Tuesday, July 16, 2013

To my new family... Domiz Refugee Camp

To the most special people I have met recently, my dearest Domizian family... 

 I MISS YOU ALL. I miss Domiz, I miss your lovely faces, I miss everything including the 60 degrees desert, sandy environment.   

I went to bed and I found myself tossing and turning, so I woke up, put on the lights and here I am writing to you... even though I know most of you (in fact all of you won't even get a chance to read this).

Only God knows how much I miss your smiles in the morning; some of you would arrive so much earlier (Ahmad, I can't forget how you said you woke up at 6 am waiting for 9 am to come..) then there were some of you who always came in a little late, and of course you were punished and had to sing us a song... some of you told jokes while others mimicked chicken noises. When you were late, some of you apologized others laughed as you had already prepared yourself for a punishment, but inside I knew why. As soon as you came in sweating, heat evaporating from your faces, I knew your tent is far... I knew your journey to the caravan wasn't an easy one. I knew you had so many other commitments out of your control.  

I miss how well you worked in groups, how you presented your findings and how you always forgot to do eye contact with all the participants. I loved how you competed with other groups.

 I miss your ideas, your heated arguments (friendly of course). I miss the way you shared your thoughts on women, role of men, culture, and a lot of life experiences. I miss forcing you out of the caravan after the sessions, you simply didn't want to leave. I miss how some of you who said you have a heart of rock (yes, you know who you are are!) ended up reading us your poetry on the last day as we said goodbye... 

 I had my eyes full of tears every time you all came to the caravan with a notebook, an old notebook with its pages so thin and crumbly... a notebook that has your words. This wasn't any notebook, this was your diary, and you each had one; some of you read your poems from it. I wondered how late at night you wrote those poems, I wondered where you were sitting in Domiz when those words came out, I wondered where you hid that diary so no one else in your tent could read it... I wondered what you will do when the pages are finished, where you will buy another one and how will you start the first line of every entry...

 Don't think that you fooled me. I know very well most of you were in love. I saw you read your poems about goodbyes trying to act all manly and holding back watery eyes; girls, I heard you speak of your 'friend' who was killed, and then I saw you secretly wipe tears; I heard you begin your communication stories in the circle with "Though the person is not here physically, I still feel we are together" it hurt me a lot, but at the same time I know something great is waiting for all of you, because you are all great.

 For me Domiz is no longer about a Refugee Camp with thousands of people complaining. No, Domiz is about individuals with great hearts, it is about 40 young people who are explosions of happiness, faith, optimism and life........ when the opportunity comes! 

I loved the activity where you were asked to cross the line every time the answer to the statement was a Yes; when the statement read "I am an optimistic person" all of you crossed the line. But only one of you chose to speak, and the words are still recorded in my memory "If I wasn't optimistic I wouldn't be here." 

I loved watching you make new friendships, I know some of you had only just met though you will be lifetime friends. I loved our little side chit-chats together, as I learned about your lives back in Syria, about your family and all that you have endured.  I loved how you all are hanging onto life. I loved your kindness, your warm hospitality. You touched my heart when you read out your dreams to each other, dreams of the future. Some of you dream to travel the world, others dream of finishing their education and a number of you dream of living in peace in a country called Kurdistan. 

I know some of you wrote your names for the training thinking we will employ you later. I know for some of you that's the only reason why you came, but I know on the last day as I sat in that black car and waved to you from the car window as I left... you were ready and dedicated to volunteer everyday with your peers for the sake of the wellbeing of Domizian people. I just know it. 

I love everything, but I also hate. Yes I hate. I hate the fact that I am sitting in a room right now, in the capital city, under the air-conditioning, under a roof on a double size bed while you, my family, are in tents... I know I would be happier now if I were to spend my late night in one of your tents, all gathered together in one of our warm conversations... where we all leave and go to sleep full of hope and optimism because of that positive energy we pass to one another. 

I never feel lost, because usually (mostly) I know what I want, it is just a matter of how to get there, but this time I am lost because there are certain confrontations that I will face if I decide to come back to Domiz for a good few months. I have people in my life who I need to consider. My dearest family, I promised I will visit you again, here I am thinking of how I could live up to that promise. 

I assure you if it were up to me I would pack my bag right now and I will leave 5 am tomorrow morning so I can be there with you to start a morning training session at 9 am sharp. I wish it was this easy, and it probably is, and you never know soon I might be joining in this journey of yours. I watched some of you grow as individuals, I discovered a lot about your personalities and like buds to roses your flourished day after day. I always imagine how my life would be if I come and settle with you all for a while. How much we would learn from one another, and how I would come to look at my life and the world in a complete different way.

Forgive me...

Forgive me for I haven't done anything for you

Forgive me for forgetting to bring the winning team a treat

Forgive me for not visiting all your tents

Forgive me for not speaking individually to each one of you

Forgive me for I still have your names and numbers and yet to find you all jobs

Forgive me for being a light of hope for you but still not able to solve your issues

Forgive me for I need to carry your voice to the outside world and I haven't

 Thank you... Thank you for teaching me there is more to life than what I thought, Thank you for reminding me what the important things are in life Thank you for inspiring me Thank you for being a family and welcoming me to your life at such a delicate time Thank you for being strong. 

And side by side we will take steps forward... that, I promise.

*All pictures taken by myself and various other participants of the training. This training was run by UNFPA, we (A-KH and myself) were originally Y Peer volunteers, and hence, the two training we did were for 40 Syrian Kurdish Refugees based on the Y Peer training! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

My Days in the Domiz Refugee Camp

Dearest, most loyal Blog Reader,

For this week I am joining forces with with a former colleague of mine working with youth in the Domiz Refugee Camp just outside Duhok. I can go on to write pages and pages, although I have decided to share with you a few of the pictures I have taken so far.

Kids playing... no toys!

Three friends...

The neighborhood
The youth are individually selected to go through this training. Hence, the forty people that I am working with during this time may not reflect the values, attitudes, or personalities of the thousands of others in the camp. I know, and I realize they are unique. The aim is to give them the skills necessary to  initiate projects and motivate other youth in the camp.

Humble water fountain at a restaurant in Domiz

Fixing TV
Above: A man with a little shop, had four children, fixes TVs in the camp.

Everyone - old and young - try to work.

and I meet a family...
And here, I visited one of the tents belonging to the family of one of the participants in our training. One tent, more than five adults, a bathroom, kitchen and toilet. This is really good compared to new comers who only have a tent. This family has been in Domiz for about a year and three months.  Their house in Syria is destroyed.

Roof of tent

"My husband has cancer, he is in the tent looking after the children and I try to work so we can live. My wish right now is to be able to cure his illness and take my kids out of the camp." Said one of the women I spoke to.

Domiz Refugee camp
Despite the fact that the Domiz refugee camp is better than all the camps in neighboring countries (since the refugees are given full and legitimate right to leave the premise of the camp and find jobs outside) its inhabitants still dream of leaving.

'Luck' families who are not in tents.

Our training sessions in UNFPA caravans

I found it frustrating that most of the youth who are not working outside the camp are literally spending their days doing nothing. It was even more frustrating when I saw what great personalities there were.

My view everyday!
Until tomorrow good night for now....