Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Big applause for these kids who read and reported on the most books in their club

Friday, November 4, 2011

When Um M and two of her children arrived in Jordan a year ago, they rented a tiny flat in extremely bad condition. But when her husband and 3 other sons fled to Jordan two months ago, the landlord told them to move as the flat was too small for so many people. Um M had only been receiving a small UNHCR monthly assistance for her and the two children but this was barely enough for just the three of them to scrape by and would not be enough to buy food for her family now that there were four more mouths to feed. It certainly would not be enough to pay rent on a larger flat.

She went with her husband and the other children to UNHCR right away to request that they be added to the family file so that the monthly grant could be increased. A problem at UNHCR resulted in the family not receiving the increase for this month -- and in fact, causing them to not receive even the smaller amount. They were informed that things will be taken care of and that they can expect to receive the grant at end of November -- but not for the lost month. How were they to survive for an entire month without any income? 

They had moved into a larger flat (pictured) and had promised the new landlord that he would receive the rent money. When they were unable to pay the rent, he was threatening to throw them out -- this, in the days just before Eid - a Muslim holiday as significant as Christmas is to many westerners.

Um M did not approach CRP for help -- even though the family was in such dire straits. Because she and her children attend CRP classes and activities, she knew that CRP is struggling to keep our doors open and we are very concerned that we may have to close at the end of the month. Instead, we found out when we called Um M to ask why she did not come to an activity she was enrolled in. Only then did she tell us that she could not come because she was dealing with this crisis. Her family had no food; they had sold anything they had of value just to raise what ever they could toward trying to pay the rent. She had even sold a 3 kilo bag of sugar from their pantry. 

Not only this, but because of their financial problems, her two eldest sons had dropped out of school a month ago, taking a job cleaning toilets, trying to make money to pay the rent and put food on the table.  At the end of the month of grueling work, they went to the boss to be paid and he told them that there was no pay, that they are Iraqis and could go ahead and go to the police if they wanted but they would be the ones in trouble, not him. Iraqi refugees are not allowed to work in Jordan and this type of exploitation is horrifically too common. 

The entire family felt beaten down and hopeless at this point, terrified they were going to be put out on the street.

A friend of CRP visited our center the next day, delivering a carload of gently used, donated clothes and household items she had collected from friends and family. We told her about this family's dire situation and our deep concern for them -- and our frustration that we could not help.  After we took the donated items from her car and put them in the distribution room, we decided to take her to visit Um M and her family as they live just a few doors down from our building.

She met with the family, asked questions about their situation and listened to Um M tell of their hardships.  Typical of Iraqis, Um M would end each telling of a sad or terrifying event in the family's saga as refugees with "al-Hamdolelah" (Thanks to God), always remembering to be grateful, even when life presents seemingly insurmountable challenges.

We all wanted to make sure this family was not evicted and that they had food on the table. Our friend said she would talk to her friends and family to see if anyone could help. CRP contacted several other NGOs to find out if they had any way of helping. One of the NGOs said they might be able to help and made an appointment for the following morning. We were all hopeful that a solution had been found.

Um M called us after this appointment. The NGO said that they might be able to help -- but that it would take a few days for a decision to be made and then, only after Eid (a four day holiday). The landord was not willing to wait and we were back where we started.

Thankfully, our friend was able to rally her friends to come to the rescue. Together, through their generosity and caring, enough funds were gathered to pay the rent and for the family to eat until the end of the month -- overnight! She delivered the aid directly to the family this morning. I stopped by to visit them a little while later and found the atmosphere in the house was entirely different than it had been just two days ago. The children were smiling and Um M's eyes were filled with tears of gratitude and relief. Not only did these kind people rescue this family from homelessness, they had ensured that the family would not have an empty table for Eid. 

CRP wants to express our deepest and sincerest gratitude to our caring friend who took it on herself to raise the funds and to everyone who,, with her,, came together to help this family. Without your kindness, what would they have done? Our words can never be enought o tell you how much we appreciated your saving this family from the deep crisis. We share with we know is only a small percent of the relief and thankfulness that this family feels, we know - but it is one less family of the so many who are in as desperate need right now, and who we cannot help because donations have plummeted in the past two months. 

We are at great risk of having to close our doors and end our vital support of Iraqis here soon if we don not get enough support. This terrifies us for families like this one, who have relied on us to rescure them when there were no other resources. We are witnessing the closure of other small organziations that have been a resource for Iraqis here, or larger, international NGOs going through severe cutbacks in their aid programs. What will happen if we all leave? Their situation is so dire now, it's impossible to imagine.

Please consider helping CRP remain a life-line for destitute Iraqi refugees in Jordan. Any amount, small or large, will make a difference. We especially ask you to consider becoming a monthly donor. If enough of you pledge to give even a small amount monthly, we can be assured of keeping our doors open and aid available for the most needy. You can sign up to be a monthly donor or make a single contribution today here:

Thank you and Eid Mubarak to all of our Muslim friends.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


September approaches and, like everywhere else, the store shelves here in Medford, Oregon, are stocked with back-to-school supplies. As I watch the moms go through the aisles with kids in tow, checking off items from their shopping lists, I remember how September was always a season faced with mixed emotions – regret that summer vacation was over, blending with the excitement of a fresh start, of seeing old friends and making new ones, curiosity about the new teacher, new class room. But it was something else too, something more subtle -- it was verification that you’d accomplished something important and achieved a new status in the hierarchy of childhood.  You were, well, more educated than you were last year.

