Statement of Purpose: Nature as a Form of Healing

By Marwa Abdelghani|November 3, 2022

In 2020, I visited a national park for the first time—Zion National Park. I remember wading through the slippery Narrows with my husband, sometimes waist deep, flabbergasted at every turn by the breathtaking views. I remember also being struck by the heat—we had gone in August when it was well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. To cool down, we’d splash our faces and soak our cooling towels with water from the river. We had to pause many times because of the extreme heat, resting beside the shade of the mountains that provided a canopy at each bend.

It wasn’t until after our trip to Zion that we learned of the risk we took hiking through the Narrows and coming into close contact with the water from the river, which turned out to have been toxic at the time we visited. Because of rising temperatures from global warming, the river had become the perfect environment for an algae-producing bacteria, cyanobacteria, which can cause serious health conditions.

This experience taught me that climate change is personal. It impacts each of us on an individual level.

Marwa Abdelghani with her husband visiting Zion National Park in 2020.

And yet, the Virgin River, through which the Narrows runs, flows water each season. The pines, oaks, junipers, and cacti stand tall and the orchids, lilies, and buttercups continue to bloom. The towering mountains bear their panoramic views, allowing us to gape at their layers of sedimentary rock that have weathered ancient environments for millennia.

To me, nature is a symbol of resilience, and resiliency is something that we are always striving to achieve, whether it be in our health, our work, or our relationships. I am always in awe of the physical world. It blows my mind that Zion’s stunning features were formed 250 million years ago and that a Sequoia tree can live up to 3,000 years, withstanding extreme wind, thunderstorms, droughts, and fires. Just as we try to withstand the challenges we face in our lives as humans, the Earth is constantly withstanding the harsh climate that has been devastating it for so many years. And it continues to adapt to the changes it faces, just like we do.

As a person of faith, I believe it is our obligation to preserve the planet. I am moved by this verse in the Qur’an:

“And thy Lord taught the Bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in human habitations. Then to eat of all the produce of the earth, and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord. There issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for humans. Verily, in this, is a Sign for those who give thought.” (16:68-69).

Indeed, the planet and the sustenance within it is truly healing. Nature’s intelligence not only sustains us, but gives us a purpose to protect it.

As someone who loves traveling and taking road trips, I find myself at my strongest when I am surrounded by the planet’s natural wonders. I feel motivated to grow and to learn. But at the same time, I feel humbled at its majesty. I think we all reach different points in our lives where we struggle to find meaning and purpose. And those moments come and go. I felt that way a few years ago, before my trip to Zion, when I wasn’t sure where I was headed in terms of my career and I struggled to find hobbies and occupy my time with meaningful and joyful activities. After traveling throughout Utah visiting Zion, after intentionally investing in trips in the years that followed visiting Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, and Sedona, after realizing how happy I felt in those moments—I realized that was my purpose. Seeing the beauty of our world gave me new meaning. I found myself thriving for the first time in many years. And I feel very lucky to have found that, because those moments are not easy to come by. 

Ultimately, that’s what brought me to Ten Strands. When I first started college in 2013, I majored in Earth System Science. After realizing I didn’t want to be a scientist, but instead a communicator, I switched my major to Literary Journalism. Since then, I have been trying to figure out where I would feel most fulfilled doing communications work. And it wasn’t until recently that it all clicked for me. To feel happy, I had to do work that made me happy. And the work at Ten Strands does just that—addressing the harms our planet faces and doing what we can as individuals to protect it.

Marwa Abdelghani
This article was written by Marwa Abdelghani

Marwa Abdelghani is a communications professional with eight years of experience in social impact and justice-oriented non-profit organizations. Her work has spanned the social sector across issue areas, including religious freedom, immigration, education, workforce development, health care and child health equity. Prior to joining Ten Strands, Marwa worked at The Children’s Partnership (TCP) where she led the communications strategy for policy, research and community engagement campaigns to advance children’s health. Before that, she worked at UNITE-LA and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, where she facilitated campaigns to inform and engage the business community on education policy and college access. Marwa began her career at the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), where, for five years, she worked as a community organizer and media specialist, cultivating relationships with reporters and engaging them in improving the media landscape surrounding the American Muslim community. Marwa holds a Bachelor’s degree in Literary Journalism from the University of California, Irvine.