Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Why did you make me Iraqi? If I'd known this would be our life, I would never chosen to be born" - Food & Clothing Assistance - Feb 27 09

Maha called me early in the day and asked me to hurry to her apartment. We had not scheduled any visits because it was Friday - the holy day and "weekend" here - but Maha told me that when she woke, she turned up the volume on her cell phone and found she had four calls from the same number already. Maha dialed the number to see who had called and a woman answered and introduced herself as Nadhira. She said she had come by bus from the distant area of al-Mugar and had been waiting in the cold for over an hour. She needed food for her family.

Her husband had been working as a shop helper but he recently underwent two heart surgeries and could no longer work. They began receiving UNHCR monthly cash assistance only two months ago.

Nadhira and her husband, Jabber have five children - all girls except their youngest, 11 year old Hussein. She tells us that her eldest daughter, Saja - age 22, was very bright. Through the generosity of a Palestinian lawyer who paid her tuition, Saja attended college last term. She loved it and her heart was broken when the donor told her that she would not be paying her tuition any longer because she was now sending money to assist people in Gaza. Nadhira said that Saja is terribly depressed. She told her mother, "Why did you make me love to study and want to succeed when I cannot attend school?"

Many Iraqi children face this same brutal disappointment. The Iraqi education system was the best in the region before the US invasion. Many - females as well as males - took advantage of the system that provided free education from elementary through university. When I ask Iraqi kids what they want to be when they grow up, they typically respond quickly that they wish to become doctors or engineers or name other professional careers. They never tell me that they want to become "a fireman" or "secretary". Receiving a degree in higher education was expected as a matter of course by many. Now, as refugees, most parents cannot afford to pay for their famiy's basic living expenses and paying for university in Jordan is impossible.

Nadhira tells us that the hardest thing for her about their situation is that, as a mother, she cannot give her children what they want or even need. She tells us that when her children ask her why they can't have things that other children around them have, she once told them, "We are Iraqi and cannot afford them." Hussein replied, "Why did you make me Iraqi? If I'd known this would be our life, I never would have chosen to be born."

We gave Nadhira a Food Assistance box. She also took two large size garbage bags filled with donated clothing for her family.

As a US citizen and seeing daily how much my country has taken from Iraqis and their children, sometimes I feel embarassment that we can only offer food and second-hand clothing most of the time. It is so little compared to what has been lost.

Warmth for a Cold House - Faten - Feb 26 09

Our last visit for the day ended up being our longest and the most difficult one. We went to see Haten and her three little girls: Rula - 3, Ruba - 1 1/2 and the 2 month old baby, Ru'aa. Her husband, was not home when we arrived.

Haten, her husband rent a room in her in-laws house - paying 1/3 of the rent - 50JD per month. Her husband's sister and her husband with their children rent another room, Her in-laws have another. Each family is responsible for their third of the utilities and each family group cooks and eats separately from the others. Despite being a large family, there was no sense of it being a happy one.

Haten eluded that her husband's family did not like her but that her husband treats her well. Her mother-in-law sat very near to us on the sofa as we talked with Ru'aa, seeming to be listening to prevent Ru'aa from saying anything against her or in complaint about her situation. In fact, when Maha quietly told me that there were problems within the family, she interjected, "I speak English" as if to warn us.

Faten came in Jordan in 2000 with one of her brothers. Sanctions had made life very difficult in Iraq and they had hoped to leave for another country. Her brother paid $3000 to a man who promised to arrange travel visas for them. Of course, once the money was handed over to him he disappeared. She told us that she intended to return back to Iraq but the US invasion in 2003 caused her to wait. Meanwhile she married and has started a family. Now Iraq is too unsafe to return to.

Haten's two older daughters have thick mops of wavy hair and big angelic eyes. She told us that they are healthy but that the baby has "allergies in her chest". She also mentioned that the doctor recommended that the baby be tested to see if she has down syndrome. Maha and I asked if we could go into their bedroom to see her.

