Thursday, March 25, 2010

CRP Today

The morning began as it usually does, reading my email over coffee and scanning for new articles and reports about Iraqi refugees and related subjects.

The rest of the morning and into early afternoon was spent writing the first of these "TODAY's" and posting it to all CRP fb pages and sending to Mary so that she could post it on our blog.

I found it somewhat enlightening for me to mull over and recall the previous day (since Jordan is separated by many hours from the west, I am writing the previous day's journal the following morning here, while most of you are sleeping)The pace of many of my days here is hectic and although every refugee and their family are unique, their challenges and our responses are similar much of the time: they need cash assistance, someone needs a prescription medicine, used items we have for distribution are needed by many, etc etc. It sometimes feels to me that every day is an extension of the previous - that they are indistinct from one another. I appreciated noting yesterday's specific tasks and the individual families we assisted .I nearly always feel that I am climbing a mountain and that, when I reach it's summit, there is only another mountain that must be climbed. Writing each day's work as separate entities allows me to realize the "valleys" and to stop and pay closer attention to the "scenery" .

I think keeping this daily journal will be as beneficial to me as I hope that it is for you!

After posting the TODAY, I took care of some CRP-related correspondence:

- again, to volunteers with the Iraqi artists/craftspeople project

- to Deb Rodriguez with Oasis Rescue (you may know Deb by her work with the "Beauty Academy of Kabul" who has offered to donate, through Oasis Rescue, some terrific "beauty salons in a box" that CRP can give to Iraqi women here as Micro-Projects for home salons. (Thank you, Deb!!) Mostly discussed logistical stuff with Deb.

- follow-up email to discuss scheduling our new round of home visits with visiting fellows of the Regional Human Security Center who are specifically interested in the challenges and barriers to Iraqi refugee children accessing education in Jordan.

- received an invitation to:
" "Under the patronage of HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal, the Refugee Studies Center (RSC) at the University of Oxford, and the Regional Human Security Centre located in Amman, Jordan, cordially invite you to attend our upcoming one-day event at the Kempinski Hotel on April 13, 2010. The event will focus on the current situation of both internally displaced Iraqi citizens and Iraqi refugees residing in foreign countries. The briefing aims to provide an open platform for constructive discussion, which will offer policy makers a strong idea of the key principles involved with this critical issue""
-- to which I, with pleasure, accepted.

I then met with Ghazwan and Aden, a young Iraqi man enlisted to help, to go to pick up a cooking stove donated by the parents of one of my dear Jordanian friends. (THANK YOU! You know who you are!) and delivered the stove to the widow Haiyat (with 7 children) that, along with her large family, has many needs. She had been cooking on a table-top gas "camp-type" stove and was more than delighted to receive the stove, as you can imagine! Cooking for such a large family on a small stove is a challenge and now she will be able to include baked items in their menu.
When we came into her home, we were pleased and amazed to see her only son, Abdullah, sitting near his mother and READING. Less than a month ago, Abdullah (age 15) was fully illiterate. He had to go to work at age 11 in very low-paying menial jobs to contribute his family. Before that, he had no opportunity to attend school because of the war and then lack of opportunity when his family arrived in Jordan. It was not until 2007 that Iraqi children could attend public schools here and his mother could not afford to send him to private school. His sisters are all in school and doing very well but Abdullah had missed too much school to ever hope to return. Now, because of a wonderful benefactor in the US, Abdullah is receiving intensive private tutoring in reading and writing Arabic. A very bright boy, he is catching on amazingly fast. He was working for less than $3 per day, 6 days every week, doing menial labor and contributing this to his family. His benefactor is also paying to Haiyat the amount of money Abdullah formerly made at this job so that his new "job" is only to be a student. We are so proud of Abdullah for how responsibly he is taking this on. 

We were also pleased to see that Haiyat's youngest daughter, Anoud (age 4) was looking so well. When we last saw her, only a little over a week ago, we had to visit her in the hospital. She was very ill with bronchitis, not uncommon in the cold stone houses with insufficient heat here. Anoud is disabled - paralyzed and cognitively delayed - and recently diagnosed with a seizure disorder. Bronchitis is even more dangerous for her and we were very worried about her. Haiiyat was exhausted - spending her nights sleeping upright in a hard chair in Anoud's hospital room and then, in the daytime, rushing home to make sure the other children's needs were met. Seeing Anoud with rosy cheeks and clear eyes was a relief. And we were very happy to be able to deliver the stove to her mother, to relieve her of some of the work of caring for her family.

Next, we continued on in the truck to the home of Abu Mais and his family. CRP is moving into a larger, much less expensive flat here but the reason it is less expensive is because it's unfurnished (unfurnished flats in Jordan do not have anything in them - not even appliances) This family has finally, after over two years of waiting, interviews, security checks, etc, was accepted for resettlement to the US and were leaving the next morning for their flights. They had been selling everything they owned and CRP purchased their refrigerator and stove. We loaded them on to the truck and then visited with the family for a while, reluctantly saying our goodbyes.

CRP has known this family for over two years. We first provided Um Mais with a home salon Micro-Project and, most recently, helped them by enlisting our volunteers to translate correspondence in Arabic from them into English that was necessary toward their resettlement. We had provided the children with warm coats in winter and their youngest,baby Samir, with milk under our MILK for KIDS project. We were saying goodbye to old friends, not just assistance recipients.

Although pleased that they finally were going to be resettled,the parents were very nervous at the same time - they have heard that it is very hard for new immigrants to the US, that many newly resettled Iraqis are in crisis because they cannot find work - or adequately paid work - before the few months of assistance they receive when first arriving runs out. Their English skills are very limited. They are leaving behind everything they have ever known, taking nothing but some clothes, to begin a new life in an alien culture and at the worst economic time. I told them to send us an email as soon as they are able to after they arrive and let us know how they are. We will keep in touch and, if they find themselves in crisis, we will try to find someone in their new community to befriend them and help them explore and access possible solutions. They seem relieved and promise they will keep in touch.

We took some last minute photos and went through another round of long embraces and kisses before we turned to leave. As we walked away, Ghazwan wiped tears from his eyes, "I hate this part" he said, "It brings it all back to me, the memory of the night my brother and mother left (to be resettled) It brings it all back"

The pain being separated by continents from close family is nearly unbearable. As of now, Ghazwan and his wife's file is still in only "protection" unit at UNHCR. Files must be moved from the protection unit to the resettlement unit before they can be considered for possible resettlement. Sometimes this happens rapidly and, for others, like Ghazwan, their files remain in protection year after year, taking away any hope of reunification with loved ones or escaping the challenges they face here as nonresidents.

We installed the appliances in the new CRP flat and did a run-through to see what was needed. Ghazwan and I returned to my flat and, over a quickly grabbed shwama sandwich, discussed moving logistics, arranged for a truck for the move, and then a few of the cases we are working on now. He made arrangements for someone to bring me some old newspapers I need to wrap glass items in for the move and then left, to finally go home to see his own children.

I downloaded photos that I took at our visits to Haiyat and Abu Mais families and sent them to Mary and to the donor who contributed the stove to Haiyat. I wrote emails to my own adult children who I neglect too much because of the demands of CRP days. I did some personal chores and then, rubbing my sleepy eyes, went to bed and tried to read myself to sleep.

I was still awake at 3 a.m. so gave up, got up and checked my email and facebook. I had online conferences with Mary and some others who were in the middle of their early evening and went back to bed around 7am, falling over into immediate and deep sleep.