With the back of the van stuffed with our purchases from yesterday- we knew the day would be filled with putting all those Ikea purchases together and taking the tags off of
all the items we bought!
We were at the camp a bit earlier then most of the LHI (Lifting Hands International) volunteers and set to work hauling all the goods from the road back to the tents then separating the items for the Women’s space tent and the Children’s space tent. Afia and another LHI volunteer went to town putting the book cases together and the rest of us organized the aid.
The tents are new for LHI and their wish list was spot on making the spaces so much cozier! In the Women’s tent we set up a corner area for babies under 1- a couple walkers, soft toys, foam mats on the ground-even a rocking chair for tired or nursing mothers.
We had until 11:00am to get the space done before the mothers came in for a sewing class- we were able to get everything put together and away in time and got to see the smiling and appreciative faces of the mom’s as they filed into their newly renovated space.
The hand cranked sewing machines were lined up when the moms arrived- all set to start making teddy bears. Everyone LOVED the new additions and appreciated a place for the littles to go to and not get under the feet of the moms as they worked.
I set up in a corner with the sock knitting supplies i’d brought with me. A few mothers came to see what was happening, most smiled when I showed them the baby socks I was working on but shook their heads “no” when asked if they knew how to knit.
Soon a couple of moms sat down and wanted to learn. Socks are NOT for a new knitter and thankfully only experienced knitters sat down. We spent the next couple hours going thru the pattern and making socks. After about 2 hours the tables with the sewing machines were packed up and the knitters were directed to the back of the tent.
Plastic garbage bags, colorful tape and stickers were brought out and about 15 girls and moms made clothing from the plastic bags. Soon the artists in the group stood out as they were not only making a dress, but a skirt and hats!
After the dress making session was over a boom box playing Yazidi music was put on and in a matter of seconds young girls, moms and grandmothers joined hands and danced in a circle to the music.
Smiles and laughs were everywhere, everyone not dancing could feel the fun the dancers were having. To my Western trained ear and non-dancer eyes, the dancers steps were intricate and beautiful.
It was so much fun to see how happy these women were- younger kids wandered in and out of the space, babies cried but the music and the dancing continued for over an hour.
This camp has about 450 people living in it and today there were the 4 of us from CTF working and another 14 volunteers working with LHI.
It never is lost on me seeing these long term volunteers putting their lives on hold to go and work in a foreign land with populations their normally would not have interactions with. Todays volunteers called Scotland, US, UK, Canada, Switzerland and France home.
We are continually asked “where are you from”. When we say “America” we are met with surprise and joy that we have come from so far away to be in this moment working with these people. One of our team members Afia is from Houston and is a Muslim woman who 2 months ago made the very personally decision to stop wearing her head scarf because it was getting in the way of her work with ALS patients she sees. The culture of hate that has permeated America has lead to Afia’s patients for the first time in her professional career asking her if she is a terrorist. To her face. While giving life saving treatments for their ALS.
There is no place for hate-