Support of refugees in Kurdistan

Direct aid on the spot in refugee camps - food, clothes, cuddly toys, caps

Fri, Nov. 15, 2019 - 12:20h, written by Alexandra, Jürgen & Michael

++ Stories NOT written by life… ++

Tour report Kurdistan part 3 - closure:

Fri, Nov. 15,2019 - 12:20h, written by Alexandra, Jürgen & Michael

The next few days will be spent in first line visiting widows in the tents of the refugee camps. Meetings outside the camps will also be arranged. The team learns of many awful individual fates and it is decided case by case which support will help the respective family the most: cost subsidy for food or clothing for the children; payment of medication bills. Or paying off debts that widows often have to make with their children. Then we let the shopkeepers come with their long lists of food that the mothers have taken on credit. The amounts are paid out immediately to them and the neighbours. The relief is visible in people's faces.

In the camps that were set up just a few weeks ago, where people from Syria had to flee - due to the Turkish offensive - families are also visited in tents. Many people tell us that the war in Syria is continuing, although this is differently reported in the media. They tell us about their fears for family members who have not yet managed to escape from their Syrian homeland...

Two little boys, about eight and ten years old, are sitting on low concrete blocks in the camp. In front of them something like a table was set up, also made of stones, with an old board on it. Tiny paper cups pile up on the shelf, a large glass of instant coffee powder, a thermos jug of hot water and a transparent tin of round biscuits. We ask whether they are brothers. "No, friends," is the answer. "What are you doing?" "We're trying to sell coffee and use the money to support our families." Half an hour ago we had already walked past them. It seemed as if hardly anyone was paying attention to them. After a short team discussion we take one of the boys by the hand and drive him to a nearby market. Two folding tables, three chairs and large bags with biscuits, coffee, tea, milk powder etc. are bought. Back at the camp, the children immediately build up their "stand" with great enthusiasm. We buy the probably first coffee of the day ourselves and enjoy it next to the proud boys. Soon a cluster of people gathers around the stand, because everyone wants to know what is going on. One coffee after the other is sold while other people tell us about their fates. With some of them our team remains in contact...

In the morning of the last day our friend Jomaa, comes to our room. "Today we are going to visit a young woman who escaped from the IS captivity two days ago." Now at the end of our journey we are going to meet someone who had just escaped the cruel martyrdom.

In all the tents and concrete rooms in which we sat for the last two weeks we met women and mothers who looked at us with their big eyes. Their strong charisma often left us speechless. When we asked carefully, the answer was always the same: "We live for the children whom we are left with".

When we arrive at the small dwelling, many people are sitting in one room - relatives and friends who have come to visit the young woman. We are asked into a second room, in which thin mattresses lie on the cold concrete floor. We take a seat. When Mariuan (name changed) comes into the room she sits down vis-à-vis us with her head down and her back round. The mere idea of what is going on in the girl makes us breathless. Nala, the neighbour, who herself escaped the IS's grip two years ago together with her three children, joins us as a support. We are allowed to ask Mariuan questions. Where she lived, where the IS took her, how long she was in which place, before she was moved again to another camp and from there to another. She answers with a very soft, tender voice. She talks about the household, the "family", in which she had to do all kinds of work for several years. Mariuan says nothing about the people there. "She is afraid," says our friend. "She can't say anything bad about the family there. She is too much scared."

We learn from Mariuan that she became pregnant twice and that her little babies, sons, were taken away from her right after they were born. We've been sitting around for half an hour already. A woman from the house brings fruit on plates and knives to cut and share the fruit.

During the whole stay in Kurdistan our team felt the positive energy, the love and the cordiality of the people. Most of the stories we heard were so terrible that even with the greatest imagination you can hardly think of anything worse. And yet: the strength of the people is what we will remember the most. A strength that shows what people can be capable of, even though they went "through hell". We decide to go shopping with our new friends. Nala will help Mariuan choose the things she needs for everyday life. We will also buy her new clothes. And shoes...

THANKS to ALL our friends for the many donations, for the stalls you have been organizing and for everything else...! Without you nothing of this work would have been possible!

THANKS also to our new friends Marianne Amon, Anne Norona and Katharina Dönhoff – these strong women who for years have been tirelessly dedicating themselves to help war refugees and who have helped us so much to do our work in Kurdistan!

 

Sun, Nov. 3rd, 2019 - 18.20am, wirtten by Alexandra, Jürgen & Michael

++ Tour report Kurdistan part 2 ++

Fifth day and sixth day:
Today we visit many more families, also some who live outside the official camps. We decide case by case to buy medicine, food or give them 100€ to 300€ to get the most needed things for the next 3 months.

A mother lives in a camp that is so heavily guarded that we cannot enter. Our translator friend Baderkhan brings her to our car.
She tells us her story:
In 2014 she fled from Mount Sinjar with her family. The route is curvy. After the third long turn the IS fighters caught up with them and captured the whole family - father, mother and 9 children.
After a short time in a camp they were separated from each other: the father separately, the mother with the four small children separately. The five older children were taken to "re-education camps". Since then she has never heard anything from them.

