Tuesday, July 7, 2009

UN Report that their budget shortfall will dramatically decrease Iraqi refugee assistance - beginning in August

Dear Friends of CRP

It's with heavy heart that we must contemplate ending our worthy work that has helped so many Iraqis whose lives have been so shattered by violence in their country and then displacement. We have been, and continue, to search for a way to continue our work, knowing how vitally needed it is. And now, especially now, as we read the UN report that their budget shortfalls force them to dramatically cut back their assistance to Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria that has been the only means of survival for most Iraqi refugees, now we are even more reluctant to end our work here as we know that Iraqis will soon be in crisis with the loss of their UN support.

excerpt from UN report: JORDAN-SYRIA: UNHCR funding shortfall for Iraqi refugees

Who will be affected?

From August financial assistance will "not be sustainable", according to UNHCR. A large chunk of the monthly cash handouts go to the most vulnerable families - female-headed households - and these look likely to be cut back sharply, perhaps even completely, depending on funding. UNHCR will no longer distribute certain non-food items such as nappies and sanitary towels.

UNHCR said it would cut its health funding; and plans to expand programmes of psycho-social care for traumatized Iraqis would be shelved. Funding for vocational training programmes would be reduced. Outreach programmes, which have been especially successful in reaching vulnerable women, would also be negatively affected.

Read full report HERE

We know that we are all suffering from the economic meltdown - we are all insecure now and some of us are floundering ourselves, wondering how we can take care of our own family's needs. We understand that and we at CRP are experiencing this ourselves. And yet we ask that, if you can contribute - even a small amount - please do. Please. If you cannot, please help by spreading the word about our work to others who may be able to help. We cannot give up now. How can we abandon these traumatized and broken people when they cannot care for themselves and when they are losing much of the assistance they have relied on to cover their basic needs? We must not.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Are We Giving Up, People? Are we giving up this work?

I am praying to the Mother Of Us All: Still my frenetic mind. Still my racing heart. Move my hands across this keyboard and let the words flow, from my hands to all hearts. I pray now, to effect an immediate and radical change for Good, and for good, always, and in all ways.

Tonight, on the 2nd of July, 2009, I find myself stunned.

Sasha and Mary have just told me that the CRP has less than 3,000 dollars to work with. Minus the % that goes to IHC for their fiscal sponsorship. . Period. Kaput.

Are We Giving Up, People? Are we giving up this work?

The CRP, still a baby, really, is dying! Dying of neglect? Dying of starvation? Dying because no one really cared about the "collateral damage" from the war in Iraq? Because not enough people cared? Because not enough people cared enough?

To me, the CRP IS a baby, conceived and birthed by my friend Sasha Crow, and then nurtured in its fragile infancy by both Sasha and my new friend, Mary Madsen, who came in answer to Sasha's plea for help in this. Sasha was in Seattle; Mary, in Oregon.

Somehow they made this Project work. Out of nothing, they made everything.

From nothing, they came to Jordan and helped people, one family after another, pouring a shining ribbon of light into the darkest corners of one of the more hopeless situations unfolding on our planet today.

They are still helping today. It is powerful and beautiful. Their dedication is tremendous.

In the face of enormous odds against them, they have tenaciously, passionately, and truly helped people who have been discarded and forgotten, if they were ever known at all.

I spent much time, in the past, midwifing people through their process of death. Is it possible that I am here today to help in this terrible thing, the death of another baby, the Collateral Repair Project? I am reeling.

There is no lack of money on this planet. There is plenty of money. There is, instead, a Lack of Heart.

I weep for us all, now, as I grapple with what to say, how to communicate without alienating those who could help the CRP the most, if so moved.

"If we were so moved." Such a big word, this "if."

I have been in Amman for a grand total of three weeks. I see what the CRP has brought here, and is still bringing, every day. Everywhere we visit, people's eyes light up, with gratefulness and real, genuine, heartfelt love. Every family we have visited is profoundly changed by the small help the CRP has been able to give them.

