Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Last Thursday, we went to a poor neighborhood in west Amman to our appointment with Hamid and Nadia, to hear their story and see what we could do to help them. When we arrived, they told us that there was another couple in desperate need who hoped that they could talk to us, too. This often happens.

Help is so precious here, and so rare, that when one family is offered assistance, others emerge, seeking hope and help. These two stories below have a common denominator: people triumphing after enduring incredible trauma and devastating loss.


Hamid and Nadia are a young couple, aged 30 and 23, respectively. They arrived in Jordan in the spring of 2009, making the journey to relative safety from the violence in Iraq. They clearly love one another, though they are struggling to survive. They, like countless others, are grasping for life.

They have heard about the CRP from their family. We have come tonight to document their story. The HEART To HEART program and "G.", one generous and compassionate donor, allow us to be able to leave them with something tangible, for now -- enough money to buy some food. We will follow-up by advocating on their behalf with other agencies to expedite further assistance.

Hamid and his relatives, also refugees, tell his disturbing story. Hamid's family was targeted for terror. He and many of his relatives were threatened, forcing them to seek safety elsewhere. After relocating, Hamid and his brother (35) and his father (74) were kidnapped, beaten, and severely tortured.

Some, like his father, were left with mangled, broken hips. He tells us that he spent 3 months at Abu Graib but, as in so many cases, no charges against him were ever filed. He has fears that he is being followed. We have changed their names to protect this fragile young couple and all of their family members. We will post no pictures.

Hamid's voice is throaty, as he screams out his pain and terrors into the long nights. When awakened, he wakes up afraid, shaking and screaming."

When asked what they need, family members all say, "Everyone {who loves him} talks to him. We talk to him all the time. We need for him not to wake up at midnight. We need for him to stop screaming." The family is gentle but obviously deeply concerned for Hamid, who looks terribly embarrassed at his inability to 'make it all go away.' He needs rock-solid counsel. He needs medication. These things are not yet in place.

Like all the families we have visited, this family cajoles their most traumatized members with genuine love and a teasing humor. They all laugh a lot, in between serious re-tellings of nightmares being lived out every day and every night. "He must drink milk and sleep like a baby," they say, and everyone laughs together, touching. "If we do not laugh, we will die."

Hamid's young wife was just a teenager when she was beaten. One result of her violent beating is that she is blinded, having no vision whatsoever in her left eye. She went to an eye doctor in Syria. They could not help her there.

The pressures upon this young couple are mountainous. Nadia's mother is still in Iraq. She constantly encourages her daughter leave Hamid because their life together is too hard.

All family members, including Hamid, talk about his repeated violent outbursts, as his fear and his memories of his uncles, cousins and brothers being killed still haunt him. But as we talk, his little niece comes and sits by her uncle and snuggles into his lap, eventually falling asleep while he gently strokes her hair and brow.

Again, asked about 'what they need,' they become thoughtful. Their needs are quite simple, in their own estimation. "We must find WORK. ... Some furniture?... some food?"

The members of their family who help them now will be resettled to another country at the end of July, after which they they will not be able to afford the rent to keep his brother's apartment. "We would go to a smaller apartment," they say hesitantly, "as we are only two."

The approximate cost of such a place, including water and electricity is approximately 140 JD per month, a little under 200 USD. Two hundred dollars would get them into a new apartment.

The triumph of this young couple is that they still live! They love each other deeply and are surmounting incredible odds. They amazingly retain the capacity to love one another and the members of their family. They give enough love to have little children loving them back. They care for the people in their neighborhood, expressing much compassion for others and for each other, too.


Will you?


When I first met them, I thought that Mohammed was about 70 years old. Both he and his wife Muna appear far older than their actual ages. Mohammed is only 50 years old. Muna is 48. Their hard life has aged them both far beyond their years. Their initial request is for help with their self-perceived main problem: infertility. Haltingly and painfully, their history emerges.

