Monday, May 3, 2010

Local Media Attention and an Update on CRP Activities

Last month Paris Aiken, a reporter from Medford (Oregon) Mail Tribune, visited CRP in Amman and interviewed co-director Sasha and our Iraqi colleague and translator Ghazwan. She also accompanied them on a home visit to a refugee’s home to hear their story and see first-hand the circumstances under which the vast majority of Iraqi refugees currently survive.

One important correction to the article:  UNHCR assistance (which many must rely on as their sole means of support) is not "100JD per month" -- the grant amount varies depending on number of members in the household. A single person receives 75JD (around $100) - a family of six receives 245JD (a little over $300). Even with cost of living being lower in Amman than in the west, Cash Assistance is inadequate to pay for more than the rough basics: rent in what are many times substandard flats; utilities if people are extremely careful in use, and low cost foods. 

We are grateful to the Medford Mail Tribune for the article about CRP and for bringing awareness of the refugee crisis to the general public. We encourage you to share the story with others.  Much more media attention needs to be paid to this tragic situation which has been so sadly ignored.

Meanwhile, CRP is working very hard instituting our new Amman Center. Here are some of things we’re up to:

  •             We are establishing a lending library of Arabic language books. Even used paperbacks are too costly for most refugees to buy and, lacking citizenship, they do not have access to public libraries. Their only reprieve from the harshness of their lives as refugees is escape into tv - although they most often watch the news, fixated (naturally) on what is happening in Iraq in their concern for loved ones left behind.  A library will give them a reprieve from the continual diet of disturbing news and hopelessness.

  •          We have also instituted English Language social nights for those who want to learn or improve the basics of English.  Without the option of ever returning to Iraq and currently living shadow lives with no future for themselves and their children in Jordan, many Iraqi refugees are anxious to resettle in UK, Australia or the US. Knowing the basics of English will give them a foot-up if they are resettled. We’ve been fortunate to have a cadre of young American volunteers who are studying Arabic at the University of Jordan and who lend their energy and language skills for the socials. Nineteen men and women attended our first English Language Social event. We hope to continue this on a weekly basis as well as plan other cultural and community gatherings as a means of building bridges of peace and mutual understanding.
  •          One thing we know is that all kids love to draw and love art projects. Put a bowl of crayons and a few pieces of blank paper on the coffee table and, without hesitation or coaxing, they begin making pictures. Art is not just a means of creative expression but is also therapeutic.  We want our center to be a place for kids to gather to express themselves through art projects as well as other activities - and hopefully, in the future, we want to include art opportunities for adults too.
  •  Most of us know how valuable it is to have a photographic memory of our families and our children as they grow. Digital cameras are a luxury far beyond the budget of Iraqi refugees. Many have been here in Amman for several years now, their children are growing with no photographic record of them during these years they've spent in exile.  One low cost project CRP plans to initiate in May is visiting families to take family portraits that will be printed and given to them.  Feeding the soul can sometimes be as important as feeding the body.
  •          One room of our center is dedicated to distribution of free, gently used clothing that has been donated to us.  We already have many donations of clothing and are in need of racks and shelving to facilitate orderly browsing and selection.
  •          CRP also facilitates Iraqis accessing vitally needed services from other NGOs - but mainly UNHCR.  Because of the scope of UNHCR's caseload of refugees, refugees sometimes become "just numbers" and when UNHCR monthly cash assistance is cut suddenly (by error sometimes) or a family has waited months until they are completely destitute and in deep crisis, CRP can intervene.  On their own, Iraqis have a very hard time getting their cases heard by UNHCR (because UNHCR is swamped with such requests).  We can directly inform UNHCR about these individuals/families crises and request a reassessment if cash assistance has been stopped or request expediting eligibility assessments to speed up the process for new applicants.  We are successful very often in facilitating refugees getting this absolutely vital assistance from UNHCR.
CRP has long dreamed of instituting a center where Iraqi refugees can gather to socialize, make friends, learn together and celebrate shared cultural events. Our dreams depend on our donors and you have made it possible for the dream to come to this point. We thank you!!  Now, we need your continued support to perpetuate and expand the reality that has evolved. We understand that times are difficult for many of us, so if you’re not able to donate at this time, we understand. But you can help us in another way: Please spread the word of our work to your family, friends and groups and encourage them to be involved in our work.
Thank You!