It’s almost inconceivable that education could be put at risk by the price of a school uniform or a few note books and pencils. I can’t imagine telling a child of mine that she can’t go to school because you have no money to buy the required school supplies. But that’s what Iraqi refugees too often face.  And, it’s a hard fact that when a child misses one or two years of school, the likelihood that they’ll ever return to school is low.

That's why we're raising money to purchase required school uniforms and supplies for 20 Iraqi refugee children. You can help give these kids a fresh start and bring them hope for their future by donating at 
We'll be updating our graph below on a daily basis, so check back here to see our progress, or go to our Collateral Repair Project Face Book Page.  

Friday, August 12, 2011

Illiteracy Rate in Iraq Climbs among Highest in the Region

"One in five Iraqis between the ages of 10 and 49 cannot read or write a simple statement related to daily life[1]. While Iraq boasted a record low illiteracy rate for the Middle East in the 1980s, illiteracy jumped to at least 20% in 2010[2].  Moreover, illiteracy among women in Iraq, at 24%, is more than double that of men (11%)" Full article  at:       

Monday, June 20, 2011

World Refugee Day

Helping You Help Iraqi Refugees.
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Today is World Refugee Day. Like most issue days, this one will come and go with the usual level of dutiful, if somewhat mechanical, attention. UNHCR will comment, an automated email from the State Department will appear in my inbox containing an official statement, and concerned organizations will host fundraisers, hoping to capture a moment of the world's short attention span.

Last year on this date, the Iraqi refugees that I met in Jordan adopted a grim sense of humor surrounding June 20th, accompanied at times by anger. "Do we say 'Happy Refugee Day,' or 'Sorry you're a refugee?'" one asked, followed by, "We know we're refugees. We don't need a day for it." For the world's 10.4 million refugees, every day is refugee day. Every hour is more time spent in an impossible situation, worrying about the future and waiting on a resolution.

In volunteering with Collateral Repair Project, a small NGO that provides assistance to Iraqis in Jordan, I've heard many variations of the refugee narrative. Individually, the stories are piercing and demand all of a room's emotional energy. During home visits, the director and I breathe in and glance at each other nervously when the household head tears up and the family story begins to spill into the room. Lumped together in the mass of the Iraq war's debris, they meld into one blurry, tortured backdrop of war. They become part of our matter-of-fact conversation as we file family profiles. The son whose eye was gouged out as a warning to his father; the severly disabled child affected prenatally by U.S. use of uranium; the widow who searched through a room of body bags to find the chopped up body of her husband; the man who saw dogs eat the body of a dead countryman in Baghdad. You get the picture (and possibly wish that you didn't).

Each of these stories (and so many others) is attached to a person who currently lives in Amman, powerless over their own situation, waiting for the policies and procedures to work in their favor. Barred from employment in Jordan, many live in desperate poverty, and U.N. aid isn't anywhere close to meeting the need of the estimated 500,000 Iraqis here, and 1.8 million in the region. (Whether the U.N. can not or will not meet the need is another matter). Meanwhile, a smattering of NGOs is scrambling to fill the gaps and still falls pitifully short.

The young adults are especially affected, having no money for higher education and seeing their lives indefinitely placed on hold. Resettlement creeps along and is not an attainable resolution for many families. For the few that are accepted into the program, the process can take years and is not guaranteed. When I was here last summer, I knew at least two families who were said to be "in line" for resettlement. One had already been assigned a country - a positive step. When I returned to Jordan ten months later, I found those families still here and still "in line."

Iraqis are often subjected to discrimination in Jordan, regularly experiencing petty incidents like taxi fare rip-offs, and are vulnerable to false accusations; Iraqis are often presumed guilty until proven otherwise. Their situation is not helped by the world's waning interest as donors tire of Iraq's never-ending saga. Many of the families with which we work lived solidly middle class lives in Iraq as professionals, business owners, or trade workers. They are eager to find employment, to resume a stable life for their children, and to contribute to society, if given the opportunity.

If we cannot yet make Iraq safe enough for them to return, then we must create a safe home for them elsewhere. The U.S., being the precipitator of this crisis, has to take the lead in its resolution, either by significantly increasing its acceptance of families for resettlement, or by creating dramatic improvements in conditions for Iraqis in Jordan and Syria. They need substantial and sustained funding for basic emergency food and rent assistance, trauma counseling, legal protection, and education scholarships. None of these offers of support can replace a home lost or a relative dead, but can provide these war weary families with a hopeful, if altered, future.

