$100 and a Dream
A little over four years later, in 1993, I learned that Raed had finally been released from prison. I'd left Cairo by then, and was covering the Mideast from London. When I traveled to the West Bank that spring, I found Raed working 16-hour days in a Palestinian sweatshop, making plastic sandals and sleeping on the factory floor. I arranged to meet him there on his one day off, and then I set about calling Repass, to tell him that Raed was at last in a position to accept his help. In Austin, a receptionist answered my call. When I asked to speak to the doctor, there was a moment's silence on the other end of the line. "I'm sorry, but Dr. Repass died a year and a half ago."
He had taken his Beechcraft Bonanza up for a short flight on a sunny afternoon. The plane fell out of the sky, and neither the Federal Aviation Administration inspectors nor the private investigators Kathleen hired had been able to figure out why.
As I struggled to break the news to Raed, I realized that I wasn't capable of dashing the hopes I'd raised by bringing Repass into his life. After my husband and I talked it over, we decided to pay for Raed's education ourselves.
It took him a year to catch up on his high school studies, but in 1994 Raed was admitted to Bethlehem University. At 21, he felt too old for medical school, so he decided to study education instead. In 1998 he graduated with honors. I was there for his commencement, perched in the stands between Rahme and Fatin. I thought about Dr. Rex, and I hoped he'd be pleased by what his $100 bill had accomplished. I didn't know then that the yield on Repass's spontaneous act of generosity was about to be amplified many times over.
In February of 1999, I wrote an article for The Washington Post Magazine about Raed's long journey to his college graduation. Within days of its publication, out of the blue I got a call from a Palestinian-American Quaker, who introduced himself as a retired educator. "You're Australian and you're Jewish, and yet you helped that boy," he said. "I as a Palestinian want to help, too."
Fahim Qubain and his wife, Nancy, proceeded to set up the Hope Fund, a tiny nonprofit they ran from their kitchen table in Lexington, Virginia. Their mission was to find young Palestinian refugees, like Raed, who were academically gifted but whose poverty made higher education an unreachable dream. By trial and error, Qubain, now a passionate and persuasive 85-year-old, hit on a successful formula for helping the maximum number of students despite operating with a very small donor base. His first breakthrough was to convince Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, to share his vision and provide two four-year scholarships in 2001. He then asked Amideast, a long-established nonprofit devoted to increasing educational cooperation between the United States and the Arab world, to identify gifted students. He used his own money, plus small donations, to pay for the students' travel, medical insurance, and whatever else they needed, whether it was a warm winter coat or a desk lamp.