This Muslim Man Has Dedicated His Life to Fostering Terminally Ill ChildrenApr 20, 2017
In a time of divisions and daily uncertainties, we could all use a little faith. Not only in a religion (if you are a believer), but in humanity… and the time we have while we’re alive. One person in particular is sparking that faith with an open and selfless heart, and his actions are making all the difference. His name is Mohamed Bzeek, and he is the only foster parent in Los Angeles who cares solely for terminally ill children.
“I know they are going to die,” Bzeek admitted to the LA Times. And yet, he can’t bear to let them suffer on their own. He has dedicated his life to rescuing and nurturing children until death comes to take them from his warm, loving hands. “The key is, you have to love them like your own… I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God.”
Becoming a foster parent—a rescuer of so many children—was never Bzeek’s initial plan. In his home country of Libya, Bzeek was a former marathon runner. In 1978, he immigrated to the United States to study engineering and became a citizen in 1997. Years before he was a passport-wielding American, Bzeek met his wife, Dawn, who had become a foster parent and foster child advocate in the early 1980s. Dawn opened her home as an emergency respite for foster children who needed immediate placement. After introducing Bzeek to the children who somehow managed smiles and jokes through current illnesses and the memories of past abuse, it didn’t take long for Bzeek to join her on the mission. Together, the couple chose to care for only those children with “do-not-resuscitate” orders because those were the children that sadly, no one else wanted to take in.
It’s easy to see why foster parents may be wary of taking on more than they signed up for. Children who are both ill and without family support need around-the-clock care. They need to be held, fed, medicated, supervised, bathed, and driven to hospital visits. It would be fully impossible to hold a full-time job outside of the house and take care of a child, as Bzeek does. Which is why he and his wife made it their full-time profession to take in children, sent to them by Department of Children and Family Services. They don’t live in a mansion, and don’t even have central air conditioning and heating. “You have to do it from your heart, really,” Bzeek told PBS in an interview. “If you do it for money, you’re not going to stay for long.”
But just because he rescues with his heart doesn’t mean he hasn’t suffered hardships along the way. His own biological child, Adam, was born with dwarfism and brittle bones. Even though he also requires physical support and specialized care from his family, Adam is positive and supportive of his family’s assistance of foster children. Now a teenager, he reflects on each of his departed siblings with love.
Yes, Bzeek has buried 10 of the children he has fostered—one as early as 8 days after she arrived at his home. Some even died in his arms. Each death is another heartbreak, and yet, Bzeek’s faith propels him to keep a practical and positive outlook. “Death is part of life,” he tells PBS. “I’m glad that I help these kids go through this period of … time.”
Unfortunately, death visited an unexpected member of Bzeek’s family. In 2015, his wife passed away. He misses her everyday and always believed her to have the stronger soul. She knew the right words to get her through the difficulty and sorrow of the fostering job.
Bzeek honors his wife through his constant determination to help others. “I know somebody who needs help. I will do [foster care] as long as I am healthy.” He does now have an aide who helps him on weekdays. And since his story was first printed, a GoFundMe in his name was established. Donations go towards a myriad of necessities: installing air conditioning in the Bzeek house, allowing Bzeek to destress and go on vacation (he hasn’t taken a single day off of his full-time care since 2010), sending his son to college, and a new van for transporting children to appointments. At the time this article was written, the fundraiser is over 1/3 of the way to their $100k goal.
The humble Mohamed Bzeek says, “I am not an angel. I am not a hero. It’s just what we are supposed to do as a human being.” And yet it is human beings like Bzeek himself that remind us of the goodness that can shine through dark days. Even though his own home country of Libya is on the executive order seeking to bar immigrants from majority Muslim nations, Bzeek believes that love and respect are key. His story sheds light on the many foreign-born citizens who continue to make a positive difference in our country. Imagine… who would be taking in the ill children of L.A., providing extensive care and comfort, if it wasn’t for this Libyan man? His race and his religion play no part in this story. It is his heart that signifies the importance of including people of all backgrounds with a genuine, warm welcome.