It was the most dismal room of any I have been in. Paint was buckling off of the walls because of moisture underneath it and gray mold covered areas of the walls. There was a large double bed frame that only had a tattered single mattress across part of it.

On a twin bed against a wall, the infant lay crying under one blanket in the cold room. One look at her tiny face told me there was no need to test her to see if she has down syndrome; it is obvious that she does.

We suggested that the baby's "allergies in her chest" might be due to the mold in the bedroom. Haten told us that they do not have a heater. She had bought an electric one but the electric bill skyrocketed the month she used it and, since she cannot afford to pay the bill, she discontinued using it. There was only one portable gas heater in the house and it belonged to and stayed in her brother-in-law's family's room. It was hard for me to understand how any group of people living in the same house, especially those bound by family ties, would not share resources - especially heat when there was a sick infant!

This is very very different than it is in the majority of families we visit. Iraqis mostly have very strong loyalty to and love within their families. However, in some others - such as Haten's, where the husband and his family are Jordanian or Palestinian - we have encountered a few instances where the wife was badly mistreated by her in-laws. They complain that the Iraqi wife is "a foreigner" as the reason they do not accept her.

Maha and I quickly discussed it and both of us agreed that we would use CRP Emergency Assistance funds to purchase a gas heater and tank for Faten and her family. Maha made it clear that this heater was to be used for Faten's family and that it was not to be sold. She implied that we would be coming back to check on these matters! We are concerned that other family members may take the heater over for their own use.

Faten received only one month of UNHCR monthly grant - three months ago. The grants are disbursed to families by issuing each family an ATM card for a local bank. Each month, the families use their ATM card to withdraw the funds for their grant. After withdrawing their first month's grant, Faten's card broke. The large crack through the card caused it to be rejected by the ATM when she went to get the following month's grant. She told the bank and they told her she should take the problem to UNHCR. She did and was promised that a new card would be issued to her. She's traveled across the sprawling city to go to UNHCR three times to check on the status of her card being reissued. They tell her that they will call her. Three months have gone by and they still have not called.

She had her baby by Ceasarian and now, because she received no help with the cost, she owes 1,250 JD - an astronomical amount to owe for someone with so little. The day before we met her, she had taken her last piece of jewerly, a gold ring, and sold it. She said that she used the money to make a payment to the doctor, pay for a prescription and to buy diapers for her baby. She has nothing else left that she can sell.

The stress of her family life, her poverty and concern about her daughter's health shows in Faten's face. She appears much older that her 35 years.

Haten's older brother, Ahmed, is visiting her when we were there. He left Iraq only three months ago.

Just prior to him fleeing from Baghdad to Amman, masked militia pulled up in 6 vehicles (three of them Mercedes) to his house. They broke down the doors in broad daylight, shooting their guns. They entered the home, smashed everything, took the family identity documents, and kidnapped Ahmed and his sister. They threw her into the back of one of the cars and tied Ahmed up into a large bag and dumped him in the trunk.

They held the two for over a week. They beat Ahmed badly and he now suffers from a slipped disc. His sister was beaten in front of him to try to get him to pay money he did not have. The militia broke her shoulder. Finally, when the kidnappers realized that their family had no money to pay for ransom, they were released. Ahmed told us that when he arrived in Amman he was shaking so badly all of the time that he was given 87 injections of tranquilizer during his initial time here.

Ahmed accompanied Maha and I to shop for a heater for his sister and helped us to bring it back to her house so that they could begin using it immediately.

We hope that the baby's allergies improve and that this terribly impoverished family can be a little more comfortable with a heated bedroom.

I will contact UNHCR on behalf of Haten to see if her ATM card replacement can be expedited.

Your generosity provided food and warmth to this impoverished family - thank you!

"It's impossible for me to return to Iraq and there's no future for me here" - Food Assistance to Wisam - Feb 26 09

We left Ni'imet's home and Khalid drove us into an area of narrow, winding streets with street vendors selling produce along it's main thoroughfare. We had to ask directions to Wisam's home many times, ending up driving back and forth until Maha called Wisam on his cell phone and he met us at a easy to find location.

