Meet Maher Nasser.
Born in Ramallah, Maher and his family are from a village called Muzeir'ah near Lydda.
A jack of all trades, Maher has spent the past 30 years being a humanitarian working for the United Nations, three years running the NYC Marathon fundraising for UNRWA scholarships for women in Gaza and the West Bank, and a lifetime giving back to his community.
His connections with UNRWA's work run deep, and he spent some time sharing with us how UNRWA's work and services has shaped him and his family and how he has continued to give back, never forgetting his roots, no matter how far away from Palestine he travels.
His father worked for UNRWA and he along with his three brothers went to UNRWA schools from grades 1-9. While at the Ramallah Boys Preparatory School, he fondly recalls his favorite teacher, Abdul Aziz. He remembers sitting in his English class, excited by the prospect of learning a new language. After graduating, he then went on to study civil engineering at Birzeit University with a partial scholarship from UNRWA. His sister and younger brother also received higher education through UNRWA, and attended a two-year vocational school run by the Agency.
In 1992, he left Ramallah when he was offered an international position with the United Nations Drugs Control Programme in Vienna. He confesses that surprisingly the biggest shock when he left Ramallah wasn't the food, culture, or customs, but rather, the freedom from foreign military occupation.
Since his first stint abroad, Maher has lived and worked around the globe. He has held positions in Gaza, Jerusalem, Amman, Cairo, and New York, including a role as the Chief of the New York Liaison Office for UNRWA.
When Maher isn't at the UN, he spends his time running through the streets of New York City. Maher uses running as not only away to burn off the stress of trying to solve international diplomatic problems, but also as a way to raise awareness and funds for various causes, including UNRWA.
When asked why he fundraises for Palestine refugees, Maher says, "Gaza and UNRWA have played an important role in my life and in bringing me to where I am today. The images of suffering and pain in Gaza, and the heroic efforts of UNRWA staff to alleviate that suffering have prompted me to do something concrete to help out. There are immediate humanitarian needs and a great thirst for hope and compassion. With my modest effort, I hope to contribute a bit of hope and some resources to an Agency that I know can deliver effectively."
In 2014, Nasser participated in the Women's Health "Run 10 Feed 10" and raised over $5,000 for UNRWA’s Gaza emergency appeal through UNRWA USA.
Since 2015, Maher has also run the NYC Marathon to fundraise for education programming for women in the West Bank and Gaza.
Maher states that he "never thought [he] would ever be able to run a marathon, let alone three. However, knowing that this would give one or more young women in Palestine an opportunity to attend university and change their lives has given [him] the energy and determination to do so."
Maher will be running this Sunday November 5th, and we're excited to cheer him on! Tweet your support @MaherNasserUN.
Tweets from Maher