe I’ll be able to find the material, but the cost will be so high that I can’t afford it. Maybe all the construction workers will be busy repairing other places. The whole city is destroyed…

I can put a cover over the broken walls, and we can stay in the remaining part of the house. We have another toilet we can use. Thousands of ideas come to my mind but I don’t know if I’ll be able to put them into practice or not. One thing I am certain about is that we will all return to our homes and we will fix Gaza. I am sure about that because Allah always support believers. And I believe everything happens for a reason. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah a thousand times.

I know my loss is not much compared to those who have lost their lives and families, but I can’t stop thinking of a reason why this is happening. What did my flat do that it needed to be bombed? It was shuttered, no fighting was coming from our building, but they wanted to destroy our homes, our memories, our heritage and our culture. They wanted us to have no reason to stay. But we are part of this land, and it is part of us. Alhamdulillah for all his giving. I pray I can write you a blog about the rebuilding work one day not too far from now. Please keep supporting us and asking for a ceasefire.

Please help Islamic Relief support people in desperate need in Gaza: Donate to our Palestine Emergency Appeal now.

*This blog is anonymised to protect the safety and security of our colleague. Read the other blogs in this series here.

Editor’s note: This blog was submitted amid a fast-changing and deepening crisis. The information was correct as of the morning of Friday 1 December. Image shows damaged buildings in Gaza on Thursday 30 November, not the author’s home.

new director

Director of Network and Resource Development

Adnan joined Islamic Relief in 2004 as a regional fundraiser in the UK. He worked in multiple roles over 10 years at Islamic Relief UK, including setting up the first digital team and leading the growth of digital fundraising and engagement. Adnan also led numerous fundraising and marketing campaigns, which played a significant part in the growth of Islamic Relief UK.

Having moved to Islamic Relief Worldwide in 2014, Adnan has held different roles that have helped grow Islamic Relief’s global digital footprint into new geographic territories, supporting Islamic Relief members with their digital and marketing growth as well as developing new products and initiatives for the Islamic Relief family.

Adnan graduated in Industrial Design and Technology from Loughborough University. He has since completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration from Durham University and a Diploma in Digital Marketing from the Institute of Data and Marketing.

Nadeem Azhar

General Counsel

Nadeem joined Islamic Relief Worldwide in September 2022. He has worked in the charitable sector for over a decade.

He studied Modern History and Politics at Manchester University, and at the University of Law in London before qualifying as a solicitor in 2011.

Nadeem is an experienced corporate, commercial and governance lawyer, having worked with various faith-based and grant making charities as well those in health and education settings. He was a partner at a law firm in London before moving in-house where he focused on setting up and restructuring charities and social enterprises.

Most recently, Nadeem was Lead Counsel at Mind, a leading mental health charity, where he co-authored a new federation agreement, revamped legal processes, and played a major role in developing its strategic and fundraising partnerships.

Nadeem has been a charity trustee for the Seafarers Charity, as well as many grant-making bodies and theatre companies.

Adnan Hafiz

Director of Network and Resource Development

Adnan joined Islamic Relief in 2004 as a regional fundraiser in the UK. He worked in multiple roles over 10 years at Islamic Relief UK, including setting up the first digital team and leading the growth of digital fundraising and engagement. Adnan also led numerous fundraising and marketing campaigns, which played a significant part in the growth of Islamic Relief UK.

Having moved to Islamic Relief Worldwide in 2014, Adnan has held different roles that have helped grow Islamic Relief’s global digital footprint into new geographic territories, supporting Islamic Relief members with their digital and marketing growth as well as developing new products and initiatives for the Islamic Relief family.

Adnan graduated in Industrial Design and Technology from Loughborough University. He has since completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration from Durham University and a Diploma in Digital Marketing from the Institute of Data and Marketing.

Board of Directors
Javed Akhtar

Director of Finance

Javed Akhtar has more than a decade of experience at Islamic Relief, having worked in a similar role between 2003-2014. In that role he strove to implement wide-ranging financial and accounting processes which aided in the transparent nature in which Islamic Relief now operates.

Javed also has diverse experience across the private sector, having worked at American chemicals and pharmaceutical giant DuPont, shipping firm FedEX and technology consultancy company Accenture. In all his roles, he prioritises using the latest technologies to improve monitoring and reporting at every level. Javed’s commitment to embracing digital end-to-end technology, enhancing accountability to our stakeholders and promoting financial transparency is ensuring that we remain at the forefront of financial developments in the sector.

By training, Javed is a chartered accountant with a Master’s degree in NGO Management with Charity Accounting and Financial Management from Cass Business School.
Board of Directors
Affan Cheema  

Director of International Programmes

Affan Cheema is an experienced leader who has spent 25 years working in the international aid sector on poverty eradication in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He has worked in fast onset emergencies, protracted crisis and development environments whilst working for Islamic Relief Worldwide and Care International. He is also a trustee of South West International Development Network (SWIDN).