We cannot erase the horror. CRP makes the horror smaller, every time, every single time.

Today for example: We went downtown and met Um Marwa. We went to the sewing machine shop and the CRP bought her Micro-project, a home sewing machine, a pair of scissors, and some extra needles and bobbins. Her worried face transformed in front of my eyes. Light came in where there was none before, only exhaustion and fear. When Sasha told her that the money for her new sewing machine came from people in America, from people in Japan, from Mexico, from Germany, England and other countries, she simply and sincerely responded, straight out and without hesitation:

"First: God Bless all these people, because they do it first for God, and then to help people in order for them to live.. God bless them and I thank them. Really." Later, at her house, a broad, slow smile lit up her tired face. "I was lost without my sewing machine."

What did the CRP give, here? Not only the machine, the bobbins, the needles, the pair of sharp scissors. The CRP gave hope back to this woman whose life has been so terribly changed by the War. Um Marwa dares to hope again, today, all because you gave to the CRP. Imagine it. Daring to hope again. Beautiful. Priceless.

Then, we went to visit Iklass and Raed, who will be resettling to southern Oregon in the next few months. They and their 5 children and another on the way....

I am not sure that the mother of this group, Iklass, was able to take in the news that they will get to resettle. Finally, slowly, as if she could barely allow herself to believe, she began to understand-- no more waiting.... no more endless Limbo... no more Waiting for Godot, who, if you remember or do not know, never showed up.

Raed, her husband, did understand. His entire demeanor changed in the winking of an eye.

From the depths of long-standing hopelessness and deep, toxic shame at not being "able" to provide for his own family here, a candle was lit in his heart.

I saw it light up, tiny at first, then beaming from inside him, out, out, touching his frightened and disbelieving wife, touching his hollow-eyed children. All of them could then smile, too. And laughter emerged, and Life was renewed, as though spring had come after an endless winter.

Trying as hard as they could to speak in English and to make themselves understood , they humbly thanked the CRP: "Really. Really. Thank you very much. Very much!" This, along with: "Muslims do Good, for God. You {all of you who have given to the CRP}, by doing all you have done for us, have already deserved to go to Mecca {the fulfillment of their highest and most sincere prayers}."

Hear me, all of you good people all over the Earth! I beg you, be moved by these people.

They have every reason to Hate. Their country is ravaged. Their homes, gone. Their children, some born with terrible deformities from residues of Depleted Uranium, forced to journey to a foreign land where, even if they cannot legally work here, at least they are not being mortared. Do they hate? Not in front of me. Not one time since I have come here. Instead, they forgive. They forgive!!

They say "We must help each other. We must!." They are referring not to us, but to themselves!

They, who have nothing, offer us dinner. It is all beyond the pale. Over the top. Beyond the Fringe.

Some other brief examples of what I am trying to convey, here:

Shemeron, whose new prosthetic not only actually fits her leg, it is also PADDED at the 'stump' end, and weighs about 4 pounds. Her "old" prosthetic is a dinosaur. It weighs about 45 pounds. It did not fit her. It was a tyrannosaurus which caused repeated wounding, blistering, and bleeding, rubbing the end of her leg raw, making every step a torture and a reminder of What Is Gone.

She-- unimaginably, for me-- nearly refused the new prosthetic, putting it off for some time. Why? She felt she did not "deserve it."

"I am sorry," she said. "I am sorry for the burden which I have placed upon the American people who have donated the money for this, my new leg." She sat, in shame. I wanted to fall through the floor.

I am here now, remembering

On her way home from teaching in Baghdad last December, Shemeron stopped to buy bread in the marketplace. Boom! Her foot was gone. Dead people and blood and carnage were all around her. Somehow she made her way here. Somehow, she survived. And she feels ashamed-- ashamed of burdening you.