Lucy Perkins is a 2011 graduate of Tufts University and a volu
nteer with Collateral Repair Project in Amman, Jordan.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Yesterday was one of the kinds of days that I live for.  It was warm, sunny, just gorgeous.   A perfect day, in fact, to visit Zainab and her children, a new family CRP is helping. 
Previously we wrote about how we met Zainab and her 4 children – 13 year old Fadi, 10 year old Aisha, and the 4 year old twin girls, Abeer and Fadwa.  They’d come to our door asking for help a couple of weeks ago. The family had been in Jordan for a little over a month, having fled sectarian violence and threats due to Zainab and her husband Jamal’s intermarriage. 
The family came to Amman totally unprepared, having no idea of the trials and hardships awaiting them.  It certainly didn’t help when a rental agent swindled them by renting them an overpriced apartment.  Since then, they had found a lower priced flat, but they exhausted the meager amount of money they brought with them from Iraq.  
Their new apartment, considering its very low price, is surprisingly spacious, clean and comfortable.  They greeted us with smiles and invited us to come in.  This was when we discovered that although this family had managed to find a better living arrangement, they had absolutely no furniture or household items.  Their only possessions were their suitcases sitting against a wall, and the only other thing in the flat was a naked bed frame left there by the landlord. 
The situation was dire, indeed.  This family’s needs were so extensive that we called another NGO, and because of our excellent relationship with them, they immediately responded to our request to help this family. They agreed to provide them with sleeping mats, a countertop gas cooker and some cleaning supplies, and we took Jamal with us on a shopping trip to pick up some other needed items, including a cooking gas cylinder, pillows and blankets, pots and pans and other things. 
The family positively glowed when we returned with a van loaded with things for their new flat.  The atmosphere was like a party as each new addition to their new home was unpacked.  Zainab, Jamal and the kids were beaming.  A step back from the darkness into the light of hope never looked brighter or more promising.  
The other NGO gave them a small gift certificate to use at a modestly-priced local department store for the children’s clothing, and we arranged for 2 large bottles of drinking water to be delivered  – the tap water in Amman is not safe to drink.  We also provided the family an adequate amount of cash to buy enough food to last for a month. 
The family’s relief radiated from their smiling faces and seemed to fill the room.  It was like sunshine breaking through clouds, to see parents no longer worried about how they would care for their children’s basic needs.  The whole family no longer had to worry about how they would eat or how they could possibly sleep on a stone floor.  For most of us, it’s hard to imagine ever being in such a predicament, being totally destitute and with no possessions other than a suitcase full of clothes - wondering what will happen next and how we’ll survive…wondering how our kids will survive. 
We talked with the family about their lives both before and after the 2003 US invasion.  They spoke of the chaos the war brought to Iraq – the gangs, the rampant violence, the lawlessness.  Zainab told us about one incident in particular that traumatized young Fadi when he was only six years old – the little boy was outside playing when he saw one man kill another with a knife right in front of him.  Since then, Fadi has suffered from nightmares every night.
Zainab’s dark eyes once again shone with tears as she spoke about the family’s life in Iraq.  Zainab was a teacher and school administrator; her husband Jamal told us about his job as an engineer.  They had lived in comfort, their children were doing well in school, and their careers were satisfying and brought them a good income. 
Zainab mentioned her extensive experience in teaching Arabic, and as fate would have it, we’d been looking for someone who would be able to teach an Arabic literacy course.  We asked her if she would be interested, and she happily agreed, saying she would do it for free. 
We suggested something a little different – that her teaching would be in exchange for our continuing help until the family receives its cash assistance from UNHCR.  This restores Zainab’s dignity and identity, and we’re so glad to have found the teacher we needed! 
We will also pay for a critically-needed medical exam for Zainab (very inexpensive by western standards) and for medications needed by her and Fadi for chronic medical conditions.  And of course, we have invited the family to join us for CRP programs and activities at our center.  This will help them to make friends that are a crucial source of emotional support within the Iraqi refugee community.  We’re looking forward to having them join us!
This is what can be accomplished with contributions from compassionate and caring people.  A family was given back hope for their future.  A good outcome for a day’s work on our part, and what a beautiful result for the donors who care about Iraqi refugee families.  Thank you from all of us, to all of you.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Exploitation to Desperation

