Friday, November 4, 2011

When Um M and two of her children arrived in Jordan a year ago, they rented a tiny flat in extremely bad condition. But when her husband and 3 other sons fled to Jordan two months ago, the landlord told them to move as the flat was too small for so many people. Um M had only been receiving a small UNHCR monthly assistance for her and the two children but this was barely enough for just the three of them to scrape by and would not be enough to buy food for her family now that there were four more mouths to feed. It certainly would not be enough to pay rent on a larger flat.

She went with her husband and the other children to UNHCR right away to request that they be added to the family file so that the monthly grant could be increased. A problem at UNHCR resulted in the family not receiving the increase for this month -- and in fact, causing them to not receive even the smaller amount. They were informed that things will be taken care of and that they can expect to receive the grant at end of November -- but not for the lost month. How were they to survive for an entire month without any income? 

They had moved into a larger flat (pictured) and had promised the new landlord that he would receive the rent money. When they were unable to pay the rent, he was threatening to throw them out -- this, in the days just before Eid - a Muslim holiday as significant as Christmas is to many westerners.

Um M did not approach CRP for help -- even though the family was in such dire straits. Because she and her children attend CRP classes and activities, she knew that CRP is struggling to keep our doors open and we are very concerned that we may have to close at the end of the month. Instead, we found out when we called Um M to ask why she did not come to an activity she was enrolled in. Only then did she tell us that she could not come because she was dealing with this crisis. Her family had no food; they had sold anything they had of value just to raise what ever they could toward trying to pay the rent. She had even sold a 3 kilo bag of sugar from their pantry. 

Not only this, but because of their financial problems, her two eldest sons had dropped out of school a month ago, taking a job cleaning toilets, trying to make money to pay the rent and put food on the table.  At the end of the month of grueling work, they went to the boss to be paid and he told them that there was no pay, that they are Iraqis and could go ahead and go to the police if they wanted but they would be the ones in trouble, not him. Iraqi refugees are not allowed to work in Jordan and this type of exploitation is horrifically too common. 

The entire family felt beaten down and hopeless at this point, terrified they were going to be put out on the street.

A friend of CRP visited our center the next day, delivering a carload of gently used, donated clothes and household items she had collected from friends and family. We told her about this family's dire situation and our deep concern for them -- and our frustration that we could not help.  After we took the donated items from her car and put them in the distribution room, we decided to take her to visit Um M and her family as they live just a few doors down from our building.

She met with the family, asked questions about their situation and listened to Um M tell of their hardships.  Typical of Iraqis, Um M would end each telling of a sad or terrifying event in the family's saga as refugees with "al-Hamdolelah" (Thanks to God), always remembering to be grateful, even when life presents seemingly insurmountable challenges.

We all wanted to make sure this family was not evicted and that they had food on the table. Our friend said she would talk to her friends and family to see if anyone could help. CRP contacted several other NGOs to find out if they had any way of helping. One of the NGOs said they might be able to help and made an appointment for the following morning. We were all hopeful that a solution had been found.

Um M called us after this appointment. The NGO said that they might be able to help -- but that it would take a few days for a decision to be made and then, only after Eid (a four day holiday). The landord was not willing to wait and we were back where we started.

Thankfully, our friend was able to rally her friends to come to the rescue. Together, through their generosity and caring, enough funds were gathered to pay the rent and for the family to eat until the end of the month -- overnight! She delivered the aid directly to the family this morning. I stopped by to visit them a little while later and found the atmosphere in the house was entirely different than it had been just two days ago. The children were smiling and Um M's eyes were filled with tears of gratitude and relief. Not only did these kind people rescue this family from homelessness, they had ensured that the family would not have an empty table for Eid. 

CRP wants to express our deepest and sincerest gratitude to our caring friend who took it on herself to raise the funds and to everyone who,, with her,, came together to help this family. Without your kindness, what would they have done? Our words can never be enought o tell you how much we appreciated your saving this family from the deep crisis. We share with we know is only a small percent of the relief and thankfulness that this family feels, we know - but it is one less family of the so many who are in as desperate need right now, and who we cannot help because donations have plummeted in the past two months. 

We are at great risk of having to close our doors and end our vital support of Iraqis here soon if we don not get enough support. This terrifies us for families like this one, who have relied on us to rescure them when there were no other resources. We are witnessing the closure of other small organziations that have been a resource for Iraqis here, or larger, international NGOs going through severe cutbacks in their aid programs. What will happen if we all leave? Their situation is so dire now, it's impossible to imagine.

Please consider helping CRP remain a life-line for destitute Iraqi refugees in Jordan. Any amount, small or large, will make a difference. We especially ask you to consider becoming a monthly donor. If enough of you pledge to give even a small amount monthly, we can be assured of keeping our doors open and aid available for the most needy. You can sign up to be a monthly donor or make a single contribution today here:

Thank you and Eid Mubarak to all of our Muslim friends.