The young man who met us was thin and with sharp features. He joined us in the taxi to lead us up the hill through even more narrow streets to his flat.

Wisam lives with two other single men - one in his mid-thirties like Wisam, the other in his 60's. Neither of the other two were home and I asked if they were working, Wisam told me that the older man had worked in casual employment as a security guard for a while but now had no work and that the other young man had been working for a while, gathering scrap metal for recycling, but he had been questioned by the police so quit out of fear of being arrested. Wisam has no work because of this same fear. I ask what he does with his days. "I watch tv or read books. Sometimes I visit friends. Of course, I am bored."

He had been in the university and only had one year left until he would have gotten his degree in history but his education ended when he had to flee Iraq. He would like to finish and get his degree but, he added wistfully, "It is too expensive here."

Wisam was living in Basra and worked as a policeman. His life was shattered in 2004 when he and his fellow police officers were on their way to work together in a shared car. They were attacked by militia who threw bombs at their car and a barage of gunfire. His two colleagues in the front seat were killed. Wisam escaped death because he was sitting between two others in the back seat. Wisam threw himself from the car and lay motionless on the ground. His ruse to get the militia to think him already dead worked. But he was injured badly. He endured two gun shot wounds - one to his leg and the other to an arm. Shrapnel pocked his face and one piece still resides in one of his eyes. The doctor told him that removing it would risk damaging the eye further.

He soon found out that the militia had realized their mistake and that his name was on their hit list. He went to the Brittish military and begged for protection. They agreed to protect him but only on the condition that he provide them with intelligence. Because he felt he had no option if he were to live, he agreed and worked with them for two months. But he was still receiving threats and there was no evidence that the Brits were protecting him. He went to another part of Basra, hoping to stay with family there, but when he got there he discovered they had all left and no one knew where they had gone. He then fled to Jordan.

He told us, "I want to return to my country; I don't want to be out of Iraq" But he speculates that, at best, it will take at least ten years for the situation to improve enough for him to consider returning.

In the meantime, he says, "I most need immigration to another country. I want to work. I want to have a family, to marry, to have kids. I want to be able to plan for my future. I have no future here. It's impossible for me to return to Iraq and there's no future for me here"
Wisam is typical of many young men here: their educations disrupted with no way of completing them or, and they cannot consider marrying and having a family because they cannot work to provide for them. Relying on charity for survival; they have diminished senses of dignity nd self-worth.

Many have suffered serious injury or trauma of attempted assasinations and kidnapping. They fled Iraq, fearing for their lives and found their lives here are also dominated by a diferent sort of fear - fear that they will have no future. Some say that they feel as if they are caged in.

This situation is not only bad for these young men who are enduring it but the rest of us must consider that when anyone feels they have no future and they're frustrated by circumstances that are extremely difficult, day after day, year after year, this frustration and anger may lead them to find outlets and some will be against those who have put them in this situation.

We need to continue to insist on an end of the US occupation of their country so that these young men can return to be a part of recovering their birthright and building the future of their country as well as for themselves. And, for those like Wisam who may have to wait a long time before Iraq is safe for them to return to, we need to do all in our power to make certain they have education and employment opportunities in their temporary countries.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Food Assistance to Ni'imet and her extended family - Feb 26 09

Next on our stops to deliver food assistance was the home of Ne'imet and her two young boys: Hisan, 6 years old and 6 month old Ibrahim.

Ni'imet had been married but was divorced late last year. She had been working whenever she could, cleaning houses but she had to stop because of the baby. She could not make it on her own so she moved in with her elderly mother, Himdya, her mother's husband, Rasid, and Ne'imet's brother, Abbas.

Ne'imet left Iraq in 1997 with Abbas when he went AWOL from the Iraqi army. Things were tough in Iraq because of sanctions and she hoped to have a better life outside of Iraq. She married the boys' father in Jordan.