Recently, while having an informal planning meeting at our main center, a woman and her four young children came to CRP’s door. 
Zainab’s face showed her weariness as she began telling us her family’s story.  They arrived in Amman about 6 weeks ago, having been forced to flee because she and her husband belong to different religious sects.  They’d received death threats from local militia and decided to leave, taking with them only their clothes and around $1,000.  When they arrived in Amman, they visited a real estate broker who charged them a large fee and found them an apartment which cost $500, half the money they’d brought with them.  After staying there for a month, they moved to a less expensive apartment but are now down to their last $200. 
It is common for Iraqis new to Amman to be exploited by persons looking to profit from their predicament.  Unless a refugee family has friends or relatives to help them, they usually have no idea of what to expect when they come here; they don’t know how much or little to pay for an apartment, and they don’t know how to go about finding one, so they go to brokers, who often cheat them.
I watched Zainab’s face as she spoke in Arabic to Ghazwan about what she and her family have endured.  Her dark eyes became glasslike with unshed tears, and her weariness and anxiety mapped her features with shadows. 
She told how, on their way out of Iraq, she and the children saw bodies lying by the roadside, attesting to the continued atmosphere of violence and horror in Iraq.  The kids, so traumatized by the sound of gunfire and explosions, are fearful and upset whenever they hear the sound of fireworks.  Her husband assumed he would be able to find a job quickly in Amman; they weren’t aware that Iraqi refugees cannot work here legally.  They also believed that UNHCR cash assistance would be available immediately.  Sasha informed her that the process can take many months and that there is no guarantee that their application will be approved. Zainab’s face was a portrait of shock and disappointment when hearing this news. She left a 19-year career as a school administrator, a job that paid well.  Now, she and her family have almost no money left, no way to pay next month’s rent and utilities, and no way to buy food.
This is a common scenario here; a family flees with nothing more than their clothes, a few personal belongings and whatever cash they have on hand, and they have no idea of what awaits them or how they will cope.  The application for refugee status is tortuously slow, its outcome uncertain.  This family could wait months, or a year or longer, for an outcome on their applications, and in the meantime there is very little help for them.  We will be visiting this family soon to assess their situation more fully and to see what help we can provide.  Ghazwan had the difficult task of explaining to Zainab that due to the reduced number of donations we’ve received, we are not sure of how much assistance we can give her family.  We have many families here whose circumstances are as severe as Zainab’s, and some whose situations are even worse.  We are hoping that we will be able to give this family the assistance they so desperately need.

A Small Amount Can Make a Big Difference
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or by check to:
Collateral Repair Project
PO Box 8160
Medford, OR 97501

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Couch Surfing in Amman - A Mother's Tale

When Sahar was granted resettlement to the US from Iraq, she fully anticipated that her 14 yr old daughter would soon follow.   But one year later, her daughter was still in Iraq, where her life was in increasing jeopardy. Her best friend had been kidnapped for ransom and her uncle had been had been viciously assaulted.

Fearing for her daughter’s safety, Sahar did what any mother would do to protect a child.  At great risk to herself, she returned to Iraq and brought her daughter to Amman, Jordan in hopes of returning to the US from there.  Sahar cried as she described how much she missed her child in Iraq, was frightened and concerned about her welfare, and had taken it upon herself to return to Iraq to get her daughter to a safe place.

But now, they find themselves entangled in the web that is the immigration and refugee system.  This system can be infuriatingly slow and disempowering for the people who are depending upon it, and while they wait for their cases to travel through its labyrinth, their lives are literally on hold.

They came to Amman with about $400 and a little money that her sister in Sweden had sent her. When these funds were exhausted, she appealed to CRP for help.  She didn’t know what to do and told us how she and her daughter had been staying in the homes of various friends but that they couldn’t continue to do this indefinitely.  She described to us their current living arrangements, which were potentially dangerous, and a decision was quickly reached to have Sahar and her daughter stay temporarily at the CRP center.

Meanwhile, CRP is looking for a small, inexpensive flat for Sahar and her daughter and will pay the rent and utilities until the immigration matter is resolved. We will also help with food expenses. Because she has been resettled in the US, Sahar is no longer eligible for assistance from UNHCR.  Sahar also has some health issues that require medical attention and medication.

So many Iraqi refugees live just as Sahar and her daughter have been forced to live – like vagabonds, moving from one friend’s home to another, sleeping on floors and sofas with no place to call their own, carrying their few belongings with them. 

When there's no one else, there's You

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

America's Big Day?

The big news, as we all know, was President Obama’s announcement that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in an “operation” by the CIA conducted in Abbotabad, Pakistan.  Following this news, we took note of the celebratory tone of many of the media stories and op eds that spoke of the “relief” that this boogeyman has been eliminated at long last; the “big fish” in the “war on terror” has finally been reeled in, duly dispatched, and his corpse tossed into the sea.
We watched a video of Obama’s announcement and was struck by the dramatic language he used to recount the drama of 9/11 and the loss of 3,000 American lives that day.  But what struck even more strongly was that not a word was uttered about the many lives lost as a consequence of that day’s events, and of the displacement of millions of innocent people, all because of a false assertion that somehow Saddam Hussein had had something to do with the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. 

I wanted to ask, “What, Mr. President, nothing to say to the Iraqi people, not a word to acknowledge this  cause-and-effect resulting in the shattering of their society, the deaths of their loved ones?”  I would also wonder whether Mr. Obama would have any words to say to the Iraqis I have met here in Amman since I arrived here in March:   the man whose fingers were eaten off by acid in an episode of unspeakable torture; the woman whose husband was kidnapped by a militia, murdered, and his remains returned to her in pieces stuffed into a garbage bag;  the young woman whose beauty was stolen forever by a car bomb; the mother whose twins’ lives were erased in an explosion; the family who left Baghdad under threats of their children’s “annihilation,” living in one cold room and sharing two small blankets…and there are so many more.
 At this particular time, when it appears that the world’s collective attention may be focusing now on pursuing yet more boogeymen in the name of America’s “freedom,” we feel it is a good time to look more seriously than ever at the “collateral damage” that is a consequence of 9/11, and work even harder to repair it. We would love to see as many of you as possible granting my wish, and giving us the support we need to continue helping the refugees here in Amman to rebuild their lives.  

