Wednesday, March 24, 2010

CRP Today March 23, 2010

Dear Friends,

This is the first of our posts that will tell you what CRP is doing on a daily basis. We hope that you'll get a better idea of how we spend our time and your contributions by sharing a brief diary of our days with you. We'll usually post once a day, at the end of each day. You'll read about our visits with families and the assistance you provide to them - as well as the sometimes mundane but necessary tasks that fill our days. We hope that you'll get a better sense, not only about what CRP accomplishes for Iraqi refugees but also the myriad challenges Iraqis in Jordan face.


Began the morning by writing two letters to UNHCR to inform them about two different Iraqi families who arrived in Jordan in late 2009, registered with UNHCR as Asylum Seekers but who still have not received UNHCR cash assistance. One family consists of parents and 4 minor children - the other consists of a grandmother, parents and 6 minor children. They have been surviving on charity-such as food boxes from a local church but they have no cash, making them extremely vulnerable because they cannot pay their rent and utilities. (CRP provided them with a package containing meat and chicken and we will keep in touch to make sure that they are ok until they receive cash assistance through UNHCR) I asked UNHCR if these families' cash assistance might be expedited. (it can take months for families to begin to receive cash assistance after they have applied) UNHCR has been very responsive when informed about emergency situations such as these.

Updated our fb group post about the Valentines Day party CRP hosted for 50 Iraqi refugee children and their parents. Explained that the date of the party was also the anniversary of the US bombing of Baghdad's al-Amariya bomb shelter where hundreds of mostly women and children were incinerated in the place they had sought safety. So the Valentines Day party was not only a fun day for these kids and their families but also a way to provide distraction from their collective grief on this somber day.

Updated our fb pages with notice of our worrisome financial situation and plea for help to keep us here and able to continue our work

Engaged in online chat with our good partner in the UK - Iraq Solidarity Campaign about ways that CRP can increase awareness of our project and inspire support. Iraq Solidarity said they would increase their outreach - and did - thank you, ISC!

Wrote emails to local volunteers who are helping to organize venues for Iraqi artists and craftspeople in Amman to catch them up on where we are at on this end.

Read information about minimum items to be provided to Iraqis when they are resettled to the US - passed this info along to Mary (our co-director) in Oregon who, along with others in her community, are preparing to provide supportive friendship to an Iraqi family we have been advocating for resettlement to S OR.

Made arrangement to pick up a good used stove donated by a CRP friend in Jordan that will be given to Haiyat, the young widow with 7 children. Haiyat has been cooking for her family on a small table-top "camp stove" for several years. She is thrilled to be getting this stove. (photos coming after we deliver to her on Wed )

With Ghazwan (CRP Iraqi colleague in Amman) called 20+ Iraqi artists and craftspeople to ask them to give us samples of their art/crafts next week.

We also called to arrange pick-up of a stove and refrigerator that CRP purchased (the new flat is completely unfurnished - thus the low rent) from an Iraqi family who are being resettled to the US this week as well as a time for us to say tearful goodbyes to this family CRP has known and assisted for over two years.

Iraqi father stopped by to give us an update on his family's crisis situation. He has a large family - 2 of the children with severe medical conditions - both parents suffering from extreme depression (father was kidnapped and badly tortured) which appears to render the parents sometimes incapable of being able to function adequately in dealing with challenges. Last week he told us they were being evicted because of past-due rent (had used money to pay for medications and treatments for their ill children instead) and that the landlord had hired a lawyer who threatened to report him to the police if rent in arrear was not paid (nearly $500) It was certain he would be jailed until the rent was paid. We had contacted UNHCR who only suggested that he go to Legal Aid. Last night he said that Legal Aid could not offer any help - only suggested that he try to "work things out" with the owner. The owner compromised by not reporting him to the police but insisted that he move his family out of the flat by tomorrow. This man was combing the streets, desperately looking for an inexpensive apartment to rent immediately. I wish I could have offered some possibilities for him but, as I have been looking madly for a new flat for CRP, I know that there are not many empty flats in available in this area. CRP does not have the funds to offer to put the family in a hotel for a couple of days. We are very concerned about this family and will check in with him tomorrow and hope a solution has been found. We will maintain frequent contact with the family and seek out possible resources other NGOs might be able to offer. This is a very worrisome situation and frustrating because we do not have the resources to help financially at this time.

Ghazwan accompanied me to sign the lease for the new CRP distribution center / activity center / office (and staff bedroom)! Through this move we have reduced our per month rent from $420 mo to only $280! And, best of all, we doubled the amount of space over what we have had which will enable us to accept more donations for distribution as well as hold informal classes (ie such as conversational English and handicrafts), cultural celebrations, and children's activities - as well as, of course, having a place where Iraqis can come to us to seek assistance. The landlords live in the same building and are pleased to be able to rent their flat to us for our work - after checking in with the neighbors to make sure no one had problems with this. This is important because unhappy neighbors can cause problems if they complain to the authorities - not for CRP but for Iraqis who would come to our center. We are relieved to find this larger and less expensive location - and nervous about our ability to keep the commitment we've made by signing a 1-year lease. We know our work is too important to end and how valuable it is to Iraqis so we, for now, must go forward in trust that others will recognize this and support our work.

After signing the lease and returning to my flat, Ghazwan called newly arrived families to schedule home visits with them for assessment for our assistance and finished calling the artists/craftspeople on our list.

Then Ghazwan left to pay the rental agent the remaining 10JD ($14) of the 20JD that we agreed we owed him for finding the new flat. The agent was not hired by the owner but only had heard that the flat was empty and led us to it. Ghazwan called me afterwards, justifiably upset, because the agent, once Ghazwan got to his office, changed his mind about the amount - insisting on 50JD instead of 20! He told Ghazwan that I am a "rich American woman with a NGO" (a common mis-perception here) and still, after Ghazwan explained our situation, insisted on 30JD. As happens often here, this was argued passionately. Ghazwan knows how little money we have and how what we have is needed badly to help refugees and he was loath to hand over much more than was appropriate. Two Iraqi men nearby cautioned Ghazwan, reminding him that the owner could call the police and only make more problems for him (Iraqis who are victims are often punished while their perpetrators go free. They are very vulnerable to exploitation because of this. Ghazwan apologized for paying 30JD to the agent and insisted that I take it from his wages. I told him that he had made the right decision and that this (in the big picture) relatively small amount of money was well worth avoiding prison. And besides, the new landlord,in kindness and in appreciation of CRP's work, had insisted that we not pay any rent for these last days of March, even though we have taken residency already - so in actuality, we did "lose" less money than we saved.

It must be very hard for Iraqi men here to know that they must back-down and accept intimidation and exploitation. It surely is a searing humiliation. We so very much appreciate Ghazwan's work with us and his willingness to put himself in the position to have to endure this type of humiliation and frustration sometimes - as well as enduring reminders of his own and his family's trauma and loss when he accompanies me to visit other families and hear their painful stories. He is one of the many Iraqi heroes and heroines that give so much of themselves and without whom CRP could not exist. Our gratitude can never be sufficient for all they do.

Conferenced via chat with Mary in the US re the events of the day.

Responded to a good suggestion from Dana with Code Pink re possible partnership with another organization.

Electrical black-out had me scurrying to light candles and finish internet-related work. Power resumed just as I finished. Washed my dishes and headed to bed.