Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Playing It Forward

In this blog, CRP friend and supporter Carol Malik, shares memories of her dad, his love of dominoes and his acts of generosity. Carol carries on his tradition by donating funds in his memory for supplies for CRP's Men's Dominoes Night. Thank you Carol!
Mary Madsen

 Honestly, if my Dad were alive and he knew about these men needing a place to play dominoes, he would have made that happen.  No doubt about it!  He was a bulldozer operator and worked seasonally.  During the winter months, the men would gather at, of all places, a furniture store to play dominoes near the cash register!  Nothing like rural Arkansas growing up!

Yes, the Iraqi value their elders so much.  And my Dad would have loved to play dominoes with them for sure!  I think the way he put it was "there is no such thing as a stranger, just people you haven't got acquainted with yet".  I wish I had a photo of my Dad playing dominoes, but I think we were too busy playing to even think about that! 
I know dominoes for my family was a time of fun, laughter and talking over some important ways to handle situations of life while we were playing a game.  What could be better than taking a serious issue, mulling it over and finding a way to deal with the serious enjoying something to help relax and solve those issues?  Who would believe you could solve problems over a game of dominoes.

My Dad had compassion for people and was always willing to help when he learned about the difficulties of a neighbor or family in need.  It didn't matter to him what the cause of a problem for the people was, if he had the means to help, that was all that was necessary.  And to this day I remember going with him and my Mom to homes out in rural Arkansas and taking groceries and cooked food to people in need or helping somebody with a way to get the electricity back on or the water running or somebody in need of clothes.

And he never wanted a single thing in return.  If somebody got back up on their feet and wanted to pay Dad back, all he asked was for them to just help the next person they found who needed the same sort of help, long before I ever heart the phrase "pay it forward".  Such a great thing.

For me, my Dad was so special, but I didn't understand the full scope of who he was until long after he died and I use to go and visit my great Uncle Earnest who was raised with my Dad (my Dad's parents were both deceased by the time my Dad was 7 years old and was raised by his aunts and Grandfather).   

 My Dad had to stop attending school by the 6th grade since he was the eldest of my Great Grandpa's grandchildren and he worked plowing fields all over eastern Oklahoma with a horse and plow!  Can you imagine?  

My Dad and Uncle Earnest use to go around visiting family up until my Dad passed away in 1991 and then, once my Uncle could no longer drive himself, I started taking him to visit family much as he and my Dad use to do.  It was such a great thing learning more about my Dad and family from my Uncle Earnest!  They were raised in the time after the depression and it was tough going.  But the situations my Dad was in as a child gave him so much compassion for others. I was so amazed by what my Uncle told me.
My life because of the compassion of my Dad and the patience of my Mom was blessed and I can only hope that what I do from day to day.  And I hope I have learned a bit more since last July to appreciate every day as the gift that it truly is.

It is my honor to share him with whoever may have an interest and I hope my Dad's story may touch some of the other donors of the past who might be willing to share in the lightening of the hearts of these Iraqi people in some way.  They are so very precious!

My kids and I haven't played lately, but because of my Dad, there were 3 generations of domino players to date!  Not so bad! 
Carol Malik

Monday, April 11, 2011


 "Refugee,” what comes to mind?  I’m sure many people try not to even think about it, but refugees are innocent people who are caught up in the violence and horror of war and occupation and find they must flee in order to survive.  Many Iraqi refugees are people who made up the middle and upper classes of Iraqi society.  In our English classes we have civil engineers, economists, police officers and other professionals who are now languishing in Amman without being able to work. One man in the advanced English class has been approved for resettlement and will be emigrating to Massachusetts, where his sponsors are waiting to help him to start a new life.  A goldsmith, he hopes to work as a jeweler once he is in the US. 
But the rest wait in agonizing limbo for word on resettlement -- unemployed and with little to fill their days that stretch into months or even years -- while knowing that very few are accepted for resettlement and that the long wait may well end in shattering their hopes.
For the refugees remaining in Amman, we need to continue to assist them.  Because many are still waiting for a determination from UNHCR on their status, they do not yet receive cash assistance and are forced to rely on friends and relatives to survive.  Some run up large credit accounts in their neighborhood food markets in order to be able to eat.  We normally help these families with food, rent and utility payments, but we’re not able to do anything for them now because we have no cash for this purpose.  It is crucial to help these families because unless their bills are paid, the head of the family can be put in jail for nonpayment. Children will see their fathers arrested and taken away, and wives will be left alone to struggle to keep the rest of the family together.
We need to remember these are our fellow human beings – they’re people just like us, except that their society has been destroyed and they have literally fled for their lives, in hopes that they might be able to make a new life.  The limbo of waiting for refugee status is incredibly stressful – imagine yourself in such a situation.  You’re in another country, you have no money, you are waiting for months to find out what is going to happen with your application for resettlement, you have a family to take care of….imagine it.  And you can’t go back where you lived before, because either your home is gone or you will be killed if you return.  Try to imagine the stress, the fear of the unknown, compounded by the traumatic experience of living through a war.  Imagine your life falling apart, only to be replaced by uncertainty, poverty and isolation.
 CRP is trying to help our fellow human beings, but in order to do it effectively, we need your participation and help.  Can you please take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of an Iraqi refugee and imagine the hardship so many of them endure every day?  And then please think of what CRP does – we provide emergency assistance for living expenses, food, medication and other necessities.  We provide heaters and fans, winter coats for kids, but we also provide something else equally important.  We provide support for the Iraqi refugee community by giving them a place where they can come for the non-tangibles they also need.  The men’s Dominoes Night, the Hope Workshop (a co-op where Iraqi refugee women create beautiful items to sell), the English and art classes, are only some of the things we offer to the community, again, with your help.  It is crucial that we be able to again provide cash assistance to needy families, and to continue to offer programs to strengthen the community in Amman. 
No donation is too small.  Imagine yourself, one more time….imagine giving a donation to help us help Iraqi refugees, and imagine how good it feels knowing you have made a difference in someone’s life.