Again and again the mother and her small children were transferred to different Iraqi and Syrian camps. After two years she was ransomed from the IS with her four small children by money organized by smugglers. The five big children are still missing as well as the father.
We buy a large ration of food for them, which will last a few months. The boy is allowed to choose cuddly toys for himself and his siblings...

Older children who are abducted by the IS, are subjected to a "re-education program". Boys are trained on weapons and must watch decapitations. They are taught that in case of doubt they must also kill members of their own family.

We visit a school with 120 children who had to spend years in IS captivity. 10-year-old girls were sexually abused and had to serve the soldiers in various ways...

When we meet the children, they are very polite and smile at us lovingly. We know that we are in the right place at this school.
The teacher reports that it is important to restore their dignity to these children. They are learning in a playful way with cultural programmes to find their way back into a life without constant fear. Sometimes one of the children collapses when the memories are overwhelming.

The children need a lot of loving attention, people who listen to them and show them that they are welcome and okay the way they are. They need role models to show them that violence is not part of life but will only create suffering and separation.
The next day we will pay for the food packages for the children and pick them up for distribution. The children will bring them home to their family members who are still alive... On the photos you can see some of the food we bought for the school children.

Today we also went to several shoe shops. The cheapest price for children's shoes is agreed upon. A pair of good quality shoes costs about seven euros. The list of shoe sizes for the 120 boys and girls has already been drawn up. Tomorrow we will place the order.

In the evening we buy sewing machines together with some women who are allowed to do a sewing course in the camps. They are very happy. With this the women can regain a little independence.

When we are about to leave for dinner, two children are looking at us with big eyes. The owners of a shop tell us that they are deaf and dumb. With gestures we ask them whether they want something to eat. They nod eagerly. They prefer not to eat in the restaurant. When the food is ready packed for them, they take the bag with the sandwiches and the beverage cans and say goodbye with a smile...

 

Fri, Nov, 1st,.2019 - 1:20pm, written by Frank, Alexandra, Jürgen & Michael

++ Tour report part 1 ++

In the night of the time change (from summer to winter time) Michael, Jürgen and Alexandra left Bamberg at 02:00pm with destination „Autonomous Region Kurdistan – Northern Iraq“.
A journey starts into a region where the riparian states up to now unfortunately have not been able to find peace. The journey will take a total of 18 hours and the team will not reach its destination until late night.
With the following lines and photos we would like to take you on a special journey to special people. Although these people had to experience so much suffering in their lives, they welcomed our team with unbelievable warmth and are looking forward every day anew:

In the afternoon after a stopover in Vienna the plane from Munich lands in Erbil.

After disembarking, Alexandra, Michael and Jürgen step on the ground of Kurdistan, an area of Iraq. The entry is uncomplicated for Germans and after picking up their luggage the team takes a shuttle bus to the meeting point.

Baderkhan is already waiting. He is the first contact person on site, a contact provided by Anne. He will lead and accompany the group in the following days. After a warm welcome with the new unknown friend, we continue three hours by car to Dohuk. In the night we reach the hotel booked in advance. Also, there we are warmly welcomed by the staff and everyone does his best to please the guests.

In the next days, the friends will drive from Dohuk to the different projects ...

"The Autonomous Region of Kurdistan is an autonomous territory of Iraq. The region has its own parliament based in Erbil. The territory of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region lies in the north of Iraq and consists of the governorates Sulaimaniyya, Erbil, Dahuk and Halabja. It borders on three states: Syria to the west, Turkey to the north and Iran to the east. The northernmost city of the region is Zaxo, the easternmost is Halabja and the westernmost is Dohuk.

The landscape in Kurdistan is mostly mountainous. In the northeast is the Zāgros mountain range with the Cheekha Dar (3,611 m), the highest mountain of Iraq. The rivers flow mostly from north to south and partly from east to west. The most important rivers are the Great Zab and the Small Zab. The Great Zab rises in southeastern Turkey, the Small Zab in northwestern Iran. Both rivers flow into the Tigris.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war and the advance of the terrorist organization Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the autonomous region of Kurdistan has also been home to over two million refugees. In the Kawergosk refugee camp in Erbil province alone, 2,000 tents house around 10,000 people".

Source: Wikipedia

 

First day:

Right after breakfast the team starts with Baderkhan.

In the following hours the team visits many provisional tent accommodations. In addition to the personal conversation and getting to know each other, the aim is to get an impression of the living conditions and to analyse how people can be supported with direct help.

Inn dilapidated villages standing empty, refugees are as well accommodated and thus the people are distributed over a large area.

It is difficult to imagine what these people must have experienced. Baderkhan translates what the people, mainly women, tell. Most of their men and boys are no longer alive ...

Between the serious talks with the adults, now and then some "little fluffy ambassadors" – cuddly toys brought along - are distributed to the children.

The team feels the deep gratitude. and the children's clothes, warm caps, pens, etc. brought along are accepted with joy. A small ray of hope in such a difficult life situation.

Late in the evening a family in their tent prepares a meal for the team. A wonderful dinner after a long day. Of course, they are reimbursed for the expenses and given a subsidy for the next days.

