For someone who suffered years of painful rejection and loneliness, Sydney woman Salma Abdo is an exceptionally positive, joyful person.
But it hasn’t always been that way.
Watch: Salma’s interview with Hope 103.2FM’s Erin La Macchia
At the age of 14, Salma lost her sight to glaucoma and entered a dark world of loneliness, unemployment, lack of purpose, and hopelessness. It was a disability that began to develop the moment she was born.
Salma was the fourth child of parents who had immigrated from the Middle East, and while she had no genetic problems, there were complications during her birth.
“I was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, so I was born blue, with very little oxygen,” she said. “I was placed in a humidicrib, and that’s where the damage was caused on my eyes, from the strength of the humidicrib.
“I was wearing glasses for most of my childhood and I would get my eye pressure checked once a year.”
A Teenager Plunged Into Blindness
Although Salma could see and function quite normally as a child, it was during her teen years when her situation took a turn for the worse.
“When I turned 14 the glaucoma had really set in and robbed me of most of my sight,” she said. “When school finished, life almost finished. I had gone from pretty good sight, to almost none at all. I just lived at home in my room, and babysat my nieces and nephews on the weekends. I couldn’t see so was clinging on to my mum.
“I was ridiculed, I was put down, I wasn’t treated the way you would treat a human being.”
“I had no outside support, I didn’t know anything about guide dogs, and I really didn’t go anywhere. I guess Mum was scared for me and didn’t allow me to go out. I just stayed at home. I had no friends, no work, nothing at all. My nieces and nephews were too young to speak with. My parents were too old to chat with. There really was nothing at all.”
She said she experienced a lot of rejection from the community she was living amongst at the time.
“It’s hard for some people to really understand that even though you have a disability, you’re still capable of doing everything like everyone else,” she said. “People didn’t really understand what they could do to support me or help me. I was teased and tormented quite a lot.
“I was ridiculed, I was put down, I wasn’t treated the way you would treat a human being. Having literally a life with no friends, no independence, no freedom, it was hell.
“I’d try to take one step on my own and fall back three steps.”
When Hope Broke Through The Darkness
Salma’s situation began to change, though, when two things happened: she found an inspiring radio station, and she put all her trust in Christ.
“Life changed for me in 2007,” she said. “That was when I handed things over to Jesus. I grew up with Christian beliefs, as I’m from an Antioch Greek Orthodox family, but it wasn’t until my late teens and early 20s that I really submerged myself in Jesus.
“I prayed about employment and I said, ‘Jesus, you take it. If you want me to have work, I’ll have work. Whatever you want for me, may it happen but only what you want’. Because only Jesus gives us the best in life.”
“By really clinging to the words, clinging to the music, that’s what would keep me going for the next day.”
Salma says that during this time she also discovered Hope 103.2FM, which played a big role in turning her life around. It was like a light turning on, connecting her to a wide community of faith.
“I searched the radio stations and found Hope 1032, and would listen to amazing songs, and inspirational, kind words from the speakers,” she said. “I wasn’t hearing the kindest of words from those who were supposed to love me. But I would go to my radio, turn on Hope, and listen to lovely kind words that every human should be hearing.
“I listened to the station to escape my regular life. By really clinging to the words, clinging to the music, that’s what would keep me going for the next day. And now, when I feel down or a little upset I put on Inspire and listen to beautiful songs. The radio station literally brought me back from death. It means the world to me.”
A Life Transformed, A Bright Future
Best of friends: Salma with her guide dog, Clare.
Over time Salma found employment, began to form new friendships, found a church to connect with, and was given a guide dog, Clare, to help her become more mobile and independent. She also has a strong and positive self-esteem now, because of her Christian worldview.
“I used to hear unkind things and was made to feel like it’s my fault that I’m blind,” she said. “But I started to learn and realised, ‘Hang on, I’m supposed to be loved’. Now I don’t feel guilty and ashamed of my eyes any more.”
“Now I don’t feel guilty and ashamed of my eyes any more.”
These days Salma has only 8 percent sight in her right eye, and her left eye is completely blind. Yet when asked what her future looks like, a huge smile breaks across her face.
“I have friends, I have church, I have my dog Clare, I have work, I live in my own home, I have hope, I have a future,” she said. “Christ has given me more than I ever expected.”
She gives the credit to her God.
“Not me, not my friends, not any of us could have achieved anything in my life without Jesus doing it,” she said.
No Longer Blames God For Her Suffering
Loving life: Salma on a motorbike ride.
Salma doesn’t blame God any more for the pain and mistreatment she went through.
“When I first was being bullied, I used to say, ‘Jesus why are you allowing them to say these things?’ But then as I grew more in Christ and listened more to Hope, I realised that was their choice. They were doing it, not Jesus. He wasn’t telling them to do those things or say those things.
“God didn’t create robots, he gave us choices. You can choose to be kind, or you can choose to treat someone very cruelly. I just grew and understood better how God works.”
The Power Of Radio
Salma says listening to the positive messages and teaching on Hope Media’s broadcasts has deepened her faith, and she’d like to see others be encouraged in the same way.
“The most important thing for me is that the radio station is representing Christ,” she said. “They are constantly uplifting people, and teaching the world, and me, more about Him.
“I want to thank those who donate to the station to keep it on the air. Just as doctors keep people alive, so they have kept me, literally, alive.”
She believes the radio station is a vital tool in bringing hope to people who are isolated and lonely.
“There are a lot of people in pain, hurting,” she said. “For me, my pain was kept hidden. And for others I’m sure it’s the same. The radio station enables people to feel uplifted and enlightened. We all need love, we all need hope.”