Champion of Human Rights: An Interview with Lena Alhusseini

Lena Alhusseini works in the field of human rights and accountability. With an outstanding record of professional commitment to serving populations in need, Lena has been the director of Oregon’s child welfare program as well as the executive director of the Arab-American Family Support Center where she focused on helping domestic violence survivors in the New York City area. She has worked with USAID, UNICEF, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

In 2011, US President Barack Obama named her a “Champion of Change for contributions to the field of child protection, human trafficking and domestic violence awareness.”

Lena learned the Transcendental Meditation technique in 2010.

Janet: Lena, we are so appreciative of your dedication to improving the quality of life for so many people. Do you know what first inspired you to work on behalf of these unfortunate populations?

Lena: In my early 20s I visited Thailand on a vacation. Accidentally I wandered into a street where children were being trafficked. I couldn’t get it out of my head and when I returned to Jordan I applied to work with UNICEF. That was over 30 years ago and the rest is history.

Janet: For so many years, your career has uplifted others. Can you share some of the most rewarding experiences?

Lena: I’m proud of being part of the team that was involved in the ratification of the convention on the rights of the child in the Middle East, as well as being part of the movement initiated by King Hussein for scaling up the child protection system in Jordan. I’m also proud of the work of the Arab American Family Support Center on domestic violence, teen dating and child protection, as well as founding the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn, NY.

Janet: Please tell us a little about your current focus.

Lena: I currently work on human rights, accountability and rule of law in Syria. I work on the issue of the missing and detained as a result of the Syrian crisis.

Janet: Do you ever experience fatigue, disappointment, frustration, depression or second-hand trauma from interactions with clients and the bureaucracies you must engage in your work?

Lena: Yes of course, and that’s why I value and appreciate Transcendental Meditation. It helps me deal with the vicarious trauma.

Janet: How does the TM technique sustain you and help you keep on going?

Lena: I have come to depend on the TM technique in my daily life. I do feel healed, sustained and re-energized after each meditation. I also seem to have focus, and to be able to find solutions to challenges almost intuitively after my meditation.

Janet: What are your hopes for 2021?

Lena: Too many to list! My biggest hope is the ability to scale up our work to address the needs of those impacted by conflict, war and human rights abuses.

It takes kindness, compassion, strength of character and a powerful focus to successfully and continually address the human rights issues to which Lena has dedicated her life. As her TM teacher, I am happy that she has the support of this invaluable life-sustaining practice.

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About the Author

Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals, a division of TM for Women in the USA

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