Through his career Affan has held numerous roles including institutional fundraising, programme and grant management, and programme quality assurance.  Affan’s leadership has helped Islamic Relief Worldwide secure the highly coveted Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS), seen as the sector’s premier benchmark for operational excellence.

Affan completed his BA in Economics and Geography from University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies) and his MSc in Development Administration and Planning from the University of Bristol. He is PRINCE2 qualified, is a keen sportsman and recently co-edited a book entitled -Islam and International Development: Insights for working with Muslim Communities-.
Board of Directors
Dr Hossam Said

Managing Director, Humanitarian Academy for Development (HAD)

For nearly three decades Dr Hossam has provided the strategic vision to manage, lead and develop a range of international humanitarian interventions around the world.

At the start of his career, Dr Hossam served on the Board of Directors of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, before moving to Islamic Relief Worldwide to manage the core global business activities as International Programmes Director.

During this time the organisation increased its global reach, gaining both domestic and international repute and credibility. Dr Hossam has also served on the Islamic Relief Worldwide Board of Management and Executive Committee for the past 15 years; sharing responsibility for strategic organisational development and the change management process, whilst forging strong relationships with many other charities.

Dr Hossam gained an MBA from Aston Business School in 2004 and graduated as a Medical Doctor from Cairo University in 1981.
Board of Directors
Martin Cottingham  

Director of External Relations and Advocacy

Martin Cottingham joined Islamic Relief in 2012 as IRUK Media Relations Manager, and was appointed Head of Communications in 2015 before taking up his current position as Director of External Relations and Advocacy for Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Martin has helped Islamic Relief to increase its mainstream media profile and expand its campaigning work, producing hard-hitting advocacy reports on floods in Pakistan (2011) famine in Somalia (2012) disaster risk reduction (2013) and aid to Afghanistan (2014). He has over 20 years’ experience working in media, communications and marketing roles for international development and environmental charities.

Martin graduated from the University of London with a degree in English and Drama (1982-85) then trained as a journalist with a postgraduate diploma at City University (1986-87). He has previously worked for Christian Aid as Editor of Christian Aid News and Media Relations Manager (1988-97) for Oxfam as Regional Campaigns Manager (1997-2000) and at the Soil Association as Marketing Director (2001-2006), as well as working for a wide range of organisations as a freelance writer, researcher and communications consultant.

Tufail Hussain

Director of Islamic Relief UK

Tufail Hussain has 17 years’ experience in the humanitarian and development sector, leading on marketing and fundraising campaigns for several organisations before joining Islamic Relief UK in 2016 as Deputy Director. Tufail was appointed Director of Islamic Relief UK in 2019 and in 2021 provided valuable leadership as interim CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Tufail is driven by a passion for empowering disadvantaged youth and mentors a number of young people. He also works to strengthen engagement between British Muslims and wider society. Under his leadership, Islamic Relief UK has significantly increased its income and developed successful partnerships with communities across the country. He has travelled around the world to raise awareness of major emergencies such as the Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan crises and the floods in Pakistan and Sudan.

A father to 5 daughters and a son, Tufail is also a sports enthusiast and passionate Liverpool FC supporter. Tufail has run the London Marathon twice, raising over £35,000 for humanitarian causes.

Before joining Islamic Relief he was CEO of Orphans in Need, where he oversaw a new strategy that increased income from £2 million to £9 million in 3 years and opened up new UK and international offices. Tufail is also a trustee of the Muslim Charities Forum and a Director of TIC International (Islamic Relief Worldwide’s clothes recycling and trading arm).
Waseem Ahmad

Chief Executive Officer

Waseem Ahmad joined the Islamic Relief family over 24 years ago, serving as Programme Officer in the Balochistan province of south-western Pakistan before becoming Head of Programmes in Pakistan. Waseem then moved to Oxfam and Tearfund before returning to Islamic Relief to establish our mission in Malawi. Later serving as Head of Programme Funding and Partnerships, Waseem led the response to major crises across the globe, including the East Africa drought, Pakistan earthquake and the Indian Ocean Tsunami.

Waseem then served for nearly 6 years as our Director of International Programmes, during which time the charity secured and retained the coveted Core Humanitarian Standard certification in recognition of the quality of our programming. He was appointed CEO of Islamic Relief in May 2021.

With a special interest in community mobilisation and infrastructure, Waseem received an MSc in Project Planning and Management from the University of Bradford, as well as an MSc in Economics from Arid Agriculture University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Waseem has also worked for Lepra Health in Action and is a member of the International Civil Society Centre’s Board of Trustees. The father-of-3 enjoys walking and playing football, and is a keen birdwatcher.