Her mother followed Ne'imet and Abbas to Jordan in 1998 because of the hardships under sanctions. She planned to return but says now, "I've lost all hope of ever returning." She suffers from depression. Her hands are covered with intricate tatooed symbols. When I asked her about the tatoos, she said they are potent in staving off illnesses.

Her husband stayed behind, not wanting to leave Iraq. He was a musical instrument maker there. His eyes lit up as he told us that he made ouds, guitars and tabla drums.

Rasid stuck it out until 2004 when Shia militia took over their home and turned it into a religious center after threatening him many times. He moved to another area of Baghdad for a while but all of his relatives were gone and he joined Hemdya in Amman.

Abbas had worked gathering metals to sell to recyclers but he stopped because of the risk of being caught working illegally. Now he says he is responsible for his elderly parents and sister. He spends a lot of time going to different aid organizations and trying to find help for them.

Food assistance to to a family of 8 - Feb 26 09

Two of Bushra's sons joined us in our taxi to show us the way to the next home and lugged the heavy box of food up the steps and to the door of the house.

We found Shabeeb and Wia'am's five older children at home alone under the care of the eldest, 14 year old, Wadhah. When we entered, Wadhah was in the kitchen, burning incense on a metal plate on the gas stove top in their tiny kitchen.

The other children at home were 12 year old Ruquaya, Asdalrahaman - 9 years, Jamilla - 4, and & year old Salwa who Maha felt an immediate affinity for because she said Salwa reminded her of herself at that age.

Their parents had taken their baby sister with them to go to a dental appointment. They had hoped to be home by the time we arrived but, since they went to a clinic that provides health care to Iraqi refugees, the wait was long before they got in to see the dentist.

We gave the children their gifts and left to visit another family

Maha with Salwa

Food Assistance for Bushra, Assad & their 5 children - Feb 26 09

When we stopped in front of Bushra and Assad's building, three of their young sons ran out and wrestled the heavy box of food out of the trunk and up the stairs to their flat. We enter their flat into a long dark hallway and a peek at the peeling paint on the walls gives me the assumption that the sitting room we are quickly directed to will be as grim. I was surprised instead to enter a room with the atmosphere of a carnival!

Bushra has created works of art from found objects and appliance parts that normally would be tossed in the trash heap. Suspended from the ceiling like a chandelier is a cascading piece made of old fan grills, aluminum foil, and artificial flowers - among other things! Under it, on the table, another piece towers up to almost meet the one above, a foil tower of Babel with plastic limes dangling as a fringe at one of its layers edges! My attention was so drawn to these incredible pieces that at first it was impossible for me to notice the scruffed walls and worn carpet. Bushra tells us, "Ever since I was a young girl, I liked to make things"

They came to Amman nine years ago. Bushra tells us that they came because "There were money problems because of the Embargo." Then she adds, "Now we are in the same situation here that we were in while in Iraq."

Her husband, Assad, used to work in a garage but he was fired five months ago. They began receiving a monthly grant from UNHCR 7 months ago so they can pay their rent and utlities but things are very tight.

Bushra has health problems: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, arthritus and anemia.

There are five children in the family: Hassan - age 14, Sundus - 13 who we did not get to meet because she was still at school when we were visiting, Ibrahim - age 11, Abdallzez - 8, and Falal - 6.

The children all attend school and are doing well despite Hassan and Ibrahim missing a year of school while Jordan was not allowing Iraqi children to attend public schools.

Bushra makes a bright center for her struggling family in spite of the challenges they face.

Food Assistance for Jemeela, Nuri and their daughter, Hajir - Feb 26 09

Today we set out to deliver food assistance to five families in the distant al Marka area. We call our favorite taxi driver, Khalid who has become a reliable friend in our effort to get the heavy boxes of food to families in need. We load up the trunk of his taxi with food boxes and we put a bag containing crayons, paint sets and coloring books for the children we visit between Maha on the seat.

The first family we deliver food to is small - just Nuri, his wife, Jemeela and their 14 year old daughter, Hajer.

