Christmas in Iraq (Day 1-2): Jehan Camp

CGR

Tue Dec 22 2015 15:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

KURDISTAN - A couple teams of Canadians are visiting the Middle East this Christmas. Their purpose is to bring hope and joy during the holiday season to refugees and internally displaced people living or in transit in Jordan and Northern Iraq. Syrian and Iraqi refugees as well as many other minority groups such as the Yazidi have been displaced by the war that began back in 2011.

KURDISTAN - A couple teams of Canadians are visiting the Middle East this Christmas. Their purpose is to bring hope and joy during the holiday season to refugees and internally displaced people living or in transit in Jordan and Northern Iraq. Syrian and Iraqi refugees as well as many other minority groups such as the Yazidi have been displaced by the war that began back in 2011.

The Northern Iraq group of seven visited a smaller group of 43 refugee families in the Jehan (Arabic for “beautiful flower”) Camp yesterday. Roughly 80 children in the neighbourhood between the ages of 3-12 participated in Christmas activities. Group games, puppets, songs, stories, face painting, photography and other crafts gave the kids a break from the difficult situation they are living in.

L, a Canadian working on his dissertation shares: In Canada we receive some of the greatest education on this planet, but the people who are displaced in Iraqi have nothing to give them that opportunity. I’m encouraged to look differently at what I do with my education. I don’t want to just accumulate knowledge and make my life better and secure, but look for ways that somehow I can contribute now and in the future to their future. Many of these children want to be engineers and musicians yet they don’t have the opportunity.

X found the children to be very curious, “Even though they are struggling as they don’t know what’s in the future.” Asking her about Canada and her family back home, “They were very happy to see us—they’re joyful and living in the present.”

“The kids find enjoyment in the simplest of things. They’re crazy awesome and just crazy crazy!” S elated, describing how the children clapped and jumped around in the games. “Despite working through a translator, the language barrier wasn’t as big of a problem as I thought it would be. It doesn’t matter if we didn’t completely understand each other’s words—we just love, and I think we did that today.”

“I saw the reality of their living circumstances. This is their life at the moment, radically different than their homes and neighbourhoods they fled from.”

A girl in junior high shared that many of the children are too young to fully understand what they have lost. As the morning progressed, some of the older children and youth started to open up and share their stories. T reflected afterwards, “It was hard seeing that a lot of kids in the group were unable to go to school with their friends. They explained they couldn’t pay the bus fare or uniform fee.”

“Before coming I didn’t feel much about the refugees. Their stories seemed abstract and the numbers a statistic. But a friend told me that a name and a face to someone’s story will let your compassion be natural. I experienced that today.”

Each of the children were given snacks, and a Christmas gift bag with school supplies, stuffed animals, toy cars, and other donations given by Canadian friends and families. Thank you for your generosity in making a difference in the children’s lives! Baby diapers and wipes, milk powder, shampoo were also gifted to parents in the community.

The previous evening the group visited another community, helping with children activities for roughly 40 kids. The leader shared, “People want and pay money to go to Canada, but we can’t believe Canadians would fly to Iraq, leaving their country and families during this festive time. We’re encouraged by your stay, friends!”

Thank you for your generosity in partnering with CGR in making a difference in the lives of many Syrian and Iraqi refugees by providing advocacy, basic needs to families, and education to refugee children.