Here's How You Can Help

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Delivery

On Easter Sunday we revisited the young family we told you about a few weeks ago, whose children were so hungry at the time of our first visit that they ate the crayons and paints we brought them as gifts.  

They still live in the dismal, damp one-room flat, which held an overwhelming odor of urine from the defective plumbing.

We had heard that the young mother had visited a doctor and had learned the new baby will be a girl, so Sasha and went shopping for some nice pink baby gifts and had come to deliver them. We also brought a supply of staple foods (oil, flour, sugar, rice, pasta and other items) for the family, and a box of snack cakes for the children.   As she opened the gifts, the contrast between the new and clean clothes and blankets, and the shabby surroundings, was so sharp that I felt my heart sink.  We could not imagine bringing a tiny child into such a place.  We thought of newborn babies and how they always lift our spirits and bring a glow to our hearts, but standing inside that dismal room I felt a pang of despair, not only for the family having another member to care for, but for the child whose life may very well be one of hopelessness and poverty.

We asked that they please contact us when the baby is born so that we can make a return visit and see the new arrival.  Until then, they will be in my prayers and my thoughts.  They are one of many Iraqi refugee families here who live in poor conditions and need help urgently.  Fortunately, the cost of the birth of this child will be paid by CARE, but the family still does not receive any financial assistance.  We will continue to worry about this family and hope their conditions will improve soon.  Many thanks to our donors who contributed to help us bring this small amount of help to them! ~ Mary Shephard

Many more families await your help

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter 2011

It’s a beautiful day here in Amman.  The birds are singing outside the window as I write, the sun is streaming in, and cars are quietly passing in the street.  Tranquil, peaceful, so hard to imagine that the world around me is enmeshed in violence and strife.
No wonder, then, that it’s so hard for people to remember the ongoing tragedy that is Iraq.  Not only are most of us soothed by our peaceful surroundings, but we’re also continually being bombarded with new stories of horror and tragedy from all over the world.  We can feel overwhelmed by this, and our natural reaction is to shut it all out and tell ourselves that there is nothing we can do.
It is Easter weekend.  Although I am not a Christian, I do know the meaning of Easter; through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all of mankind is saved from darkness.  This is a beautiful story, one of hope and renewal, and as we watch our kids tear into their Easter baskets, attend religious services to celebrate this joyful day, and join our families in a traditional Easter dinner, we may not stop for a moment and remember those who are the “collateral damage” resulting from the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
Iraqis are still fleeing for their lives, and many times they find themselves in harsh circumstances once they arrive in Amman.  The waiting period for cash assistance from the UN can be many months, and not all Iraqis receive it.  Returning to Iraq is out of the question for them – they either have no homes to return to, or to go back can mean death.  So they languish in Amman, relying on neighbors and relatives to help support them, but their lives are harsh. For many Iraqis, they find themselves in grinding poverty and uncertainty, forced to buy a little food on credit, living in hovels with no heat, and many families live in single rooms where they sleep on a cold floor.   Unable to work legally in Jordan, some risk jail and deportation by taking menial jobs, but many more sit in hopelessness and impoverishment.  Domestic violence can rear its ugly head, a manifestation of despair and a loss of self amid the continuing turmoil of life as a refugee.  Some Iraqis have, or develop, medical conditions for which they cannot obtain necessary medications.  The list of challenges they face as refugees goes on and on.
We at CRP are working every day to make the situation better for Iraqi families in Amman.  We help in many ways, including cash assistance to those need emergency help.  Unfortunately, our donations have slowed to a trickle, and we have not been able to provide this vital help.  Because of this, some Iraqi families are at risk of homelessness.  Another risk is imprisonment of Iraqi husbands because of nonpayment of debt. 
On this Easter Sunday, while we are enjoying the day with family and friends, please take a moment to remember the ongoing tragedy of Iraq and its refugees.  A donation of even a small amount goes a long way in helping us to help Iraqi refugees.  The story of hope and renewal that is Easter can be lived every day through caring and giving.  Happy Easter! ~ Mary Shephard

When There's No Other Way, There's You

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Today we went to visit a family who has been in Amman since January, 2010 and has not received any  financial assistance from UNHCR. They have had no money to pay their rent or to feed their kids. Bilal, age 28, and his wife Amira, age 21, have two little boys, ages 18 months and 3 years. When they had to flee Iraq and come to Jordan, the younger child was a newborn. We visited for a happy reason – one of our very generous donors has pledged to send $250 a month to support this young family, and we were happy to deliver the first month’s donation.

