By Dave Maddux, Special Projects Manager, Project C.U.R.E.
At 19 years old, during the spring of their sophomore year of college, most students would be planning for a spring break in Cancun or a summer vacation. Anwar Hussein Agha is not most students. After hearing the Nashville Executive Director of Project C.U.R.E. speak at Vanderbilt University about the mission and impact of what Project C.U.R.E. does, Hussein Agha decided to raise the necessary money—nearly $31,000—to ship a container to his home country of Lebanon. Hussein Agha, while born in Torrance, California, has spent his entire life since the age of one in Lebanon, where his family originates.
“My thought behind all this is I wanted to go and serve people and be part of the contribution, because ‘why wouldn’t I?’” Hussein Agha says. “It came as a spark—this is what I need to do.”
Hussein Agha is a pre-med student double-majoring in Economics, and Medicine, Health & Society, and had the opportunity to shadow a doctor at New Mazloum Hospital in the city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon. What he saw was doctors serving very rural areas with high quality medical care.
But the recent historic economic downturn in Lebanon has left many medical facilities in desperate need. And that chance speaking engagement at the university led to his desire to help.
“After that speech, on my first day in the (Project C.U.R.E.) warehouse, I did this miraculous visit and tour,” says Hussein Agha. “No exaggeration—I was mind-blown. I saw the container and it was ten times longer than I am tall, and I thought ‘how can I get involved and do it myself?’ (for his home country of Lebanon).”
He created a crowdfunding campaign on the Project C.U.R.E. website, and began accepting donations. “It started out small, just money from my grandma, smaller donations, word-of-mouth,” he says. “The average contributions weren’t huge and I still don’t even know who some of the contributors were.” His parents at first were somewhat skeptical, thinking this was ‘impossible’.
However, in the eight months between April and December of 2022, Hussein Agha raised $30,993 dollars for the project. And his parents went from skeptical to surprised and proud.
“My parents at first were like ‘good luck.’ It was kinda weird to want to do,” he says. “They didn’t understand it—hell, I didn’t understand it until I actually saw the needs assessment happening” (in May, 2022).
But that spirit of giving back really originated from his parents. His mom is a Professor of Sociology at American University in Beirut, and his father is in the telecom industry and runs his own media firm. And he feels it’s his parents who inspired this way of thinking about giving. “I have two mentors in my life—as cheesy as this sounds—my mom and dad. They got me what I wouldn’t have gotten without them. And it’s a culture thing,” he says. “Lebanese culture is based on giving back. I grew up seeing them giving and being good people and this is what they have as their values, and I seek to be like them.”
The nearly $31,000 Hussein Agha raised not only funded the needs assessment, conducted by Dr. Babs Waldman, but will cover the cost of shipping a 40-foot shipping container filled with biomedical machines, medical equipment and consumables. The average container Project C.U.R.E. ships holds $376,000 worth of these items.
In addition to performing as a tenor in the choir with the Nashville Symphony, running half marathons, and being a full-time student (and serving as an orientation leader for new students), Hussein Agha has also found time to be on Project C.U.R.E. Nashville’s Ambassador Board. His life is very full, and full of giving back where he can.
“There’s one thing I’ve learned from this, and from family—two things actually,” Hussein Agha says. “First: family is huge, community included in that—stand by your community. And second: nothing comes easy.”
Anyone raising the money necessary to ship a container knows how hard it is. When you’re a 19-year-old student with an already full schedule, it’s even harder. But the reward that comes with giving back and affecting hundreds, if not thousands of people you’ll likely never meet: well, that’s easy to understand.