Sunday, March 8, 2009

"We can't afford anything. We need much." Feb 28 09

Our first stop for the day was to take food assistance to Raghad and Khalid's family. Khalid stayed out of sight as many of the men do when we visit. Perhaps it is because Maha and I are both women and leaving us to talk with their wives may be deemed more proper by some men. My suspicion is that it often has to do with their sense of shame in having to accept handouts. These men - like family men everywhere - want to support their families themselves. Although our assistance is welcomed because it is needed, it can also provoke feelings of worthlessness and helplessness - especially in the men.

Raghad looks harried. She has three little ones: 5 year old Sajad, Kamar - 3 1/2 and a toddler, Melak to keep her more than busy. The kids romp among piles of clean laundry ready to be folded. We do not photograph her because she is not wearing her hijab and we respect her dignity and privacy.

The family had lived in a neighborhood of Baghdad that lays between two areas that have each been taken over by opposing sects. Their neighborhood was a battleground between the two. Their home was shot up by a barrage of bullets one night. Then they were threatened by militia because Khalid had been a soldier in the sovereign military. They fled to Jordan in 2006.

"We did not want to come here. We love Iraq; we miss it and we want to go back. But we can't go back because my husband graduated from military college. Then, when his brother and sister were kidnapped, we knew it is now impossible for us to return"

***Note: Raghdad's husband is the brother of Faten - see "Warmth for a Cold House" Feb 26 09***

Now Khalid works one or two days a week for low-paying wages helping our in a banquet hall. Even with their monthly cash grant from UNHCR, they struggle to pay their basic bills and put food on the table. Raghad tells us, "The worst thing about our situation here is that there is such distance between us and our families. But also our bad finances. We don't own anything. We can't afford anything. We need much."