In 2002, a bright and energetic luchador by the name of El Generico burst on to the independent scene with daring athletics, a bright red mask, and a glimmering golden cape. Emboldened by chants of “Ole!”, El Generico took the world by storm until 2013, when he was signed to WWE with the name of Sami Zayn. According to legend, El Generico then left the independent circuit to “move back to Mexico and build an orphanage”. While this provided a convenient cover for El Generico’s departure and Sami Zayn’s debut in WWE, it also gave us an idea of the kind of compassion he would hold for people who are struggling in the world today.
Canadian-born to Syrian parents, Sami has made no secret of his Syrian ancestry. With his name etched in Arabic on his tights, he bears a constant reminder of the world he came from, his ancestry being worn with pride. In a wrestling world that is traditionally held characters to racial stereotypes, Sami beats to the sound of his own drum and never forgets where he came from.
“It’s a great source of pride for me to be representing Arabs on such a global platform and I consider it as a badge of honor,” Sami told Al Arabiya English in an interview in 2016, “Growing up I loved watching wrestling on the WWE and finding an Arab wrestler to look up to was impossible,”
Away from his cocky persona on television, Sami has always been clear on the issues he supports and stands for. When the people of Syria were displaced by rising escalation of violence in the war torn country of his parent’s homeland, Sami began using his platform as a WWE superstar, educating those that follow him about this humanitarian crisis and what we can do to help.
In July 2017, he took his advocacy one step further and launched a fundraiser to deploy mobile medical clinics in Syria. In a country that was facing over 400,000 casualties from a violent civil war, with more than 5.5 million civilians being displaced, mobile clinics seemed to be the best option to get medical care to those who needed it most – primarily assisting those who are in rural and remote areas, or in refugee camps, who had no access to health care.
In 2018, Sami continued working with Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) foundation, and re-launched his fundraising campaign with Sami for Syria. This time, his mobile clinic initiative would also include humanitarian aid in their medical outreach programs.
This Sami for Syria fund raised over $109,000 (USD) dollars. With over 2200 donors from around the world, it meant that desperately needed mobile medical clinics, food, clean water, and baby formula were provided to those in need and displaced due to the ongoing conflict in the area.
In June 2019, Sami partnered with SAMS for a third time with the aim to provide life-saving medical care to Syrians affected by the crisis. Sami for Syria took over six months for the fundraiser to meet its financial goal, which Sami delightfully informed his followers of on Twitter on Christmas Day, 2019.
By May 2020, a further update on the fundraiser advised that four existing mobile clinics were re-stocked with medications, helping over 9,300 patients with a new mobile clinic to be operational within a month. The success of this fundraiser provided much needed relief for the people of Syria. Mobile medical units on the ground were restocked with medicine, and able to assist people with primary care visits, dental care, respiratory care, pediatric care and more, for thousands of civiliians who had been displaced in this war torn region.
The passionate ways in which Sami delivers his messages of hope, leaves a lasting impression on his fan around the world. With words that bring to light a world of compassion and promise, many people have been inspired to join him on his journey of creating change. Indeed, the latest Sami for Syria campaign has already raised over $57,000 (USD) dollars, from over 880 donors, just shy of it is $60,000 goal.
Continuing with his updates for the Sami For Syria campaign, Sami Zayn delivered this exciting update to his Twitter followers:
For Sami Zayn, compassion and empathy are paramount to advocating for real change and making a difference for people who are struggling in the world. It’s these actions of kindness, thoughtfulness and compassion, that Sami touched on in a 2018 interview with Dave Zirin from The Nation, about what inspired him to get involved:
“I think it was just the point in my life that I reached where I realized, I had to look myself in the mirror and take some accountability. I almost feel like I was more a part of a problem than a solution. It’s sort of this perpetual thing that keeps spinning, of people on one side of the fence versus people on the other side of the fence, and there’s this back and forth, dialogue and just nothing gets done. Everybody’s yelling and nobody’s actually doing anything.”
It’s rare to see that kind of self-reflection in the world today, especially within the world of larger than life characters that wrestling brings. When you have super villains and super heroes gracing the screen in a bitter fight for the moral highground that comes with championship glory, it’s not often that you see that fight take center stage with real world action. For the citiziens of Syria that have been devastated by an ongoing humanitarian crisis, this advocacy and activisim, inspired by a hard look at self-reflection, has been life changing. For wrestling fans who have followed and contributed to the various Sami For Syria campaigns, his voice has been nothing short of inspiring.
When it comes to bringing the stories of wrestling heroes to life in a way that can move us all to real world action, we can look no further than Sami Zayn. His story may have begun with El Generico moving to Mexico to help orphans thrive in an orphanage, but Sami has taken this idea of active compassion and turned it into an act of passionate activism. The world needs more people like Sami Zayn. The world is grateful for Sami Zayn.