They left Iraq in 1998 after a gang of robbers attacked them in their home in Basra, cold-cocked Nuri and loaded all of the family's belongings into Nuri's car and drove away with it. This was during the sanction times and Nuri was having a hard enough time supporting his family as a taxi driver. They sold their home and used to funds to come to Jordan, hoping for a better life.

Their hopes did not pan out. Nuri has not been able to work, both parents have serious health issues and medications are expensive. They were getting some financial help from a relative that lives in Kuwait but that ended when they recently began to receive a monthly cash grant from UNHCR. The 110JD monthly grant from UNHCR isn't enough for there to be any money left after paying the rent of 60JD and another 25 JD for utilities.

Jameela tells us that Hajer is unhappy. "She wants things like other children have and we cannot buy her anything"

Sakher's Catherization - Feb 24 09

We all met at Maha's flat in the morning to accompany Sakher, his mom, Nadia and her sister, Badyia to the clinic for Sakher's catherization.

We had a long wait and Sakher was scared - and hungry since he had to fast prior to the procedure. When we told him he could have ice cream after his cath, he protested and told us he preferred Colonel Sanders instead! He entertained himself by coloring in his coloring book, playing video games on Lana's cell phone, and making faces.

Sakher's father joined us. We had not met him before as he has a second wife and is not as present in Sakher's life as he once had been. He was very worried about and loving to his son.

Finally it was time! We all went with him into the cath room. Sakher was ok until the anesthesiologist tried to put the gas mask over his face. He did NOT like this and fought determinedly until the anethesiologist decided that it would be best to administer a sedative by IV before administering the gas. Finally he went under and Lana and I left for a meeting during the procedure.

When we returned, Nadia told us that the procedure had lasted longer than it was supposed to and that Sakher had woken during it several times and had to be re-anethesized. Sakher was thrilled with the blow-up Superman Lana brought him. Shaker wants to be a super-hero when he grows up!

This was an emotional event for all of us - especially Nadia who now must wait until the pediatric cardiology team looks at the results of the catherization and determines whether or not Sakher's heart can be repaired.

When we were in the clinic on Sunday waiting for Sakher's evaluation, we met another mother in the waiting room. She had traveled from Baghdad to Amman to have her daughter operated on by the US team with Dr Salameh. Little Fatima is six years old but was the size of a two year old. She is developmentally disabled as well as having the heart condition. Her mother was up-beat then, eager to get help for her only child.

When Maha, Lana and I returned to the hospital after our meeting, Badyia told us that Um Fatima was devastated - she had been just been told that her daughter could not be operated on and that she should return to Iraq and expect her daughter to die. Lana and I could not stand the idea of this woman being alone in Amman and hearing this terrible news so we went to find her. When we did, she was walking the hallway, crying quietly. Lana and I cried with her and just held her. There are times when there are no words sufficient enough to express feelings and when you don't have to understand the others' language to communicate.

Young "Old Friends" - Feb 22 09

Um Mohammed (Iklass) was one of our very first Micro-Project recipients. She received an industrial sewing machine so she could bring in some extra income to help support her large family.

This family's situation was grim when we first met them. The apartment's walls were covered with black mold from lack of heating. They had essentially no possessions other than a bed loaned by a neighbor. A donor in the US sent funds to buy the family a heater and gas tank, rugs for their cold floors, a table and chairs, toys for the children and food. When Iklass had to sell her sewing machine to pay for a necessary surgery, another US donor sent the funds to buy her another machine.

Now Iklass, her husband Raed, and the kids are part of our CRP "family". They are trying to get resettlement to the US and we hope that they will be accepted and then resettled to southern Oregon where the local community has pledged to provide them with supportive friendship if they move to our community.

After Sakher's evaluation, I accompanied Lana to visit this family. Lana is assisting them in filing an appeal on the denial of their resettlement request. Iklass has invited me to see their new home. They've moved into another flat finally and, as Iklass told me recently, "I was so embarassed about the old flat." I was eager to see the kids and to see their new home.