For 15 long years now, this couple has lived in Jordan. They, as all other Iraqi refugees, are not legally allowed to work here. In Iraq, Mohammed worked in the Ministry of Oil. When he did not enter the Baathist party, he was threatened and told simply, to "get out." When he did not comply, he was tortured. He retains no conscious memory of this time. He did not talk about it at all.

They left their home in Baghdad, traveling first to Fallujah, where they got their passports. They came to Jordan to, "try to make children; to get a cure for infertility." Mohammed tells us that he, "has had many medicines to help this. All made {me} worse."

By 2006, Mohammed had "many problems," he said, with people here. Problems exist for all refugees. They vie for the same jobs as the poor who are residents in Jordan. Jordan, a 'water-poor' country, is staggered by the influx of upwards to nearly a million Iraqis, and millions of other refugees, too.

Jordan's resources are stretched to the limit as they strive to accommodate so many refugees as well as their own citizens. They have a plethora of social services, and the Jordanian government and most people, too, are both kind and generous to all the poor, no matter what their country of origin.

There are some, however, as in every nation, who feel frustrated at the river of foreigners who have streamed into their home country. Simply providing water for all is a huge challenge. Most of the Iraqi refugees in Jordan, as I have repeatedly said, have no legal standing, no rights to work or to freedom, no recourse when treated unfairly. If they complain, they go to jail. If they complain too much, they get deported back to violent, unsafe, chaotic, and untenable Iraq.

We must all awaken to this fact. It simply is not safe for Mohammed to return to Iraq. It will never be safe for him to return there. If he does go back, he faces the same threat that caused him to flee. "No one will listen to me. Everywhere, I try to say... the Truth. I am told: we are not a police station! Shut up. Don't talk." He goes on. He is bleak, profoundly depressed and hopeless. "I hate everything. I hate my life. No one will talk to me. No will will help me. No one will listen to me. WHAT is in my hands? It is all lost."

There is much documentation of Mohammed's case. His psychiatric report reads "Severe clinical depression. Traumatic grief. PTSD. Sleep disorder. Intrusive images. Nightmares. Infertility. Suicidal."

He shows us X-rays of his damaged ribs and one of his femur, which is badly bent at an angle far from 'normal.' How did this happen? A long pause. "I do not know. I cannot remember." He shows us a pile of devastating death certificates. Four brothers, and one of his sisters, all dead from torture. As the news of each successive death reaches Mohammed, he sinks into deeper and deeper despair. The pressure of all of this fear and abject poverty has splashed out all over the canvas of Mohammed and Muna's life. Muna weeps a lot, constantly mourning their unborn children, who, barring miracles which have not yet happened, will never come into her waiting arms.

They subsist on 110 JD per month, provided to them by the UN. Their rent is 100 JD. The rest of their needs are met by charity alone. There is never enough.

The only real hope for them is to be resettled into another country. "Any country," they say. Any country. We explain that CRP has no real power to help with resettlement, but will attempt to find resources to help with the cost of Mohammed's medications and for now, leave them 20 JD. Their miracle is that they have survived. They have never abandoned one another. Their eyes still seek to meet another's. Their eyes still pour out light. We tell Mohammed and Muna that we will come back to see them as soon as we have some better answers for them. As we prepare to leave, the Call To Prayer rings through the quiet streets. It is very late. Muna begs us not to forget her. "Promise me that you will not forget me. Promise me!" She asks, one more time, "what is the solution? What is the solution for us?"

As we walk up the hill from their house, Mohammed grins widely and gives us the peace sign.

Posted by Annie Tannner - CRP volunteer in Amman

Monday, July 13, 2009


This project allows people to make their giving personal. It "puts the faces" on the people you help. Every person helped through this program is given a short note from you, your donation, and (if you choose) a picture of you, too, so that the Iraqi refugee YOU help gets to know YOU, too.

You, in return, receive a picture of the person/family that YOU HELPED, along with the actual words of thanks that your generosity elicits.

