Arab American Women Making an Impact: Nidhal Garmo
By Ivey Noojin/Arab America Contributing Writer
Nidhal Garmo regularly puts herself in danger in unstable regions in Iraq to provide medical relief for the people of her country. She is the president and chief executive officer of One World Medical Mission, which allows her to send medical supplies and other necessities to people in need. She also owns a pharmacy in Michigan, providing for the Arab American community there.
“I took the best of America,” Garmo said, adding, “and I am giving back to my country.”
She has won several awards for her advocacy work, including Ambassador for Peace for Promoting Religious Harmony in 2006 from the Universal Peace Foundation, the 2012 Global Humanitarian Award from the World Medical Relief and was the Person of the Year in 2007 from the National Arab American Medical Association.
Building Her Career
Beginning of Life
Nidhal Garmo was born in Baghdad and during that time in Iraq, the country chose the career of its citizens. Iraq selected Garmo to be an engineer; however, she wanted to be a doctor. She only went to engineering school for a month before deciding to move to the United States in 1980.
“I didn’t know much about America,” Garmo said.
She did know that she could study what she wanted in this new country, though. Since the Iraqi schools before the war were very good, the academic transition from her homeland to the U.S. wasn’t hard for her. Garmo originally wanted to be a doctor, but the waiting list for Pre-med was too long; she decided to be a pharmacist instead.
Garmo attended Wayne State University in Michigan and graduated in 1990 with a degree in pharmacy.
Even though she had recently emigrated to the United States, Nidhal Garmo quickly made a mark for herself.
As Arab Americans, “we have to build ourselves from zero,” Garmo said.
That didn’t slow her down, though.
After graduating, Garmo worked at a local pharmacy for five years. Then she established her own called, Nidhal’s Pharmacy in Michigan in 1995. This pharmacy was Detroit’s first multi-lingual pharmacy, being able to communicate in English, Arabic, Chaldean, and Russian. Ninety percent of her customers speak Arabic, so she, along with her workers, translate prescriptions regularly.
“The flexibility allows me to fulfill my other dream of doing charity work,” Garmo said in an interview with Independent Pharmacy Cooperative in reference to her job as a pharmacist.
Nidhal Garmo’s Advocacy Work
Nidhal Garmo’s advocacy began because she wanted to dedicate herself entirely to making others happy and healthy. With this dream, she founded One World Medical Mission, a global non-profit organization that provides relief and compassion for ethnic-religious communities in the Middle East, in 2008. She wanted to help war-impacted communities and establishing this organization allowed her to do so.
“I used my own personal money for 10 years,” Garmo said.
She was so passionate about the project that she had to use the money she had earned from her pharmacy business. Garmo only saw the children in Iraq as victims of the war and wanted to do anything she could to help.
“I look at them as my children,” Garmo said.
Now, she partners with several other charities and organizations to help her fund One World Medical Mission’s cause. However, she still uses a significant amount of her money to make sure the people in Iraq are receiving the aid they need.
Nidhal Garmo’s Shipment Trips
With One World Medical Mission, Nidhal Garmo has traveled to Iraq 27 times, carrying medical supplies and clothes. The last trip, she took $600,000 worth of supplies and visited several hospitals, including one for cancer and one which was destroyed by ISIS.
“It was the best thing I have done in my life,” Garmo said.
When traveling, Garmo always documents what she sees and shares her triumphs with social media.
Social Media Presence
Nidhal Garmo has gathered a large social media presence. She mainly uses Facebook, she has over 22,000 friends and even more followers, but her popularity on Instagram has been steadily growing.
“I see all the comments on social media,” Garmo said. “It gives me energy.”
Through social media, she has realized how many people she can reach with her message. Garmo especially wants the younger generation to see her presence online to hopefully get them to support her cause.
“Social media is like a weapon that succeeded in making young people more motivated,” Garmo said.
Since there are so many people in need, she wants all the help she can possibly get, especially from those who grew up using social media.
How We Can Help
Nidhal Garmo is asking each of us to help her make a difference. Even though she has already made such an impact within Iraqi communities, she wants to do even more. Garmo needs lobbyists in D.C. and people with marketing experience to support her in growing One World Medical Mission.
She also currently does not have any funding from the UN. Garmo believes that the current grants of $300 million are getting stuck in corrupt communities in Iraq, leaving thousands of people without basic necessities. She would love any support in order to garner this grant.
Garmo encourages anyone to donate on her organization’s website. One dollar could be turned into one hundred dollars or more of medical supplies for the multi ethnic-religious communities in need in Iraq.