The family lives in a tiny, run-down and shabby flat which is nothing more than a small room with a bathroom lacking a tub or shower, and a tiny kitchen, but now they can pay their rent, get good food for themselves and their two little boys, and insulin for Bilal’s diabetes.  My heart almost burst inside my chest when I saw their faces as Ghazwan presented them with the donation that is literally a lifesaver.  We sat on the floor during our visit because they have no furniture.  Both Bilal and Amira had new hope in their eyes.  They can now see a good future for themselves and their boys because someone cares.
Most  families who have arrived in Amman since 2010 usually have had to endure a long waiting process while they’re assessed for refugee status.  This is a new development; they won’t receive cash assistance unless they are classified as refugees.  This family has been waiting for almost a year and a half.  How were the supposed to survive during this wait?  We’ve helped these families in the past by giving them emergency cash, but because our donations have slowed to a trickle, we’ve been unable to help any families for the past two months.. When we couldn’t help they were forced to rely on their equally poor neighbors for food, and there were days when the family literally had nothing to eat at all.  Bilal and his family are very, very fortunate to have a generous donor take an interest in them and offer to give them the help they need so desperately.
When you know someone cares about you, your whole life looks different.  You have the strength to go on, the ability to feel hope again.  One minute it can feel as if there is no reason to get up in the morning, and the next, it can feel as if life is full of miracles.  I saw this transformation today.  When I first met Bilal a few weeks ago, his whole being conveyed his worry and fear.  Today, he was a new man – smiling, laughing, and he said, “now I can relax.”  He asked us about a million times to thank the person who has pledged to help his family.
It’s a lesson for all of us, really – to put ourselves in our brother’s shoes and feel his pain, then reach out and help – and then watch the transformation.  It’s beautiful.  You can transform a family’s life, too.

It's Safe, It's Secure, It's Tax Deductible 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Playing It Forward

In this blog, CRP friend and supporter Carol Malik, shares memories of her dad, his love of dominoes and his acts of generosity. Carol carries on his tradition by donating funds in his memory for supplies for CRP's Men's Dominoes Night. Thank you Carol!
Mary Madsen

 Honestly, if my Dad were alive and he knew about these men needing a place to play dominoes, he would have made that happen.  No doubt about it!  He was a bulldozer operator and worked seasonally.  During the winter months, the men would gather at, of all places, a furniture store to play dominoes near the cash register!  Nothing like rural Arkansas growing up!

Yes, the Iraqi value their elders so much.  And my Dad would have loved to play dominoes with them for sure!  I think the way he put it was "there is no such thing as a stranger, just people you haven't got acquainted with yet".  I wish I had a photo of my Dad playing dominoes, but I think we were too busy playing to even think about that! 
I know dominoes for my family was a time of fun, laughter and talking over some important ways to handle situations of life while we were playing a game.  What could be better than taking a serious issue, mulling it over and finding a way to deal with the serious enjoying something to help relax and solve those issues?  Who would believe you could solve problems over a game of dominoes.

My Dad had compassion for people and was always willing to help when he learned about the difficulties of a neighbor or family in need.  It didn't matter to him what the cause of a problem for the people was, if he had the means to help, that was all that was necessary.  And to this day I remember going with him and my Mom to homes out in rural Arkansas and taking groceries and cooked food to people in need or helping somebody with a way to get the electricity back on or the water running or somebody in need of clothes.

And he never wanted a single thing in return.  If somebody got back up on their feet and wanted to pay Dad back, all he asked was for them to just help the next person they found who needed the same sort of help, long before I ever heart the phrase "pay it forward".  Such a great thing.

For me, my Dad was so special, but I didn't understand the full scope of who he was until long after he died and I use to go and visit my great Uncle Earnest who was raised with my Dad (my Dad's parents were both deceased by the time my Dad was 7 years old and was raised by his aunts and Grandfather).   

 My Dad had to stop attending school by the 6th grade since he was the eldest of my Great Grandpa's grandchildren and he worked plowing fields all over eastern Oklahoma with a horse and plow!  Can you imagine?  

My Dad and Uncle Earnest use to go around visiting family up until my Dad passed away in 1991 and then, once my Uncle could no longer drive himself, I started taking him to visit family much as he and my Dad use to do.  It was such a great thing learning more about my Dad and family from my Uncle Earnest!  They were raised in the time after the depression and it was tough going.  But the situations my Dad was in as a child gave him so much compassion for others. I was so amazed by what my Uncle told me.
My life because of the compassion of my Dad and the patience of my Mom was blessed and I can only hope that what I do from day to day.  And I hope I have learned a bit more since last July to appreciate every day as the gift that it truly is.

It is my honor to share him with whoever may have an interest and I hope my Dad's story may touch some of the other donors of the past who might be willing to share in the lightening of the hearts of these Iraqi people in some way.  They are so very precious!

My kids and I haven't played lately, but because of my Dad, there were 3 generations of domino players to date!  Not so bad! 
Carol Malik

