Monday, July 13, 2009

Two Women

In many ways, Tiba and Layla have little in common. Tiba is a young woman of 28 with only one daughter while Layla, age 51, has a large family - five daughters and three sons. Tiba has experience as a beauty operator and Layla was a hospital dietician. Tiba is quiet and withdrawn; Layla speaks openly and her presence fills the room. In other ways, these two women share much. Both women's humble apartments are accessable only by climbing up steep flights of stone stairs in impoverished neighborhoods. Both are Iraqi; both are widows, and both have suffered tremendous loss and are now living in Amman as refugees. Both struggle unsuccessfully to provide for the needs of their families. Both feel hopeless and weary.

Layla was referred to us by the sewing machine shop owner where we purchased Um Marwa's micro-project (see report below titled: "Um Marwa") when he found out that we help Iraqi refugees. She is his neighbor.

Layla and her four youngest - all daughters ranging in age from 18 years to 24 years - share a one bedroom apartment that is infested with insects. They showed us the bites that dot all of their ankles. They do not have a refrigerator to keep food from spoiling in the brutal summer heat h
ere. The paint is peeling off of the walls and they have little in the way of furniture but Layla and her daughters keep a clean home. They tell us, "We cannot go out. We have nowhere to go and no money. We spend our days watching television and cleaning; that is our life now"

Layla's husband was killed in the Gulf War. She never remarried but worked hard to take care of her big family alone. She, like many Iraqis, had membership in the Baath party because, without it, there was little chance of keeping her employment in a government hospital. Then, with the de-Baathification imposed under Bremer after the US-led invasion, Baath party members began being targets with threats and assassinations. She began receiving letters and phone calls that warned "Leave the hospital and Iraq or harm will come to your children" Her eldest son, age 30, was then kidnapped and killed. Layla brought her unmarried children with her to Amman in late 2003, fleeing in fear for their lives.

Two children remain in Iraq with their spouses and children. Layla frets that her son-in-law there is getting death threats now. Her youngest son who accompanied her to Jordan has moved out of the house now. Layla tells us that he's become "trouble", hanging out with the wrong sort of people, drinking and causes grief for her and her daughters when he comes around them. There are many ways that Iraqi families have become fractured because of the war.
Layla broke down and sobbed, "I am so tired. I have no men here to help me - only my daughters and they have no future here. Our only hope is to be resettled. They will take my daughters and kill them if we return to Iraq"

Layla showed me scars that pock her neck, shoulder and legs. She said the scars cover all of her body. I
ask what caused them and she told me that these are shrapnal wounds she received in the initial days of the war when she was caught between battling US and Iraqi forces.

A woman in the US participated in our HEART-to-HEART, HAND-to-HAND project and sent a lovely note of friendship and peace with her photo and a cash donation. We gave these to Layla to help with her family's needs. Layla, deeply touched, asked us to tell their donor, "I thank you so very much and I ask God to bless you and your family for your help!"

When we sent Layla's story, photos and words of gratitude to the woman who had helped her, this compassionate donor then sent funds to purchase a refrigerator for Layla's family. Thank you, "G" for making a difference in the quality of life for this family and, most of all, for offering them the gift of your friendship.

Tiba lives alone with her only child, 10 year old Sara. In 2003, Tiba, her husband and little Sara left Iraq in 2003 and settled in Amman. In 2007 her husband returned to Baghdad to visit his family. The taxi he was traveling in was found burning, its driver murdered; there was no sign of her husband. No one has heard from him since. He is assumed to be dead.

Tiba is withdrawn in her loneliness and grief. She rarely leaves the apartment, not even to visit her brother and his family that live a couple of floors above her in the same building. She takes medication to calm her "nerves" but sometimes she has to go to the hospital when her depression becomes too deep. Her daughter, Sara, is a lovely child, open and sweet. She loves to take photos with her mother's cell phone camera and to go play with her cousins upstairs. She seems happy but hungry for fun - not surprising.

They receive about $154 per month cash assistance from the UNHCR. Their rent and utilities cost $105. Despite her depression, Tiba tries to earn money to care for her daughter.

She's set up a room in their apartment as a small home beauty salon. She shows us the little cabinet where she keeps her meager selection of supplies and the plastic lawn chair in front of the small mirror where her clients sit. Right now, she's earning about $28 a week from clients who pay $2-3 per service. She told us that she can get paid more and attract more customers if she could improve her salon a little.

Tiba needs a swivel office chair and a good size wall mirror - and most of all, a good hair dryer; the one she has now sucks in her client's hair in its filter and pulls it, causing them to complain.

It will cost only about $200 to purchase all of these items.

Give HERE to help this young widow support her daughter

Posted by Sasha Crow in Amman