What looks like an up and coming four-story city mall is really an unfinished concrete high rise, housing nearly 410 families on the outskirts of Ankawa. Nearly all refugees living here, 1,655 in total, are ethnic Christians who fled the city of Karagosh. Hannah is one of the fortunate ones who has found work, and even for her, the situation is still too much to bear.
Hannah works for ACTED, the refugee camp management organization, as one of those responsible for community watch. Her manager says she is the best female in that position. Hannah draws a meager salary as a refugee, but it’s not nearly enough.
She is the mother of five children, four boys and one girl.
As she sat with her daughter and two grandchildren, she shared how just before ISIS invaded her city, she was in the final stages of planning her son’s wedding. The wedding hall was rented, the dress and suit picked out, cake was arranged, and all the guests invited. What was to be a special day of celebration became clouded by memories of darkness.
They fled their home in mid-August and made their way to Erbil, a safe haven for refugees in Kurdistan.
“The situation in this camp is horrible. It is so difficult for our children to stay healthy. It is so cold here during the winter. Our bathrooms, showers, and laundry rooms are shared by 410 families. Kids are surrounded by other sick children and there is no space here for families. We have one small room, and we have to walk so far just to go to the bathroom, to get water, and to wash our clothes. This situation is too much to bear for us.”
Imagine this situation – living in a large concrete warehouse with a small room created by four walls of sheetrock and a tarp for a roof. Just past the wall, is a family of five to ten people. And past them, another. And another. All the families on your floor share four toilets, half a dozen sinks, a few washing machines, and a meager number of showers.
This is not a picture of living, but surviving. And all that after losing everything.
After sharing her heart and the difficulty of her situation, she shared something that ripped through the room. She said, “We have not suffered one percent of what Jesus suffered.“
The reality of this statement resonates even now. We are not just working in “the Middle East,” we are working with our brothers and sisters of the faith. We are standing with them. Every bit of relief we provide to them is a symbol of us linking arms with them and helping them stand when the weight of the world is pushing them down. Let’s stand with them in prayer and continued financial support and see them through this crisis.