Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Yesterday was one of the kinds of days that I live for.  It was warm, sunny, just gorgeous.   A perfect day, in fact, to visit Zainab and her children, a new family CRP is helping. 
Previously we wrote about how we met Zainab and her 4 children – 13 year old Fadi, 10 year old Aisha, and the 4 year old twin girls, Abeer and Fadwa.  They’d come to our door asking for help a couple of weeks ago. The family had been in Jordan for a little over a month, having fled sectarian violence and threats due to Zainab and her husband Jamal’s intermarriage. 
The family came to Amman totally unprepared, having no idea of the trials and hardships awaiting them.  It certainly didn’t help when a rental agent swindled them by renting them an overpriced apartment.  Since then, they had found a lower priced flat, but they exhausted the meager amount of money they brought with them from Iraq.  
Their new apartment, considering its very low price, is surprisingly spacious, clean and comfortable.  They greeted us with smiles and invited us to come in.  This was when we discovered that although this family had managed to find a better living arrangement, they had absolutely no furniture or household items.  Their only possessions were their suitcases sitting against a wall, and the only other thing in the flat was a naked bed frame left there by the landlord. 
The situation was dire, indeed.  This family’s needs were so extensive that we called another NGO, and because of our excellent relationship with them, they immediately responded to our request to help this family. They agreed to provide them with sleeping mats, a countertop gas cooker and some cleaning supplies, and we took Jamal with us on a shopping trip to pick up some other needed items, including a cooking gas cylinder, pillows and blankets, pots and pans and other things. 
The family positively glowed when we returned with a van loaded with things for their new flat.  The atmosphere was like a party as each new addition to their new home was unpacked.  Zainab, Jamal and the kids were beaming.  A step back from the darkness into the light of hope never looked brighter or more promising.  
The other NGO gave them a small gift certificate to use at a modestly-priced local department store for the children’s clothing, and we arranged for 2 large bottles of drinking water to be delivered  – the tap water in Amman is not safe to drink.  We also provided the family an adequate amount of cash to buy enough food to last for a month. 
The family’s relief radiated from their smiling faces and seemed to fill the room.  It was like sunshine breaking through clouds, to see parents no longer worried about how they would care for their children’s basic needs.  The whole family no longer had to worry about how they would eat or how they could possibly sleep on a stone floor.  For most of us, it’s hard to imagine ever being in such a predicament, being totally destitute and with no possessions other than a suitcase full of clothes - wondering what will happen next and how we’ll survive…wondering how our kids will survive. 
We talked with the family about their lives both before and after the 2003 US invasion.  They spoke of the chaos the war brought to Iraq – the gangs, the rampant violence, the lawlessness.  Zainab told us about one incident in particular that traumatized young Fadi when he was only six years old – the little boy was outside playing when he saw one man kill another with a knife right in front of him.  Since then, Fadi has suffered from nightmares every night.
Zainab’s dark eyes once again shone with tears as she spoke about the family’s life in Iraq.  Zainab was a teacher and school administrator; her husband Jamal told us about his job as an engineer.  They had lived in comfort, their children were doing well in school, and their careers were satisfying and brought them a good income. 
Zainab mentioned her extensive experience in teaching Arabic, and as fate would have it, we’d been looking for someone who would be able to teach an Arabic literacy course.  We asked her if she would be interested, and she happily agreed, saying she would do it for free. 
We suggested something a little different – that her teaching would be in exchange for our continuing help until the family receives its cash assistance from UNHCR.  This restores Zainab’s dignity and identity, and we’re so glad to have found the teacher we needed! 
We will also pay for a critically-needed medical exam for Zainab (very inexpensive by western standards) and for medications needed by her and Fadi for chronic medical conditions.  And of course, we have invited the family to join us for CRP programs and activities at our center.  This will help them to make friends that are a crucial source of emotional support within the Iraqi refugee community.  We’re looking forward to having them join us!
This is what can be accomplished with contributions from compassionate and caring people.  A family was given back hope for their future.  A good outcome for a day’s work on our part, and what a beautiful result for the donors who care about Iraqi refugee families.  Thank you from all of us, to all of you.