Women in Bastan Village, Kurdistan

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Laying One Brick at a Time, Taking One Step at a Time

Suleimaniya, Kurdistan, Iraq, April 13, 2012

"People say: What is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time." Dorothy Day

I when I feel overwhelmed by the things I experience here, I ask myself: What is the sense of my efforts?. Sometimes I cannot see that small bricks are necessary to build a wall.

Today at the [Qalawa] camp was very hard. It was hard to get the kids attention, they were not following instructions, and sometimes I get very frustrated when things don't come out as I expect. I forget that the real reason to be there is not to be successful.

Today, I spoke to one of the woman in the camp that has a disabled child. As she told me about the child's condition, my heart was immersed in deep sadness. The young mother was fixing a button in the boy's pants and telling me he can't see, or walk, or talk. I felt helpless at such a reality, and could just listen to her talking and looking at her child. The boy's hands were so beautiful and perfect, as if to compensate for the rest of his body's handicap.

I suddenly realized that every week we come, the kids are still there, living under the same deteriorating conditions as the last week. I had the thought that what we do is not changing anything in the lives of these children. What I cannot see is that everytime we go, the camp's air feels different; special. Every family welcomes us, greeting us with a smile. I like their simplicity and the respect they show us when they invite us to share whatever little they have. I find myself very close and comfortable around them.

As Robert Fisk said last week in a lecture in Erbil: "What people really need is not  democracy, but justice and dignity." And I think this is exactly what we have failed to do here in Iraq; while bringing "democracy", we have stripped the Iraqi people from justice and dignity.

In the meantime, and despite my own frustration, I echo the words of Mother Theresa: "The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it".

PS. I never put pictures of the kids in order to protect their identity and dignity, but thought these don't show their faces and wanted you to have a sense of what our days look like.

Amir explaining the rules of the game to the kids, actually this day was very successful and the kids enjoy this game that consisted of putting some dirt in a cup that had a small hole in the bottom, then running to the other side as fast as they could to bring as much of the dirt to the other side. The team with most dirt wins, actually both teams won!

After the day activities, everyone was full of dirt and fun!

The kids never want us to leave after the day activities are over, we are super tired and they ready to continue!!!