Monday, April 11, 2011


 "Refugee,” what comes to mind?  I’m sure many people try not to even think about it, but refugees are innocent people who are caught up in the violence and horror of war and occupation and find they must flee in order to survive.  Many Iraqi refugees are people who made up the middle and upper classes of Iraqi society.  In our English classes we have civil engineers, economists, police officers and other professionals who are now languishing in Amman without being able to work. One man in the advanced English class has been approved for resettlement and will be emigrating to Massachusetts, where his sponsors are waiting to help him to start a new life.  A goldsmith, he hopes to work as a jeweler once he is in the US. 
But the rest wait in agonizing limbo for word on resettlement -- unemployed and with little to fill their days that stretch into months or even years -- while knowing that very few are accepted for resettlement and that the long wait may well end in shattering their hopes.
For the refugees remaining in Amman, we need to continue to assist them.  Because many are still waiting for a determination from UNHCR on their status, they do not yet receive cash assistance and are forced to rely on friends and relatives to survive.  Some run up large credit accounts in their neighborhood food markets in order to be able to eat.  We normally help these families with food, rent and utility payments, but we’re not able to do anything for them now because we have no cash for this purpose.  It is crucial to help these families because unless their bills are paid, the head of the family can be put in jail for nonpayment. Children will see their fathers arrested and taken away, and wives will be left alone to struggle to keep the rest of the family together.
We need to remember these are our fellow human beings – they’re people just like us, except that their society has been destroyed and they have literally fled for their lives, in hopes that they might be able to make a new life.  The limbo of waiting for refugee status is incredibly stressful – imagine yourself in such a situation.  You’re in another country, you have no money, you are waiting for months to find out what is going to happen with your application for resettlement, you have a family to take care of….imagine it.  And you can’t go back where you lived before, because either your home is gone or you will be killed if you return.  Try to imagine the stress, the fear of the unknown, compounded by the traumatic experience of living through a war.  Imagine your life falling apart, only to be replaced by uncertainty, poverty and isolation.
 CRP is trying to help our fellow human beings, but in order to do it effectively, we need your participation and help.  Can you please take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of an Iraqi refugee and imagine the hardship so many of them endure every day?  And then please think of what CRP does – we provide emergency assistance for living expenses, food, medication and other necessities.  We provide heaters and fans, winter coats for kids, but we also provide something else equally important.  We provide support for the Iraqi refugee community by giving them a place where they can come for the non-tangibles they also need.  The men’s Dominoes Night, the Hope Workshop (a co-op where Iraqi refugee women create beautiful items to sell), the English and art classes, are only some of the things we offer to the community, again, with your help.  It is crucial that we be able to again provide cash assistance to needy families, and to continue to offer programs to strengthen the community in Amman. 
No donation is too small.  Imagine yourself, one more time….imagine giving a donation to help us help Iraqi refugees, and imagine how good it feels knowing you have made a difference in someone’s life.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Crayons Are For Making Pretty Pictures, Not For Human Consumption

On March 22 we received a desperate call from a new family pleading “Please rescue us!”  They told us they were 4 months behind in rent and had their utilities shut off 2 months ago (no water, no electric).  3 young children. No income. Desperate. Although our coffers for emergency assistance were depleted, their story and desperation were so compelling we scheduled a home visit.

They came to Amman a year ago and UNHCR decided that they are not eligible for resettlement so, not only do they not get the UNHCR financial assistance but UNHCR took away their asylum seeker registration certificate. This means that they are vulnerable to forced repatriation to Iraq. As a result, they cannot get assistance from any of the major NGOs as they require that registration before they will give aid or assistance.
We learned that the dad had been kidnapped by a militia in Iraq and held for 22 days in 2010 and tortured the entire time. They wanted him to join their militia and after a while, the torture was so great that he agreed - just to be released. But they fled the same day he was released. They cannot return to Iraq because of terror they will kidnap or kill him. He cannot try to get any work - even hauling things on the streets of the busy downtown area where they live because, without that protection paper, he will be arrested and sent out of Jordan. The Asylum-Seeker protection paper also is the document required to get assistance of any kind that is available for Iraqi refugees here.

The family includes a husband, wife and three children, a boy age 7, and two girls aged 4 and 3. They live in a miserable 2 room hovel, cold and bleak, with no furniture other than a single mattress leaning against a wall. The bathroom is nothing more than a floor toilet in a space no larger than a closet, and it is blackened and encrusted with mold.  There are no facilities for bathing.  A quick glance into the kitchen area revealed cockroaches and a meager two-burner hotplate.  There was no food in the home.

The wife is 24 years old and is nine months’ pregnant with a history of complicated births. She is expected to give birth anytime during the first two weeks of April.  She does not have a doctor and has not been receiving any prenatal care. She said when she visited a local clinic two weeks ago, she was turned away. There is no money to pay for the hospital when she is ready to give birth – and if she does give birth there, both she and her baby will not be allowed, under Jordanian law, to leave the hospital until her bill is paid. How will they ever afford the $600 (barring complications) bill when they can't afford to feed their children they have?
 They have not been able to make any preparations for the new baby, and are in need of clothing, blankets, diapers and something for the baby to sleep in.

