Last summer, over 1.4 million Iraqi civilians fled for their lives across the Ninevah plain. They were halted at flash checkpoints. Ordered at gunpoint to drop every possession. To walk on empty handed.
“Out of suffering have emerged
the strongest souls;
the most massive characters
are seared with scars.”
Attributed to Khalil Gibran
Suffering – childhood innocence was lost.
“I was using a telephoto lens, and she thought it was a weapon,” Turkish photojournalist Osman Sağırlı reported in the refugee camp.
“I realised she was terrified after I took it… because she bit her lips and raised her hands. Normally kids run away, hide their faces, or smile when they see a camera.” Not four-year-old Hudea. Hudea surrendered.
Strength – childhood joy is re-discovered.
After experiencing what the UN reports as crimes against humanity, these child survivors were still in shock. Stoically, they stumbled out of their dismal refugee site. Lined up. Sat down. They furtively stole glances at the young volunteers hosting their summer camp. But they wolfed down the juice and snacks. They started to reticently take part in the games. Then day by day, their trauma receded. Smiles broke out again. After three weeks, their re-discovered language of laughter filled the air.
Suffering – faithful friendships were lost.
“I had a girlfriend before I came here. All day at school we were together. We loved each other, now I only wish to see her. I don’t know where she is,” grieved ten-year-old Miriam in the shell of an unfinished mall where her family had taken refuge.
Strength – fresh forgiveness is offered.
When asked her feelings toward those who had driven her from her childhood village, sweet Miriam displayed wisdom beyond her years. “I’m just sad they drove us out of our homes. Why did they do that? I don’t want to do anything to them. Why kill them? I only ask God to forgive them.”
Suffering – stolen households, lost livelihoods, jeopardized futures.
Strength – refugee dreamers, seared with scars, taking the initiative to serve.
Dreams InDeed started accompanying and strengthening dreamers in Iraq in September 2014. Within just eight months, the lights of their dreams flickered to life in some of the hardest places on earth:
- One dreamer recruited volunteers across sectarian lines to improve improvised shelter and run a summer camp so children of 111 marginalized tribal families could begin to recover from what the UN alleges are crimes against humanity.
- A dreamer network mobilized local volunteers to provide emergency shelter, food, medicine, and winter clothes to over a hundred refugee families with mentally challenged children.
- A dreamer founded a community center to provide psycho-spiritual support for mentally challenged refugees and training for their families and the volunteers sustaining their care.
- Yet another dreamer network founded and built a school to welcome 957 refugee children to resume their education after fleeing their schools back home.
After her first two days in the new school, Miriam, one of the new pupils, said, “I want to thank those who built us a school.”
But her strength of soul was revealed in her next words. When asked what she wanted to tell people around the world, she said, “I want to tell them not to be afraid. And to love God. Why do you kill each other? Let there be love in our hearts.”
Dreams InDeed is committed to strengthening dreamers like these, young and old.
Strong souls are emerging out of deep suffering.
Together we can banish fear, taking ten-year-old Miriam’s encouragement to heart.
Together we can put love to work!