On my birthday, June 28th, we took a 13 year old boy downtown with his auntie, to buy him some summer clothes. He is not a healthy child. He had a fever, and is weak and sickly, on top of tremendous trauma and displacement. Still, they came, hand in hand. After picking out two pairs of pants, a pair of PJ's, some new underwear, a couple of shirts and tee-shirts, his aunt wanted to "be sure" that we would convey her thanks to those who gave to the CRP for her nephew:

"May God bless them. And may God paint a smile upon their faces and the faces of their children always. Thank you, thank you. I will remember you in every time of prayer, every day...." How beautiful. How eloquent. May God paint a smile....

Would we, as Americans, be able to forgive and to thank, if the tables were completely and utterly reversed and we were the Refugees and they the Givers? Would we be that big, inside? I can only pray it could be so. I pray it will be so. I pray it is so, now.

"Friends Share," says a little sign in my friend's house in California. Well, then:

By simply coming here, Sasha and Mary have transformed America from being "The Enemy" to being caring, compassionate, and generous friends. Sasha and Mary have shared and are still sharing all that they have, and all that they ARE. They have brought you to Amman, Jordan. They give in your names. Never once have I heard either of these two beautiful women take credit for any giving. They give, they say, "for you." For those who give to the CRP, they give all credit and all thanks, all the time, every time, unfailingly. Unflinchingly. They bring you here today, and every day in the life of the CRP.

How long a life? I cannot tell.

Five times a day, a Call to Prayer rings out, in Song, throughout this city. It reminds all of us to pray, Muslims and Christians and all the rest of us. Every day. Like a giant Clock marks the passing of time in other parts of the world, men cry out to pray to God. . Five times. Every day. Every night. It does not stop. There is no day off from this Call.

I Call to you, from the bottom of my heart, and in unison with all beating hearts upon this planet, to take another look into the eyes of the Iraqi people on the CRP website. These people are not terrorists. They are suffering civilians and humans, all. They could be you. Their situations are a living nightmare of the lowest degree. We have all been dreaming a violent Chaos into Reality. I beg us all now to wake up... wake up softly. Wake up truly. Wake up gently, too, as all of us need that now. Wake up, darling people all over the planet, and begin again: a new day, a day for Giving, not for getting. Let this baby of my two friends’ hearts Live!

We can help them "If we so choose." Pick up your pens and write the checks. Or go to your computer--a few clicks , a few minutes to spend sharing with friends.


And may God paint a smile upon your computers, credit cards, and bank accounts


Annie Tanner - CRP volunteer in Amman

The Collateral Repair Project

P.O. Box 8160

Medford, OR 97504


May God Paint Smiles Upon Your Faces - Always

On the second evening after we arrived in the big city of Amman, Sasha and I walked several blocks down the main street of our neighborhood. We were expecting our first guest the following day and had only two cups in the cupboard, so it was time to go out and buy another one. We walked along a busy, 4-lane road to the Mukthar Mall, passing many small businesses and shops of all sorts.

It was my first 'taste' of Amman and of our neighborhood.

The Mukthar Mall is a conglomeration of many types of businesses, all housed under one big roof. It includes a hardware store, a grocery store, a store which carries household goods, and what we would consider to be "regular" mall shops of every possible kind. It is a busy place, filled with many people.

As we entered, Sasha was greeted by a woman named Rukaiyah, part of a family the CRP had helped in the past. Rukaiyah was with her nephew Firas, who appeared to be approximately nine or ten years old. Rukaiyah does not speak very much English, but she tried hard to communicate with Sasha, who she obviously holds in high regard. After reconnecting with Sasha and warmly welcoming her back to Jordan, she launched into her broken story, speaking quickly, almost breathlessly.

Firas is her sister's only surviving son -- her other four children were killed in the street in their hometown of Baghdad in 2006. Firas was with his brothers, and saw them all die. His parents owned their own home there. One was Shia, the other, Sunna, which was quite common before the war.

