ERBIL, IRAQ—In the summer of 2014 roughly 150,000 people fled eastward from Mosul (historically Nineveh), a city now controlled by ISIS. Many were able to eventually find food and shelter, dwelling in camps across the Iraqi landscape or living as squatters in the urban jungle. Yet many people continue to live day-to-day struggling for survival or have moved on from poorly insulated tents in search of stability for their family. At the beginning of the mass migration, a group of 25 families from different backgrounds found refuge in a small church building the size of a local Tim Hortons. Pews were makeshift dividers for family life, and returned to their normal rows for Sunday morning.
This lasted for four months until a fundraising campaign enabled them to live in a rented apartment building. Tables, chairs, and mattresses were found, enabling them to build a new home as they had lost everything. Over the past year they have continued to grow in dignity and independence. This housing solution for the forcibly-displaced has given them not only hope, but the foundation to increase their own resiliency and socioeconomic freedom. With stability, many of the men who have training as electricians and barbers are now able to look for part-time work as they provide for their family. Here is a video introducing our project’s goals, taken in the apartment building.
It’s one thing reading an article or newspaper, but it was completely different sitting across from the person who has experienced what they’ve been through as a family. And yet, even though they are refugees and have gone through tremendous hardships, these are families blessing other refugee families in surrounding camps. They see themselves as blessed now that they have an apartment with other families, so they want to help other families who are struggling. I learned that there is always room and time for you to help others, and they’ve humbled themselves even further, giving what little they have to other families. Our volunteer team even received a meal from them that they saved for over the previous month.”
As of now, there are 37 families staying in the 25 apartments. Of the roughly 150 occupants, 40 are children who have limited education opportunities because of transportation and school fees. However, two refugee women are trained teachers who are providing free instruction throughout the week in an upstairs classroom for elementary aged children. Additional funds raised will be given towards food and medical supplies, paying teachers monthly stipend, and school materials for the children.
At the end of April 2016, financial support for the apartment will not be available. Canadian Global Response is requesting donations for this project, with rent being due every two months. Each apartment costs roughly $500 CAD to rent and provide basic necessities for the 1-2 families. As this is an ongoing project of internally-displaced refugees, we have committed to helping for at least one year, which is $6000 CAD for one apartment, and $150,000 CAD for the entire building. Local partners in addition to upcoming CGR volunteer teams are providing oversight to the wellbeing of the occupants.
Videos and stories of families living in the apartment building will be made available in the upcoming weeks. Please consider donating towards this project and volunteering in one of our teams, particularly if you have educational, counseling, entrepreneurial and medical expertise.