Friday, August 15, 2008

A small gift brings disprotionate gratitude

On Thursday we visited the family of Leqa’a and Kadhum and their 3 year old daughter Zaineb. Zaineb is a quiet and shy child with a mop of short-cropped, black curly hair, whose eyes seem to hold --or withhold -- memories she can neither express nor comprehend. She watched us intently throughout our visit.

The family lives in a poor neighborhood of Amman in a small, clean 3 room apartment furnished with 2nd hand furniture. Before leaving Iraq, Kadhum was a car dealer in Baghdad. Leqa’a was a housewife. They described life before the invasion as peaceful and their future secure.

The purpose of our visit was to deliver the sewing machine our donors had provided for her micro-project. When the machine was set out on a small table and the lid removed, Leqa’a sat before it, wordless and with an expression of almost reverence, as though this simple device represented the answer to a prayer and she was afraid even to touch it for fear it would not be true and would evaporate. Putting head in her hands and burst into tears.

The family has been through untold horrors. When Zaineb was just 1 ½ yrs old she was kidnapped by militia. They searched frantically for a week and then received a ransom demand, which they paid. Finally Zaineb was released to them and they discovered she had been badly tortured. They also learned that the kidnapper was Kadhum’s own cousin. Leqa’a’shusband’s leg was badly broken during the rescue of their daughter.

But the horror did not end there. Leqa’a also escaped from a separate kidnapping attempt and received a death threat. At that point they fled to Jordan, leaving everything behind. They have been ekeing out an existence since then on donations from CARE and neighbors.

Understandably, Zaineb suffers from hysteria from the emotional trauma she endured and, at such a young age, was unable to talk about. And now, Leqa’a has been diagnosed with throat cancer, for which she should undergo radiation treatment. She attributes the cancer to what she went through from her daughter’s kidnapping.

At the end of the visit we asked permission to take photos and it was only when we showed Zaineb photos of herself that she finally smiled and seemed to reveal a crack in her reserve.

On each of our visits it is hard not to feel a sense of embarrassment to offer what seems so little in relation to the need. We can only begin to conceive on a small and distant level the losses and terrors inflicted by our government. What we bring in response is paltry by comparison. And yet, it is received with such a gracious and heartfelt response.

These stories do not end. They are everywhere in this huge city. We do not touch the tip of the damages, human and material.

You can read Leqa’as story in her own words on our website HERE: