How many years separate today from tomorrow?

Dec 10, 2019 | Eaglewatch in Iraq

This time I have chosen a somehow lyrical article title. However, it is not going to be a fiction tale, but real people’s life stories.

I will start by telling you a little bit about the aims of our trip to Iraq which will be the last one this year. The first aim, which has already been mostly achieved, is to interview families that received livestock from us. These interviews are necessary for the financial statement of the project that is being co-financed by the KPRM (the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland). Obviously, we also wanted these families to share their opinions and experiences with us, so we have managed to kill two birds with one stone.

I came here alone. Bartek and Andrzej (who several months ago became a member of our foundation’s council and has significantly contributed to the effort of getting funding for four projects that have been carried out this year) joined me on Sunday. After eight trips and six months I have spent in Iraq, I have many friends here. I can even say I feel almost at home in Iraq. With their help, I could focus on my task.

Difficult conversations

It may seem that conducting such interviews is not a particularly difficult job. At the end of the day, one talks to families that have just received his help. It should all go smoothly, and one should gather all necessary information over a nice cup of “chai” (as tea is called in the local language). However, nothing could be further from the truth. Each such conversation needs to be approached very carefully to avoid bringing back traumatic memories. Many of these people went through hell. Captivity, tortures, hunger and violence where their daily experiences at the hands of terrorists. Instead of a distanced, bureaucratic approach, I prefer a more empathetic, simply more ‘human’ one. I try to smile and I ask my companion Shamo, who is my translator as well, to lighten the mood a bit with friendly chats. The worst is an awkward silence when I take notes. However, Shamo always knows how to come up with an appropriate joke.

Such an approach allowed us to hear many stories, even though I said to myself a long time ago that this was not my aim. Human tragedy, tears and suffering sell well in the media. If we applied such methods, we probably would be able to gather more funds. However, we consider it unethical to sell someone’s dignity, even for a good cause. Instead, I prefer to simply believe that these people went through horrible experiences. If I see the pain on their faces, I can (unfortunately) arrive at my own conclusions. Out of all interviews conducted over the last few days I could create a template of answers which almost always recurred during those conversations.

We would like to go back to Sinjar, but only when it becomes safe. Our house was destroyed by ISIS. We do not want our children to grow up in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP), but we are also afraid to go back. At the moment, we are not thinking about what is going to happen. It is difficult to think about the future.

This is only an example of attitudes regarding coming back home and starting a new life. On the other side of the spectrum are families for whom we are building houses and whom we provide with livestock in Sinjar. Despite fear, they have decided to go back. There is hope then, but the road to success is a long one.

Another task was to assess the project, which was very well received, Every family emphasized that this has been the only real help they have received. Most of them appreciate the project’s psychologicacl aspect as well. Caring after the animals allows them to forget for a moment about the difficult situation they have found themselves in. Now they have everyday responsibilities providing them with some value and meaning.

Other tasks

Now, when Bartek and Andrzej are already here, I can focus on documenting our project. I hope I will be able to record few videos and make some pitcutres which you will be able to see after we come back home. We would like to help you better understand the reasons behind what we do. In the next few days we will visit the educational center Ourbridge, which we have also received funding for. Unfortunately, it will end at the end of the year. Therefore, we have resumed a crowdfunding on platform where you can help us to fight for the future of children attending the center.

Educational center for widows and children in Khanke

More than 400 women and children learn here every day and attend therapy sessions. The center organizes regular English, math, biology and chemistry lessons, among others, as well as sport activities, fun and games.

How many years separete today from tomorrow?

Finally, I will explain what I meant by the title of this article. As I have already mentioned, the people that live in the IDP camps do not count days. They say they do not look into the future, hence every Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday are just time measurement units. They do not wait for the weekend, a salary or holidays. Somewhere in a distant future peace and safety may be found. But there is no specific date. Noone wants to announce this special day to them. They have been living in camps for more than five years. They have already become disillusioned and every day can feal like a year. It does not matter, when life is aimless. What counts for humanitarian aid institutions are numbers and charts. Enough said that what defines the standard of living for these people is access to food and water… even after five years.

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