In the night the team returns to the hotel with a plan. The next day they will start shopping and the needy ones will get a supply of food, washing powder, soap, oil, etc. for one or two months...

The next few days photos, text snippets and short voice messages arrive on various channels in the "back office" in the home country. The modern means of communication make it easier to keep in touch and the local team can report on many activities and encounters:

 

First day, Jürgen writes:

Hello from Kurdistan, Alexandra, Michael and I are in mission of FriendCircle WorldHelp in Northern Iraq, among others with the Yazidis. Since the 2014 genocide, many Yazidis have fled with their families and are now living in camps and makeshift tents scattered across the country in family groups. In almost all families men were killed, women abused and abducted. There is still hope that the missing daughters, mothers, sons etc. will return sometime. We try to alleviate the suffering of the people and support them with food, medicine, clothes, etc.

On our website and on Facebook page you will soon find news from Iraq.

Warm regards from all of us smiley.

 

First day, the team reports:

„... A supply of food is bought for 12 families with approx. 50 persons. Also soap and washing powder."

"Distribution of the rations to meanwhile 16 families."

"Here in the dark also olives are distributed to all."

"In most families the fathers and big sons are missing, as they were killed. The women hope that one day they will come home after all."

"In their hut the women prepare a dinner for us (all stomachs are growling, since we had not eaten anything since breakfast ;-) )

 

Second day, the team reports:

"Here, doctor's reports and diagnoses are discussed."

"Children are constantly following us..."

"A penguin for the girl who had been crying for so long. She waves at us for a long time

 

Third day, Jurgen reports:

"Today we bought building materials and tarpaulins for a study room in one of the many Yazid camps in northern Iraq. For students in another refugee camp we bought a printer with accessories. Michael looked at a few patients and advised them. Later we bought medicine for them. The population is very friendly and open-minded towards us.

Greetings from Dohuk in Northern Iraq".

 

Third day, Alexandra writes:

„.... We are buying fruit for schoolchildren. On the left in the picture is Baderkhan, our translator...

Visit to a school in a village of the Yazidis."

"Today we are invited to lunch by the family of our translator friend. Our guide with his family".

"Going through the list of families that are most in need."

 

Fourth day, Alexandra writes:

"...More food rations are bought. The invoice must be translated and the individual items checked."

"The distribution begins. The rush is great, not everyone gets something. Only those who really hardly have anything are included on the list."

"The girl has had recurrent tuberculosis for 2 years. The father was killed by the IS. The mother lives with 5 children in the refugee camp. The girl has also been hearing nothing in her right ear for 10 years. She is now 12 years old. The mother has made a lot of debts and has also put on the slate at the grocery store...

We have all debtors come... and settle the debts.

We pay about 500€. Michael also prescribes proteins, vitamins etc.

The children are very happy!!! about the cuddly toys J

The neighbors and small shops are very happy to get their money back and the mother can sleep well tonight..."

 

Fifth day, Alexandra writes:

"Today we are visiting a school for children who have been released from IS.

All have been brainwashed. The boys were trained by the IS to use weapons, even against their own family. The girls were forced to convert and physically abused.

When they came back, many did no longer speak their mother tongue Kurdish, but Arabic or English. Many of them have forgotten their names.

In the afternoon they receive lessons here in order to slowly find their way back into a "normal" life. When the children have psychological sessions with the teachers, some collapse because the memories of the bad experiences come alive.

Friends help friends buys shoes and food for the 120 school children."

 

 

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Surprised faces look at us, and in the arms of this girl the "little" polar bear looks almost a bit big ;-)
And so also "Pu the bear" and "the little polar bear" find a new home...
Until it gets dark, cuddly toys, children's clothes, scarves and caps from our friends at home are distributed.
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A scarf and a cuddly toy.
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In this school 800 textbooks are donated by friends help friends. So far four to five children have to look together in one book. It is difficult to decide who will be allowed to take the book "home" (into the tent) in the afternoon.
In the background: our translator friend and organizer Baderkhan with a teacher.
Michael and Jürgen put the headgears on the children. Alexandra takes pictures.
Also in the classrooms the warm treasures are distributed.
When the caps and scarves of our knitting ladies are distributed, there is always a big "hello" and every child is happy about it...
Here, children get clothes.
The mother of these children has an incurable cancer. We can only support them financially. We cannot alleviate the suffering of the children.
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Children with severe skin diseases are supported. Some of them suffer from ichthyosis.
This girl from a refugee family has a severe skin disease. The mother is financially supported, also with money for treatments. The girl accepts the teddy bear shyly.
During our whole stay we visit many families with handicapped and sick children and adults. (Out of respect we don't want to show photos of the people) Here are only some impressions...
THANKS to ALL our friends at home ...
In winter it gets cold and windy here. Everybody is happy about the warm knitted caps.
We go shopping so that the most needy ones get a supply of food, washing powder, soap, oil, etc. lasting for one to two months...
The first distribution starts.
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Breakfast in the hotel.
A penguin for the girl who had been crying a lot before. She waves to us for a long time ...
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We have all debtors come... and settle the debts.

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