Thursday, July 2, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Old Friends as They Start New Lives in the US

For those of you who have been following CRP since the beginning, you may remember Abu and Um Abbas and their family. Abu Abbas was the very first CRP Micro-Project recipient; he received an oven specifically tailored to make the wonderful Iraqi flat bread. The flattened rounds of dough are thrown against the inner walls of a large drum oven, blistering and drying as they cook. After receiving their Micro-Project, this family was able to escape an exploitative situation where Abu and Um Abbas worked long hours and very low wages for the same man that also rented them an exceptionally low standard apartment at very high rent. After escaping this situation and through their hard work to establish customers for their bread - and expanding their wares to include Iraqi pickles and other Iraqi foods, their lives were much improved - but they still lived in poverty and with the uncertainty and lack of rights and options that all Iraqi refugees here endure.
(an old photo of the entire family)

Now they have been resettled to the US.

While waiting for acceptance, Abu Abbas told us that he hoped to find a community in the US where he can work, doing what he knows and loves best, cooking - feeding people. He hoped for a community that included Arab-Americans who would be familiar with the foods he creates. He knows that the employment situation for Iraqis in the US is not good - that even skilled US citizens who know the language are without work. But he has to take this chance - his only chance to make a life for his family - to be able to support them as a husband and father. He told me, "I will work hard; I am not afraid of work".

I met with Abu Abbas and his wife last week. They'd received notice that they were leaving in a few days to resettlement in Reston, Virginia and, as requested in our Micro-Project contracts, wanted to make arrangements to return the oven to us so that another family could benefit from it. Not everyone is as honest as Abu Abbas - even though it is only a very small percentage (less than 4%), some Micro-Project recipients sell their project equipment. Now that contributions to fund our projects have fallen off dramatically, we rely on turnover of existing projects to provide new projects for waiting families. We appreciate that Abu Abbas is honorable. In appreciation, we gave him $100 to help with the needs of his large family while traveling.

The following day, the eldest son, Abbas and his mother brought the bread oven to us so we could take it to a widow and her family. (story and photos of her and her family soon)

Iraqis are facing many challenges to successful resettlement to the USA. Some are even choosing to return to the dangers they fled from in Iraq rather than face absolute destitution in the US when they cannot find employment after their allocated initial resettlement support runs out. Having friends in their new communities can make a world of difference.

If you - or someone you know - lives in the Reston Virginia area and wants to offer non-financial, supportive friendship to this family, please contact us by e-mail: info(at)


posted by Sasha Crow - CRP co-director in Amman