The children have grown so rapidly! Tohama's thelasemia is being controlled well by cortizone, Ibrahim's behavior and verbal skills have improved dramatically since he started attending a school for kids with special needs through our Education for Children With Special Needs Project. The older boys are all learning English in hope they will be able to use it in their new country if they are resettled. And, although still quite shabby, their new flat is much more comfortable and spacious than their old one.

These are just some of the Iraqi refugee children whose lives have been improved by your interest and support!

Sakher's evaluation by US cardiologist team - Feb 22 09

For more information about this boy, please read our initial post about him and then read our most recent post: Update on Sakher - Feb 7.

Two US pediatric cardiologists have arrived in Amman to assess treatment options and perform heart surgeries for children in the region. Doctors Turrentine and Farrell have agreed, with participation by Sakher's pediatric cardiologist here in Amman, Dr Salameh, to provide Sakher with a free evaluation to see if he is a candidate for corrective surgery.

After a long wait while other children were evaluated, Sakher was examined by Dr Salameh and Dr Farrell. They both agreed that a determination as to whether or not Sakher would be a candidate for surgery cannot be made until Sakher has a current catherization test to see if his arteries are capable of being spliced together to form the arteries he needs.

The cost of this procedure is $800! Of course, Sakher's mother Nadia cannot afford this. And we who have been following this boy's case and looking for treatment options for him, cannot allow this opportunity to pass by. The catherization is scheduled for Tuesday! At last we will find out if this boy is a candidate for a live-saving surgery!

We decided to schedule the cath while the two American doctors are in Amman and to pay for it out of the funds we have now that are earmarked to pay for assistance to refugees in March. However, this leaves our budget deficient for March projects for others who need help. So we ask you to please help us to recover our March funds by donating to help pay for the catherization.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"our baby has been sick all winter...we can only afford to buy half of the formula she needs" - Feb 22

Adnan, his wife, Furdor and their only son, Saif, traveled by bus from Zarqa to come to Maha's flat in Amman for food assistance. The distance they traveled was so great that if they had taken a taxi, it would have cost them 14JD roundtrip ($20) They could barely afford the 1 JD bus fare but they were in such desperate need of food that they made the long trip

The couple have four children: Maria - age 8, Tlesnem - 6, Saif - 5, and their baby, Shayma - 8 mos.

Adnan is from Baghdad. He left Iraq 10 years ago when Iraq was suffering under the US-imposed sanctions, hoping to be able to work and support himself in Jordan. He met his wife, a Palestinian refugee, and married. Adnan told me that they lived in a Jordanian Palestinian camp but decided to leave after someone threw a metal pail at him from a window. Things are rough in the camps where poverty leads to frustration.

When I asked about their living situation, Furdor told us that they now pay "expensive rent" -- of 80 JD per month (about $100) I was shocked as 80JD is what some of the other families we know pay in Amman for a hovel. Furdoe says they will probably move back to the refugee camp for affordable rent - perhaps 40 JD per month.

They have just been told by UNHCR that they are eligible and will begin to receive the small monthly cash grant next month. I asked how they have been getting until now as Abu Saith cannot work because he has disc problems in his back. She tells us that their families have been helping them out a little, when they can.

We ask about the children. "All are well, al-hamdiallah!" (thanks to God) "but the baby has been sick all winter. We do not have enough money to buy her the formula she needs. She needs ten cans and they cost 4.5JD each". They can usually only buy, at the most, half of what is needed for their baby. I ask what they do when they do not have enough for the entire month. They water it down to make it last. This is distressing. Watered down formula may quiet a hungry baby by causing it to feel full but the nutrients are dilluted and there is a very real risk of the child not growing properly and of suffering from diminished intellectual ability.

This is not the only family we have met who are having a hard time affording formula for their infants. Breastfeeding is the best choice in providing adequate nutrition to infants and is free. However, some mothers have impediments to breastfeeding. These can be health-related - such as Um Saith who has an infection - stress, depression, or poor maternal nutrition. Some are advised by their family or older women that formula is the best way to go.