I remember how wonderful it was, as a child, to 'get' a letter from my pen pals who lived in far-away places. This program reminds me of that time, and makes me smile. When I was in high school, I made a song for a film my teacher made, a film about helping the kids in the Special Educaton program. Something about this Heart to Heart Program of the Collateral Repair Project struck a familiar chord in me, and an old, old memory rises up now, like bread, to the top of my mind:

"...Helping hands reach out to touch their lives.

They, in turn, reach out to touch our lives.

Sharing is the secret in this very special world,

Where giving is the answer and loving is the rule....."

Now, the whole world is a special education class, and millions and millions of refugees live out the nightmares that Men have dreamed into reality. Let your hands reach out to help one other person. They will then have the heart to reach out and touch you back, and then, hopefully, to touch others. In trust, encouragement, and solidarity with the teeming masses of people in need.

I urge you to click on the link below, for information and givings of any amount of money. Together, we are making the difference between despair and renewed hope and trust in life. I thank you. The CRP thanks you. The refugees thank you.


Posted by Annie Tanner - CRP volunteer, Amman

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

Um Marwa

I wrote a bit, last week, about Um Marwa, who we had gone to visit, delivering into her grateful hands her new micro-project, a home sewing machine. I would like to write a bit more about her now, filling in the blanks about this remarkable woman.

There were many things that impressed me about Um Marwa, her amazing capacity to find God's blessings in her life being the one that repeatedly struck me in the face. Um Marwa is a widow with eight chldren. In Iraq, her husband was a barber, and she was a tailor. Her husband died after the Iraq war with Iran. She has 8 children, all grown and married, six still living in Iraq, "in good homes in a Sunni area," she tells us. She has 17 grandchildren that she has not gotten to see for years, now. Still, her eyes shone with pride and love while she spoke of them. "God is Good." Like a mantra, these words and similar words pour, again and again, like honey from her thankful mouth.

She, like many others before her, fled Iraq because of the massive sectarian violence that broke out after the infrastructures which keep societies civil had been broken by War and chaos. She had moved from a Shia neighborhood, no longer safe, to a Sunna area, "to protect my children." On the day of the execution of Saddam, five explosive mortars completely destroyed her home.

"God blessed us, and he has blessed my daughters," she said, her eyes full of true and honest gratitude. "My daughters were saved. God saved them."

One daughter has severe facial birth defects resulting from the residue of depleted uranium and/or other chemicals left by war on the land, in the air, in the water of Iraq. She had many surgeries in Iraq. "All failed." Here in Jordan, Marwa (now 23) and her mother told us, "God has blessed her six surgeries."

She has faith that a way will be found to "complete the work," which will allow her right eye to open. A bone was taken from her skull and now forms her new nose, allowing her to breathe freely. She is $3000 American dollars shy of completing the long and exhausting process of repairing her face. "I will have a new glass eye, then," the young woman says, hopefully.

Marwa's case was covered by the Jordanian press

Marwa is honest and straight-forward, though shy. She does not like to complain or cry, she says, because she has deep concerns about, "my mother's declining health." Her care for her mom is evident in her gentle and solicitous behavior towards her.

This beautiful family could surely use a hand, here. A heart, here. Their ability to retain their unstinting faith in the face of such difficulties is absolutely, profoundly, and terrifically striking. May we all grow into this expansive expression and humble grace. The triumphs cascade, like dominos, as I remember them. The most profound triumph of all is that their humanity remains intact, and their inner, original Spirit soars, even when their hearts are heavily laden with grief and fear. They survive! They Live! It is a miracle of which they are keenly aware. War has destroyed, yes, but true Beauty was never even touched.

NOTE: CRP is not soliciting donations to help with Marwa's surgery as we cannot finance paying for expensive medical treatments. We are, however, approaching medical aid organizations in Amman to try to find help for her.

By Annie Tanner, CRP volunteer in Amman