It was clear that the family was not eating well at all; we had brought small gifts of toys and candy for the children, and all three of them immediately consumed the candy.  After that, they also ate the crayons and paints.  Their mother gave the children some bread, which also was devoured ravenously.  We learned that the youngest child suffers from anemia and is not receiving the iron supplement she needs.  There were times during this visit that I had to cast my eyes either downward or out the door in order not to cry.  I just couldn’t believe how this family was being forced to live - no food other than the small amount given to them by their neighbors, no electricity, no furniture and no heat. My bones ached from sitting on the cold, damp concrete floor, and I imagined what it would be like to be in this squalid, hopeless place and in this miserable life.
Usually, both Hajjia (see previous post) and this family would be relieved by our visit and our assurances that we will help. We would buy food for them and make sure that they had heating (it is still very cold here at night) and adequate blankets. We would help Hajiia find and move into an inexpensive flat that at least had basic facilities for bathing and toileting. This month however, we have no funds at all in our Emergency Assistance budget because donations have dropped to a trickle this year. But one just cannot witness these things and walk away without any response.  We bought enough food for a few meals for the family with the hungry children and gave the elderly woman some money that will last her a couple of weeks so she can eat. We took her one of our spare blankets and paid for second-hand kerosene heater for her that she can also cook on. We are paying for these things from our own very minimal salaries although our salaries barely last us the month and we cannot afford to help others from it. What are we to do?                                          --Sasha Crow 


Sasha and Ghazwan are CRP in Amman.  Sasha is an American woman, and Ghazwan an Iraqi man.  The two of them are the living heart of CRP.  They are both deeply compassionate people who have become an integral part of the Iraqi refugee community in Amman and have dedicated themselves to helping the families within this community. I saw the two of them give money from their own pockets to a destitute woman whose only income was from selling shoe polish in the street, so that she could have something to eat other than the spoiled food that had brought ants into her one-room hovel. As she cried, they hugged her and dried her tears.  There wasn’t a desk jockey bureaucrat anywhere to be found – but there, in that dingy room, were two people, one of whom was himself a refugee and the other an American with a desire to bring healing to these devastated people, and both were a single human presence embodying peace and reconciliation.  

 UPDATE -- WITH A PARABLE -- by Sasha Crow
We dropped in to visit Um M and her lovely two children last night to see how she was doing and to introduce Mary, our new resident volunteer, to the family. You may have read about this family on our CRP Face Book page - they arrived last fall with only $7 to their name. CRP supported them for a couple of months - providing rent, food and their other basic necessities. Um M's gratitude is as strong now as it was when we rescued them then. She told us a story - about a poor man that was given alms by a wealthy man. When the poor man was given the coin, he told the wealthy man to say "Ya'allah"(help me Allaha). The wealthy man was incensed - saying "I gave you money and you have the nerve to dictate to me that I must then say "Ya'allah?"!!! The poor man explained that the wealthy one had his riches by Allah's grace so that he was able to then help the impoverished one.

I am not Muslim - or even Christian - but I fervently plead "Ya'allah!" and share the message of the poor man for each of you to make this plea and then share what you have because it was given to you so that you can help others.  
 -- Sasha

We are being overwhelmed with people who have no means of support and who cannot return to Iraq.  Your tax deductible donation will help provide the vital assistance that these families and individuals desperately need.

Follow us on Face Book: Collateral Repair Project – Helping You Help Iraqi Refugees

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

(Hajjia is a term of respect to refer to an elderly woman who has either made the Haj or is old enough to have made it.)

Hajjia is a widow and she is old and alone. She ekes out a living by selling shoe polish on the streets of downtown Amman. But this barely pays her rent, so her diet consists of mostly just bread.

Hajjia is from a small village near Mosul. Her husband died in his twenties but until then they were both shepherds and she describes their life as “beautiful”. After that, her son was able to support his family and his mother well. He owned a GMC and transported people for hire between Iraq, Syria and Jordan. Since 2003 all of that changed. Her son and only child, has been imprisoned in Syria for three years and his wife and 8 children remain in the village where the situation is very bad for them and their relatives.
Hajjia now lives Amman, in a room meant for washing the bodies of the dead which has no running water and a hole in the floor for a toilet that overflows with sewage. She has not been able to bathe or wash her hair for several months. She has no heat source or way to cook. She sleeps with one thin blanket on a lumpy mat that she has pulled out of the garbage. 

And she sobs constantly for her son who languishes in prison. She cannot afford to go to see him. He cries during the infrequent calls he is able to make to her because of the treatment he receives and begs her to help. She cannot bear to tell him how bad her own situation is, not wanting to upset him further, not wanting to increase his frustration that he cannot be there to care for her.

We were able to deliver a 2nd-hand kerosene heater she can also cook on, some pots, a bowl, spoon and mug, tea, one of our spare warm blankets, pillow, towel & dishdasha (long dress) from CRP distribution. She wept, she sang and she kissed us many times. We gave her warm socks, and a donated single crutch to make climbing the steep hill and many stairs home easier for her, and told her to come to CRP to get a hot shower and wash her laundry. She was thrilled with the offer and kissed us even more. She tells us that the crutch we gave to her will be useful for not only traversing the steep road to home but that she can use it as a weapon if she has to, to beat off the drunks and drug addicts that inhabit the streets in the evening. She has been mugged before. She makes less than $3 per day selling Kiwi Shoe polish on the streets and must pay her rent & utilities of approx $100 per month. She lives on bread and the charity of others - but she refuses to beg. She said that Allah (God) will provide for her.  
She should be sitting in a place of honor in the family home now, being taken care of in her old age and surrounded by her grandbabies.
 Instead, she sleeps in a bug-infested hovel on one of the steep hillsides of downtown Amman and lives in abject poverty.                                                                      

She is so very alone and in such miserable conditions, rarely touched by human kindness.                                                                             – Sasha Crow