Dr. Curt Rhodes
December 05, 2023
Founder's Series: Our Founder and Chief Vision Officer, Dr. Curt Rhodes, on what it means to serve the last.

First, you run.

Anywhere. Away from that door. Towards a windowless bathroom. Under an archway. Anywhere. With a child, if you have one. Or two. Or three.

Then, you breathe. And desperately think about a safer place to run to. Papers with you, or not? Cash?

Then you rapidly plot where to run to next. Where is safer? How do I get there? What about others? What happened to them? Who else is safe? Or not.

Family, friends. Fingers on cell phone dial pad. Connect, sometimes. Find each other. Move to next safety. Who can help us?

A thought creeps in – why is this happening? What is happening?! What?!

Then, you plead. Please, God-in-heaven, stop this. Please, somebody, stop this. We don’t want our children to die in piles of concrete rubble and twisted metal.

Fourteen thousand civilians in Gaza, dead. More than two million facing the need to run, somewhere.  

Our relief actions in Gaza mean we can do remarkable things for people in remarkably hard times. We are not in this to make a political statement. Compassion is for anyone and everyone who suffers loss, who fear for their lives. We just find ourselves near-neighbors to Gaza, all of us Arabs or Arabic speakers, in a position to serve Palestinian friends and kinfolk, ready to use the skills and networks we built up over decades.  

In my 40 years of living in the Middle East, it is compassion for people – especially when violence rips through their lives – that makes a difference. Compassion for any of those who have to hide or to run, somewhere, to be safe, somehow.

For me, this puts the last, first. The only criteria for compassion are suffering and need. No identity card is required to love and care for a suffering person. It is a human thing for us to do. It is what we would wish for if we were the ones suffering.

Forty years ago, I witnessed the massacre of Palestinian civilians confined in a refugee camp in Beirut.  I felt very much alone, struggling with very limited ways to show my feelings of compassion. Today, I again witness deaths of Palestinian civilians in a confined space. But my ability, our ability, to move compassion from feeling to action is now greatly amplified through the efforts of friends, staff, volunteers, partners and supporters of Questscope.

It is very clear to me that violence 40 years ago did not lead to peace. And it is very clear to me that violence today will not lead to peace, not in 4, 10 or 40 years.

Then, we act. We can stop the consequences of violence on people just like us, who were bombed awake one night, to run, somewhere, somehow to escape from those bombs. We can show compassion, unbounded compassion, unconditional love. Food. Water. Shelter. Warmth. Medicine.

Compassion without conditions is a human thing to do. A Questscope thing to do. Our thing to do. To do more than one person could ever do alone. It is where we start, where we can break this despicable cycle of violence.

Violence does not bring peace. Let’s start with unconditional compassion. That is what we do, together.


Curt pic1
Founder & Chief Vision Officer

Dr. Curt Rhodes

Curt Rhodes has spent close to 40 years working with, and on behalf of, marginalized communities and young people across the Middle East.

As the recipient of the 2014 Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award, Dr. Rhodes was recognized by Tufts University for his demonstrated compassion and tenacity in creating a highly effective and determined organization dedicated to the survival and nurturing of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised.

In recognition of his work with marginalized youth in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and in the region, Dr. Rhodes was awarded 2011 Social Entrepreneur of the Year for the Middle East and North Africa by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

Dr. Rhodes began his career in the Middle East in the early 1980s, as Assistant Dean in the School of Public Health at the American University of Beirut. During the 1982 invasion of west Beirut, he volunteered in a community-based clinic alongside students and friends, doing around-the-clock triage for wounded and ill civilians. That was when the seed idea for Questscope began to take shape. Living and working with people in great suffering compelled him to find a way that he and others in the Middle East could assist the most vulnerable: participating with the voiceless ones in invisible communities.

In 1988, Questscope was founded with the goal of putting the last, first. From the beginning, Questscope worked closely with local communities, identifying their aspirations and together addressing their greatest needs.