With the ensuing dismantling of the infrastructure which keeps peace and provides social services , sectarian violence blossomed where before there had been tolerance. Firas's parents were targeted by fundamentalists, who told them to "get divorced." When they did not, their home was mortared while they were inside of it. Firas's father was kidnapped. He has never been heard from again, and is presumed dead. Firas’ mother’s hips were broken when their home was mortared and have never set properly. She no longer has use of her legs and is in constant pain. Somehow, they made their way -- mother and son-- to Amman. They now live with Rukaiyah and her two brothers in a small two-bedroom apartment. Rukaiyah begged us to come and visit her sister, to see if there is anything the CRP could do to help them.

A few days later, with our Iraqi counterpart, we went to their humble home. We learned that not only is the mother crippled, she also suffers from major heart disease which would require expensive and extensive surgery. Sasha explained that, sadly, the CRP does not have the money to attend to her complex medical problems.

Sasha asked about Firas and we were astonished to learn that he is thirteen years old. Like many other children of war, he seems to have stopped growing shortly after witnessing his brothers’ deaths and his father's disappearance. We learned that he, too, is not well: his stomach does not 'hold' food well, he is weak, small and not thriving. It would cost, they said, 48 JD (approximately $60) to see a doctor and have tests done. The CRP gave the family 50 JD ($70), enough to cover the cost of the doctor and the taxi ride to and from the doctor's office.

We also told the family that CRP would help them to get some summer clothes for Firas, as he had none, and the weather was getting hotter by the day.

One June 28th, we met Rukaiyah and Firas in the old downtown area of Amman, where prices are generally much cheaper, and the dollars can go further. Firas was ill that day. He had a fever. We went to two shops, and CRP money purchased him 2 pairs of pants, a pair of long shorts, 3 pairs of underwear, 2 short-sleeved shirts, a tee-shirt, and a new pair of pajamas. Firas was all worn out by now, but beaming with happiness and relief, too.

Rukaiyah told us that the doctors said that Firas has severe anemia and that he must have an iron-rich, meat-rich diet in order to heal and to grow. They have no money for meat, she tells us. The doctors wanted to do more tests, she said, but it would require an additional 27JD.

Through CRP’s Heart to Heart-Hand to Hand campaign, one generous American donor had given the $40 dollars which would get Firas the rest of his tests. Rukaiyah was overwhelmed and happy for this "miracle."

Standing there, in the open cavern of a hallway surrounded by bustling crowds, her eyes full with sincerity and grateful beyond wildest imagination, she said "We THANK him! We thank him. And may God paint a smile upon his face and the faces of his family, always. Always. I will pray for him, at each time of prayer, forever. We are having a hard summer, and CRP has come in time."

By the end of this beautiful thanking, all of our eyes were wet. There they were, so small, so honest, so real, filled with radiant humanity and absolute humility. They shone.

Firas, too, said, "Thank you! Thank you!," using up his entire English vocabulary. His eyes said all the rest, in bright eloquence, times two.

We will see them again to find out the results of Firas’ medical tests.

We hailed them a cab. The door closed, and with a last wave, they disappeared into the traffic like a whisper, like a thought that dissolves before morning erases the clouds from our eyes.

by Annie Tanner - CRP volunteer in Amman

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Abu Rukauyah and his Angels

Yesterday we went to visit Abu Rukaiyah and his beautiful wife and their kids. Abu Rukaiyah, the dad, is a handsome 36 year old man. He came to the main road, at the bottom of a mountainous hill, to meet us and walk with us up to his house. We have come, this day, to set up the delivery of his new micro-project, a tile-cleaning machine, and to document their story.

He and his wife have been in Jordan since fleeing Iraq in 2004. Their trip to Jordan was harrowing. They were followed, their car was shot at by machine-guns. The tires were hit first, and Abu Rukaiyah was shot in the leg, twice. (He rolls up his pant-leg, to show the scars, as though to prove that he is not making this up. It is mortifying and unnecessary to us, but despite this, the exhausted-looking young man was compelled for his own personal reasons, to show us.)

