Wednesday, March 30, 2011

(Hajjia is a term of respect to refer to an elderly woman who has either made the Haj or is old enough to have made it.)

Hajjia is a widow and she is old and alone. She ekes out a living by selling shoe polish on the streets of downtown Amman. But this barely pays her rent, so her diet consists of mostly just bread.

Hajjia is from a small village near Mosul. Her husband died in his twenties but until then they were both shepherds and she describes their life as “beautiful”. After that, her son was able to support his family and his mother well. He owned a GMC and transported people for hire between Iraq, Syria and Jordan. Since 2003 all of that changed. Her son and only child, has been imprisoned in Syria for three years and his wife and 8 children remain in the village where the situation is very bad for them and their relatives.
Hajjia now lives Amman, in a room meant for washing the bodies of the dead which has no running water and a hole in the floor for a toilet that overflows with sewage. She has not been able to bathe or wash her hair for several months. She has no heat source or way to cook. She sleeps with one thin blanket on a lumpy mat that she has pulled out of the garbage. 

And she sobs constantly for her son who languishes in prison. She cannot afford to go to see him. He cries during the infrequent calls he is able to make to her because of the treatment he receives and begs her to help. She cannot bear to tell him how bad her own situation is, not wanting to upset him further, not wanting to increase his frustration that he cannot be there to care for her.

We were able to deliver a 2nd-hand kerosene heater she can also cook on, some pots, a bowl, spoon and mug, tea, one of our spare warm blankets, pillow, towel & dishdasha (long dress) from CRP distribution. She wept, she sang and she kissed us many times. We gave her warm socks, and a donated single crutch to make climbing the steep hill and many stairs home easier for her, and told her to come to CRP to get a hot shower and wash her laundry. She was thrilled with the offer and kissed us even more. She tells us that the crutch we gave to her will be useful for not only traversing the steep road to home but that she can use it as a weapon if she has to, to beat off the drunks and drug addicts that inhabit the streets in the evening. She has been mugged before. She makes less than $3 per day selling Kiwi Shoe polish on the streets and must pay her rent & utilities of approx $100 per month. She lives on bread and the charity of others - but she refuses to beg. She said that Allah (God) will provide for her.  
She should be sitting in a place of honor in the family home now, being taken care of in her old age and surrounded by her grandbabies.
 Instead, she sleeps in a bug-infested hovel on one of the steep hillsides of downtown Amman and lives in abject poverty.                                                                      

She is so very alone and in such miserable conditions, rarely touched by human kindness.                                                                             – Sasha Crow