In many cases women can be taught and supported in switching back from formula to breastfeeding, but I have not yet discovered if there is anyone here who is providing this type of support. It is a difficult process for mothers because infants find the bottle much easier to get milk from than the breast. Initially they are likely to reject the breast and cry with frustration. A crying infant who refuses the breast will only cause more stress on a mother without good support during the transistion.

There is some support to help women understand the nutritional and financial value of breastfeeding over formula feeding but, from what I know now, it is only available from one clinic that provides health care to some Iraqi women here. In the coming weeks, I hope to explore what support may be available here to both support women in breastfeeding through difficult circumstances and, if there is no or inadequate support for this in place, if any organizations are providing free or low cost formula to those who need it but cannot pay.

We purchased a half-month of infant formula for Shayma and provided this family with a food assistance box and a package of lamb meat contributed by an Iraqi donor. Furdor went through the used clothing in "Maha Mall" and found enough to fill two large size garbage bags.

Young Saif helps his parents by dragging one of the bags of used clothing to the bus stop

Last Craft Co-Op Meeting (at least for now) - Feb 11

As you may know from our web site, we regrettably had to suspend our Iraqi Women's Craft Co-operative - at least for now. The Co-Op was one of the projects we chose to eliminate in our efforts to stay afloat during this economic downturn when donations are slower than usual. We decided to suspend it because it had been difficult to get the women to come together and become a true co-operative when they had no place to meet on a regular basis and learn and brainstorm together on how they could be as independent as possible - with minimal support from CRP. We had been purchasing their handcrafts from them with the intention of holding sales to resell their items as well as to use them as samples to approach fair trade vendors.

We hope that we can eventually open the Family Resource & Community Center and provide a place for these meetings as well as a gallery/shop space where they can display and sell their fine wares.

However, we hosted a Holiday Art of Peace Craft Bazaar in Medford Oregon in November and sold many of the women's crafts. We had a final meeting to give the women the money from the bazaar and discuss the future of the co-op. It was good to see them after being away for so long!

The women were tremendously disappointed, of course. They'd had hopes of earning an income from their handiwork. At first they were reluctant to accept that we had to end the project - and then, when they finally understood, there were a few minutes of panic among them. But something beautiful bloomed out of this despair!

When they understood that Collateral Repair Project would no longer be purchasing their crafts for resale, they put their heads together and started problem-solving about how they could continue without CRP support. This was what we had encouraged them to do from the beginning but it took CRP abandoning them to provide motivation. It was exciting for me to see them discussing options together and to hear their initial plans for them taking true ownership of the Co-Op!

Their initial plan is to look for local outlets to sell to - such as hotel gift shops and boutiques. They will co-operate in creating a sample kit to take to shops for them to order from. They also asked if CRP could put their crafts on the web site so that they could direct potential buyers to see a sampling of their crafts. They hope that they can attract international buyers by having this online "catalog". Of course, we agreed to create these pages for them.

They discussed shipping options and how to include all costs in their pricing. They determined two contact people within the group who would respond to email inquiries and be laision between buyers and the Co-Op membership.

They accomplished a lot in this short meeting!

We will provide the women as much nonfinancial assistance as possible as they create, for themselves, a true co-operative! I will post notice in this blog when their online gallery is set up as well as a link to their gallery on our web site's menu page

Feb 12 Code Pink NYC Make Out Not War benefit for CRP UPDATE

On February 12 CODE PINK NYC held a MAKE OUT NOT WAR benefit to raise funds to provide a Micro-Project for Um Abdullah. Not only did this terrific group of dedicated activists and merry-makers have an incredibly LOVEly time but also shared their love with Um Abdullah and her 5 children and raised $850 - enough to buy Um Abdullah the video equipment she wanted to be able to make help support her family!

Um Abdullah and Collateral Repair Project thanks
and all who attended and gave big
at this FUNdraising event!

Stay tuned for photos and report of Um Abdullah shopping for her Micro-Project

We hope CODE PINK NYC will inspire you and your friends or affinity group to bring much needed assistance to other Iraqi refugee families by hosting your own FUNdraiser