It appeared to me that he had been required to prove his story, perhaps over and over. He provided documentation of all possible details. This is not unusual for the refugee families. The papers were well-worn, all, but official and kept safely, for repeated re-use. After rolling the pants back down from the knee, he quietly and smoothly went on.

"I continued to drive. What could I do?" Another bullet just missed their then one year old daughter, lodging in his back. Miraculously, little Rukaiyah slept through all of this. They came upon American soldiers, who stopped the terrified young couple. They gratefully "helped us, me... they... fixed my leg..." and then e
scorted their limping vehicle and family to the Jordanian border between 2 Humvees.

Just after they got to Jordan, his wife, who was 6 months pregnant at the time of their flight to safety, hemorrhaged. They all spent the next 5 days in a hospital, where she gave birth to a tiny baby girl, who spent the following 56 days in an incubator in the hospital, Abu Rukaiyah paying all the rest of the money the family had in exchange. Miriam is about 4 now. Her heart is weak and cannot be repaired. She has multiple problems, both physical and mental, though she is absolutely adorable, all curly black hair and big eyes.

She cannot keep food down, as she cannot swallow properly. She will not ever grow normally. They must take care when touching her, as her skin is hyper-sensitive and she cries even with the gentle touch of her obviously loving mother. "It is hard for parents to look at their child like this," they sadly tell us.

Yet they clearly cherish her as they do all their children, three of them now, with their new baby boy, Yusef, who is darling, ever-cooperative with his patient parents for the entire time we were there (about 2 and a half hours). All the children were well-behaved, polite, and soft-spoken. Miriam is almost mute.

She continues to live almost exclusively on a special baby formula, which is expensive here. The family receives SOME aid but hardly enough. Sasha takes down a lot of information. She will "check in" with the doctors and other agencies, to see if there is money to help with the buying of the formula for tiny Miriam.

It is not certain that there will be help for them, as there are many thousands of others who also
need. They know this. We know this, too, especially Sasha. I am just a learner, on the low end of a steep curve. "Whether there is help or whether there is no help, we thank you, and we thank the CRP, because you are here, and you are helping us."

As always, Sasha
tells them that it is not we who are helping them, but donors from the U.S., Italy, Japan, England, Lebanon, Mexico, Canada, France, and many countries, many people who are really helping them:not her, not us. She never once takes credit for what others have given. Ever.

We note all their documentation about Miriam's health, for follow-up.

This family, as all the others, offer us tea and sweets. They surely gave up something to provide these things, but it is a point of honor for them, as with all those we visit, to be able to offer food to their guests. They insist we share; it would be insulting to them to refuse. They are sincere, and so dear and sweet-natured that it cracks your heart open, if not apart.

Abu Rukaiyah is possibly one of the gentlest men I have ever met. He has suffered from acute PTSD, and is still "shy" to ask for help. The men here have a terrible time, as they feel deep and toxic shame at not being able to protect or to adequately provide for their families. It is heartbreaking to read his doctor reports. Night terrors. Insomnia. Clinical depression. "No hallucination. No suicidal thoughts," re
ads his chart. He works, as much and as often as he can. He is hopeful that some men he knows are going to "allow" him to work with them with his new micro-project. "I know them... I trust them, " he says. He looks quiet and worried.

His beautiful young wife tells more: her father, too, journeyed out of Iraq in 2004. After having a VERY difficult time surviving here, he chose, instead, to return to Iraq in Dec., 2008. Two weeks later, he was kidnapped. No one has heard from him again. She looks bleak, introspective, as she thinks about what she has just said.

We climbed many, many (possibly 100) uneven steps to their apartment on a high hill overlooking the center of downtown Amman. They have a balcony outside, a large open ar
ea, as they live on the very top floor of their building. The view is beautiful and dizzying to look down into.

How will he get the heavy machine up and down these these stairs? Where will he store it that will be more logical and still safe? We are hoping he will be able to persuade those who say they will help him to work, to help this shy man yet again. It is clear that he is nervous to ask. It is clear to him, too, that he will have to ask. "Tomorrow," he says, visibly steeling himself.

