Thursday, November 4, 2010


Sunk in a Vortex
In the short week of being back in Amman I have been overwhelmed by the changes in CRP since my last visit just 8 months ago. In April, CRP moved to a much larger apartment, realizing a long held dream of becoming a bona fide Family Resource and Community Center. The larger quarters now facilitate several levels of English classes, the Women’s Craft Coop, a lending library, a weekly Men’s Dominoes Night, Kid’s Art and Music activities and a “Free Store” for distribution of donated clothing, blankets and household items. None of this would have been possible in the previous small apartment out of which we operated.  CRP is now well established in the Iraqi refugee community and known throughout the neighborhood as a place where Iraqis feel free and at ease to engage in a range of activities.
But CRP is more than classes and social events. We continue to provide emergency assistance as our small budget allows and this part of our project is also well known within the community. Almost daily we are approached by one or more individuals whose family situations are desperate and who have endured the unthinkable – torture, death threats, kidnappings and murder of family members.  Usually we are contacted by mobile phone or learn of a case from another Iraqi refugee.
But on Monday night we received a handwritten appeal given to Sasha by a young man, just as two English classes were getting underway.  There was no opportunity to read the letter until the end of the evening, after all had left and the Center again became our living quarters.
The letter is written in beautiful handwriting and eloquent English. The woman who wrote it introduces herself as a mother and former English teacher in Iraq.  Last February her husband was threatened with death and fled to Jordan seeking asylum. His wife joined him three months later with their 5 small children including an infant. 
She writes:
“I was so optimistic to get the chance of a better life.  But unfortunately I found myself sunk in another vortex!! …Till I lost hope in seeing light in the end of the dark tunnel I’m rushing through.”
Now they are living in an apartment “small as a cell” with no furniture or refrigerator, for which they pay $127 a month.  “My little baby sleeps on the ground without a cradle like other babies all over the world. It tears my heart apart. I live in real anguish and perplexity.”
They are not receiving UNHCR cash assistance and are now 7 months behind in rent.  A few weeks ago she had to sell her wedding ring to buy food for her children. 
It can take months after registering with UNHCR to receive cash assistance and then, it is often denied. In the meantime, debts pile up and days are spent going from one NGO to another pleading for help, adding to the drain on their meager finances.  
Our letter writer ends her appeal with these words:
“I’m writing to you with the tongue of motherhood for the mother is a shoulder to lean on, two arms to comfort and most of all a heart to love…”
Stay tuned for further news on this family. In the coming days we will arrange a home visit to meet the family and further assess their needs and possibilities to help them.
Please consider donating to help this mother and the many other parents whose lives and dreams have been so tragically shattered.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Short Note from Amman

CRP co-director, Mary Madsen, and I returned to Amman a little over a week ago. We were in the USA for 5 weeks taking care of administrative chores and are happy to be back to our direct work with Iraqi refugees here. Lots and lots has happened since the last time we posted - in fact, CRP is accomplishing so much that we never have the time to post!

We've opened a small Family Resource and Community Center in Amman! In addition to English language courses (three levels!) taught by a team of wonderful volunteers, we also have a lending library, "free store" of good used donated items, Men's Dominoes Night (a men-only social night out), Women's Craft Co-op, and children and teen art classes. All of this in addition to our "usual" full schedule of visiting families and providing them with emergency and other assistance.

Many new families have arrived in Amman in 2010, fleeing from the continuing violence and threats of death in Iraq. They arrive with practically nothing and must wait months before they are determined as eligible or not for the small monthly cash assistance grant from UNHCR. In the meantime, while they must wait, many are in crisis with no way to pay the rent or even put food on the table. We are constantly getting pleas for help with food, rent and basic household necessities - like blankets and sleeping mats.

Our funds are frighteningly low - right now we only have enough cash in our assistance budget to get us through this first week of November. If there is one thing worse than seeing a family in crisis it is not being able to respond with the help they need.

Please consider helping these families. We can't do it without YOU!