Friday, July 3, 2009

Your Gift Keeps on Giving - Salwa's Micro-Project

When your donations purchase equipment and supplies for a family to have a home-based "Micro-Project" cottage industry, we ask each recipient to sign an agreement that they will not sell the equipment and that they will return it to us for another family to use if they are granted resettlement to another country or if they *return to Iraq.

(*we often agree to allow families to take their Micro-Project equipment with them if they go back to Iraq, knowing that the situation there is even worse than in Jordan and that their project can help them earn a living there)

When Abu Abbas and his family were granted resettlement to the US (read more about this family in the post below this one), they returned the Iraqi bread oven CRP had given them for their Micro-Project so that another family could use it to earn a small income. We did not have anyone on our long list of those waiting for Micro-Projects who had requested an oven so we called another past recipient - also a baker - and asked if she knew of anyone who could benefit from the oven. She referred us to Salwa.

Salwa lives with her daughters - 11 year old Noorham, 18 year old Sally, two sons: 19 year old Saifadeen and his 23 year old brother, Ethier. They share the small apartment with her eldest daughter, Hadeer, who is married and has two small children - 4 year old Amir and his 8 month old sister, Rafaf.

Salwa is an Iraqi who had married a Palestinian man and they had raised their family in Iraq with no problems because of their different nationalities until after the lawlessness caused when the US invaded and dismantled the police and security forces. Then Salwa and her husband began getting death threats:
They found notices tucked into the gate to their home that stated: "You are the cause of our problems because you are Palestinian" Salwa tells us of a taxi driver who drove between Jordan and Iraq and he was killed because it was assumed that he was Palestinian. The family was terrified. Salwa's husband left to go to his family in Palestine. No one in his family have seen him though - they think he may be held in an Israeli prison - but no one knows for sure.

Salwa's daughter, Hadeer, was married to an Iraqi man at the time and she was pregnant with Amir. Hadeer, her husband, Salwa and the other children fled to come to Jordan. Hadeer's husband was caught and forced back to Iraq (as were many "military age" men at that time). The women and children stayed in Amman. When Hadeer was nearly ready to have the baby, she returned to Iraq to be with her husband for this important time. When Amir was 2 months old, she and her husband attempted to go to Jordan again. Hadeer and the baby were allowed to enter but her husband was turned back at the border. He then attempted to come to Jordan again two weeks later. He never made it. The bus he was traveling on was attacked and everyone on it was murdered.

Hadeer has remarried - to a poor Palestinian man who lives here in Jordan. He is the father of baby Rafaf. He works but his job is intermittant and has very low wages. Salwa's eldest son works part-
time in a restaurant at very low wages. The family all live together and pool their meager resources to get by. They are not enough.

Salwa is excited to receive the bread oven. Although a grandmother, she immediately ran to help the delivery man carry the heavy oven up the hillside to their home. Salwa made this type of bread when she lived in Iraq and looks forward to having useful work and being able to contribute to the family income.

She thanks you:

"Thanks to God there are people who care for us Iraqis. It is beautiful that they feel our feelings and try to help us. We pray only to see the end of our suffering here. When - insha'allah (God willing) - we can return to Iraq, we will always remember you as the only people who helped us"

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

Catching up

Dear Friends of CRP

It's hard to believe that we've been in Amman nearly two weeks. We leaped immediately into activities here and the long days, the heat, and having been "intestinally challenged" have interfered with my grand plan and promise to make regular contributions to this blog. Now I have some catching up to do!

I'll post first about our partnership in celebrating World Refugee Day with two other NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) here: International Relief and Development (IRD) and Jordanian Alliance Against Hunger (JAAH). "Celebrating" is the wrong word - one cannot celebrate the fact that an estimated 35 million people worldwide are refugees. We cannot celebrate that one in every five Iraqis have lost their homes and the lives they'd had in Iraq and are now living stateless, without rights of citizenship and many without what they need for basic survival and well-being. This day is not cause for celebration for Iraqis in Jordan; it is yet another day, much like the days and now years that came before it where they struggle to make ends meet, cannot entertain plans for their futures nor can they return to what they had. With the exception of those who have been accepted for resettlement to a third country, most Iraqis here will be in the exact same situation as they are now when World Refugee Day rolls around again. We cannot celebrate but we can hope to raise awareness of this ongoing tragedy and ask you to not forget those who have lost everything when they were forced to seek refuge here.

JAAH and IRD sponsored two local events in Amman for World Refugee Day. Both events featured entertainment and activities for some of the 500,000 - 700,000 Iraqis in Jordan. Below are photos from these two events. At both events, CRP volunteer Annie Tanner shared her music and huge heart. At the JAAH event, CRP provided a children's art activity and also gave gifts to over 100 children.

Posted by Sasha Crow - CRP co-director - in Amman