Abu Rukaiyah has done any work he can do to help his family. Like most of the men and women we have met, he sincerely and even passionately says, "I will do anything. Anything." Sometimes he has worked as a volunteer for CARE organization. They intermittently take temporary volunteer workers who are paid a small stipend. This paid volunteer work is legal. Other employment is forbidden for non-resident Iraqi refugees though. He, as all the refugees, greatly fear the random raids on illegal workers from authorities and possible immediate deportation back to Iraq if they are caught. Working helps him - steadies him.

He, like all
Iraqis, must make no problems for anyone while here in Jordan. Like so many others, he and his family do not hold a legal "refugee" status, which would provide them with some set rights. This legal status is not usually given until resettlement is granted. The process can take years. Until then, no matter what, he must not cause any anger from any boss or neighbor. There is too much risk. He can only hope that those he trusts will not greatly under-pay him or not pay him at all. If they do, he will have no recourse whatsoever.

In Iraq, he had a spare auto parts shop. After the initial bombings and the following breakdown of all security and safety infrastructures, sectarian violence and on-going war changed their world even more profoundly. He went home. "This is not your neighborhood. This is not your home." When he stayed, the front of the house was bombed out. They are grateful that they were not home.

Going to work, he was told,"This is not your shop." It was burned to the ground, with all of the money inside it. On that day, he tells us, he suffered a heart attack, as all was lost. This, too, is documented, as is every thing. Both the home he owned and his business are just "gone." After recovery, he went back to gather his family, and was greeted with these stark words: "This is not your country."

They fled.

Somehow, they have survived. They endure. How? "We believe in God. God is helping us. God is Good." How they actually survive is beyond my scope of understanding. Their inner strength, even when they are clearly still suffering emotionally and in many other ways, too, tangible and intangible, is a testament to the strength of their beings.

Our Iraqi translator/companion has a knack-- a gift, really-- for helping people to laugh, one who brings life and encouragement into the hearts of all the people we have gone to see. The 'mood' somehow remains easy, relaxed, open. These people with nothing, share everything with us. We are their honored American guests. They are beautiful.

Their plight, now, is "a terrible beauty," as one of my friends coined, an uncannily, horribly accurate phrase. These people are mightily struggling yet not giving up, but bending heavily under the load they must carry every day now. Hideously, their story is common, though the details are uniquely their own.

Abu Rukaiyah and his family were too afraid to resettle to the U.S., as they heard on the streets it would be very hard for them in the States. They will await resettlement, instead, to Germany. They ask us, "But how it will be for us, there?... as Muslims?" We do not know. We do not have any answers.

We can only care. We do care. We are proxies for you who cannot be here. We know that shared grief lessens the load for each. We are moved, profou
ndly, every day we are here making a chronicle of these once-proud people's stories, so that they will not be lost along with everything else.

We brought small and inexpensive gifts for the girls. Wings that light up, one purple pair, one bright pink, and crowns with fluff on them. The sisters look like fireflies, eyes sparkling with pleasure and with delight at this small present. I think they look like angels.

Out of the bedroom came a girl, Sahra, aged 10. We did not know she would be there. We have brought nothing for her. She brushes this away, all grace, and kind-faced too. She speaks little English, but really tries her hand at communicating. "Hello. Hello. I am Sahra. How are you?" She kisses us on each cheek, looking directly into our eyes. She is intelligent and soft.

We discover that she is Abu Rukaiyah's niece. She recently arrived in Amman with her mother, after her father was killed in Iraq. She listens silently while her uncle explains all this, displaying no emotion at all. She just looks at me. We make an arrangement to return to meet with Abu Rukaiyah's sister, who has, so far, not received any aid at all.

After dark, we leave. As we walk down the many, many stone and marble steps, the children call out, "bye!.... bye!... sala'am... bye!" I cannot see them, but they are there, close to the sky. We hope their new micro-project helps them. We will come back again, another day.

Posted by Annie Tanner - CRP volunteer in Amman