Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter 2011

It’s a beautiful day here in Amman.  The birds are singing outside the window as I write, the sun is streaming in, and cars are quietly passing in the street.  Tranquil, peaceful, so hard to imagine that the world around me is enmeshed in violence and strife.
No wonder, then, that it’s so hard for people to remember the ongoing tragedy that is Iraq.  Not only are most of us soothed by our peaceful surroundings, but we’re also continually being bombarded with new stories of horror and tragedy from all over the world.  We can feel overwhelmed by this, and our natural reaction is to shut it all out and tell ourselves that there is nothing we can do.
It is Easter weekend.  Although I am not a Christian, I do know the meaning of Easter; through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all of mankind is saved from darkness.  This is a beautiful story, one of hope and renewal, and as we watch our kids tear into their Easter baskets, attend religious services to celebrate this joyful day, and join our families in a traditional Easter dinner, we may not stop for a moment and remember those who are the “collateral damage” resulting from the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
Iraqis are still fleeing for their lives, and many times they find themselves in harsh circumstances once they arrive in Amman.  The waiting period for cash assistance from the UN can be many months, and not all Iraqis receive it.  Returning to Iraq is out of the question for them – they either have no homes to return to, or to go back can mean death.  So they languish in Amman, relying on neighbors and relatives to help support them, but their lives are harsh. For many Iraqis, they find themselves in grinding poverty and uncertainty, forced to buy a little food on credit, living in hovels with no heat, and many families live in single rooms where they sleep on a cold floor.   Unable to work legally in Jordan, some risk jail and deportation by taking menial jobs, but many more sit in hopelessness and impoverishment.  Domestic violence can rear its ugly head, a manifestation of despair and a loss of self amid the continuing turmoil of life as a refugee.  Some Iraqis have, or develop, medical conditions for which they cannot obtain necessary medications.  The list of challenges they face as refugees goes on and on.
We at CRP are working every day to make the situation better for Iraqi families in Amman.  We help in many ways, including cash assistance to those need emergency help.  Unfortunately, our donations have slowed to a trickle, and we have not been able to provide this vital help.  Because of this, some Iraqi families are at risk of homelessness.  Another risk is imprisonment of Iraqi husbands because of nonpayment of debt. 
On this Easter Sunday, while we are enjoying the day with family and friends, please take a moment to remember the ongoing tragedy of Iraq and its refugees.  A donation of even a small amount goes a long way in helping us to help Iraqi refugees.  The story of hope and renewal that is Easter can be lived every day through caring and giving.  Happy Easter! ~ Mary Shephard

When There's No Other Way, There's You

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Today we went to visit a family who has been in Amman since January, 2010 and has not received any  financial assistance from UNHCR. They have had no money to pay their rent or to feed their kids. Bilal, age 28, and his wife Amira, age 21, have two little boys, ages 18 months and 3 years. When they had to flee Iraq and come to Jordan, the younger child was a newborn. We visited for a happy reason – one of our very generous donors has pledged to send $250 a month to support this young family, and we were happy to deliver the first month’s donation.

The family lives in a tiny, run-down and shabby flat which is nothing more than a small room with a bathroom lacking a tub or shower, and a tiny kitchen, but now they can pay their rent, get good food for themselves and their two little boys, and insulin for Bilal’s diabetes.  My heart almost burst inside my chest when I saw their faces as Ghazwan presented them with the donation that is literally a lifesaver.  We sat on the floor during our visit because they have no furniture.  Both Bilal and Amira had new hope in their eyes.  They can now see a good future for themselves and their boys because someone cares.
Most  families who have arrived in Amman since 2010 usually have had to endure a long waiting process while they’re assessed for refugee status.  This is a new development; they won’t receive cash assistance unless they are classified as refugees.  This family has been waiting for almost a year and a half.  How were the supposed to survive during this wait?  We’ve helped these families in the past by giving them emergency cash, but because our donations have slowed to a trickle, we’ve been unable to help any families for the past two months.. When we couldn’t help they were forced to rely on their equally poor neighbors for food, and there were days when the family literally had nothing to eat at all.  Bilal and his family are very, very fortunate to have a generous donor take an interest in them and offer to give them the help they need so desperately.
When you know someone cares about you, your whole life looks different.  You have the strength to go on, the ability to feel hope again.  One minute it can feel as if there is no reason to get up in the morning, and the next, it can feel as if life is full of miracles.  I saw this transformation today.  When I first met Bilal a few weeks ago, his whole being conveyed his worry and fear.  Today, he was a new man – smiling, laughing, and he said, “now I can relax.”  He asked us about a million times to thank the person who has pledged to help his family.
It’s a lesson for all of us, really – to put ourselves in our brother’s shoes and feel his pain, then reach out and help – and then watch the transformation.  It’s beautiful.  You can transform a family’s life, too.

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