21 July 2016

Camping in Kurdistan

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
     I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and make you
    to be a covenant for the people
   and a light to the nations”
Isaiah 42:6 

The rain fell quite gently.  Amidst the dust storm that had hung about for days, one would have thought it would  have cleansed the air and washed some of the dirt away that had been blown as a fine covering over everything.  Instead, the damp earth began to give off a stale odour and the brown dust became dark and splattered on the once white surfaces of the tents.

I had never been in a Refugee Camp before, and upon entering the huge ‘tent-town’ I instantly realised that the images I had watched on news screens did not relay the real story.  And it wasn’t that the conditions were so basic, even though they were.  No, the real story was that for around the 20,000 people in this camp, this was it.  No options to return home.  No options to find work and income.  No options to end this 2 year long ‘camping-trip’.  And this was just one Yezidi camp in the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq.  Within a few hours’ drive of each other there are at least another four.
Shariya Refugee Camp

And yet…I still saw hope!  I had the honour of accompanying Springs of Hope to this region, an organisation from Jerusalem, as they worked to launch ‘The Hope Factory’, the’ Dare to Dream’ event and a third initiative titled ‘Freed to Focus’.  We spent days in Kurdish Government offices, jumping through bureaucratic hoops and drinking copious amounts of chai (dark Ceylon tea with lots of sugar!) getting the permissions needed, but everywhere we went, the Director of Springs, a rather slight Israeli Jewish lady, had an amazing impact as she participated in God’s prophetic mandate through Isaiah to ‘be a light to the nations’.  It was not without much prayer, but doors opened, connections were made, chai was drunk, handshakes were given and permissions were signed!
Between the tents

Thousands of Yezidi people were displaced in the summer of 2014 when Da’esh (ISIS) attacked their northern Iraq towns and villages, slaughtering many of the men and capturing the women and children to be sold on their slave markets, or for the young boys, to be sent to their radicalisation training camps behind Da’esh lines.  The story hit our news headlines as a humanitarian crisis erupted when thousands of Yezidis were trapped on top of Mt Sinjar as they fled and found themselves surrounded.  Pictures of children and older people dying from thirst flashed across our news screens and aerial aid was sent in from various nations, alongside military assistance given to get everyone off the mountain and into safer areas of the country. Over 3,500 Yezidi women and children are still held captive deep in Da’esh territory.  Two years later and our headlines have moved on.  Two years later and the Yezidi people, with nowhere to go, have not.
Toilets and Showers

Enter ‘Springs of Hope’, with a vision to see this people group empowered and restored.  Through The Hope Factory, Yezidi women from the camp will be taught how to sew and create their traditional garments.  Already special white dresses have been made and presented to 50 of the older women and more sewing machines and fabric has been purchased.  The aim is to also create other saleable items like bags for example, that can be sold online and create an income and opportunity for industry for the refugees. 
Chai - black and sweet!

Dare to Dream was a special event where culturally sensitive, designer dresses from Hollywood were gifted to over a dozen of the teenage girls and young women that had since been rescued or escaped out from under Da’esh.  Their harrowing stories of torture, abuse, and slavery were not outwardly evident as we received their hospitality sitting on the floor of a UN tent drinking chai, but the traumas run deep.  Dare to Dream was an opportunity to help begin the restoration of dignity and honour as a woman, and kilos of donated make-up from around the world was gifted to many of the ladies living at the camp.
Donations of make-up poured in - thank you!

The third initiative being launched at this time was Freed to Focus.  For the young boys that experienced the inhumane indoctrination of Da’esh, there is also much wounding and much recovery needed. F2F is an opportunity for them to experience and learn the trade of media, photography and film with experienced and award winning media personnel willing to come from various countries around the world, and teach these young minds new skills and talents that will see them ‘freed to focus’ on hope and life and the possibility of a future!
by Karen Gower, Director YPMP
Beautiful children - the hopeful next generation!

Your People My People has supported the work of Springs of Hope in Israel for several years and believes in the vision they have to see those who have been terrorised, brought back to a place of hope and restoration.  Please pray for them as they continue to establish these practical resources to help the Yezidi people in Northern Iraq.  If you would like to participate financially with us in this work, please click here to DONATE.

07 July 2016

A Family for the Holiday

Imagine celebrating an event like Christmas, an important anniversary or a special birthday on your own.  No close friends, no family members around, just you, on your own.  Not the most thrilling of prospects and one that most of us will never encounter.  Thanks to the vision and assistance of Helping Hand Coalition, it is a prospect that many elderly Holocaust Survivors will face no longer!

Major food preparations
Serving with a smile
The holidays in Israel may be different to those in our own culture and take place at different times of the year, but they are no less important as seasons when the family gathers to celebrate, eat, and generally have a great time together!  These special occasions are often difficult for people who have lost loved ones, and particularly so for those Holocaust Survivors whom have lost all family members.   Through the network of Shalom Homes now spread around cities and towns throughout the country, this difficulty is being overcome!  

Getting it just right!
Freshly picked flowers
In April this year, while the special Passover meal preparations were being made by Jewish families around the world, a small group of Germans from The March of Life Movement were also making preparations at the HHC Guest House in Caesarea.  That evening they were hosting around 20 Holocaust Survivors from the city of Netanya for what is arguably the most important Feast day on the Hebrew calendar.  The group took care of everything, from planning the menu and cooking the food to setting a beautiful banquet table, complete with flowers picked from the garden.  Great care was taken to arrange the special Seder plates so everyone attending could just arrive and relax and feel at home.  One of the group leaders shared how it was on their heart to show love and support to the Holocaust survivors on one of their main Jewish holidays, but especially on this night, the poignancy of descendants of the perpetrators of the Nazi regime, serving those whom had been their victims, was not lost on anybody.

Pre-dinner entertainment...
...and the Survivors not to be outdone!
“The survivors were very touched to know that people are standing and thinking of them even during the Holiday season,” shared an HHC staff member. “From all of the twenty survivors that came for the Seder dinner, only two were couples. Many of them have lost their partner in the last years. This means that they would have been all alone at home for Pesach.  At the end of the night, they were so grateful that they started to give away candy bars and chocolates for everybody who was present. Some of them even started to take off their rings and their purses to give it as a gifts for the March of Life team. These are memories that will always be part of us.”
A feast at the banqueting table!

A team member summed up their thoughts, “To have the privilege to spend Pesach with survivors of the Second World War, that 71 years ago were being set free from the concentrations camps!  What better way to celebrate Pesach?”  We couldn’t agree more!

Your People My People actively supports the work of Helping Hand Coalition, reaching out to Holocaust Survivors and others in need in Israel.  If you would like to make a difference to the lives of these precious people, please click here and mark your donation for HHC - thank you!