The Hope Centre, Shariya Camp
Drive through the village. Be careful when you encounter the slow processions of ducks and scrawny chickens crossing the road. They have right of way. Mow one down you have to purchase the owner a new one.
If you have made it so far, turn left into the camp. Be careful of all the bumps, and humps and potholes.Stop at the policeman. Ten metres after the checkpoint turn left, up past the very tatty torn tents, and stop outside the public toilets. There will be a huge ugly metal fence to your left. You have arrived. Welcome!
A blue door in that fence leads into The Hope Centre which has grown itself around lush green gardens.It's the only such centre and orchards in the region tucked away, hidden from immediate sight inside the refugee camp. We have gardens which surround our colourful classrooms and our medical centre. They all kind of grew themselves along with growing kids, Oscar the dog, Charlie the cat and some doves and rabbits.
The Hope Centre is home to kids who escaped the horrors of Sinjar and live close by in their tent homes. Their Mamas often come in carrying fresh baked bread or a watermelon for us or invite us over for chai.
These kids have been with us for a few years now. They are part of The Band, The Orchestra, they come in to practice keyboard, violin and guitar whenever they want. They are awesome students of English and Computers. Some are great artists and spend hours carefully depicting Yezidi life both in Sinjar and as it is now, in the camp. All love sports, the girls go more for drama and sewing.
As anything organic does The Hope Centre has changed over the years. The gardens are now mature and give us figs, pomegranates, mulberries, lemons, veggies and herbs galore. Our " behind the blue gate family" has changed too.
Our blue gate has swung open to hundreds of girls and women who were kidnapped into Daesh, into the world of captors, brutality, slavery in every ugly form it took. Some of them were ransomed by surviving family members, some rescued and discovered in air strikes. Some who inevitably became pregnant by the captors, some who lost their identity during years of unending brainwashing. All who are now in the process of healing and empowerment. Girls and women who know the value of life and of each day in freedom.
We have been told that we take chances. Possibly. Through our doors come those who were forcibly conscripted into the army of the caliphate in Raqqa, Baghouz, and the strongholds of Syria. Those were were trained in every form of terrorism and warfare. Those who were forced to murder. Those whose human eyes have born witness to atrocities that should not exist. Those whose eyes are so black, so very empty when they come to us.
We have heard the questions" and what if one pulls a knife on you? What if one kills one of the other kids in a random act of violence?" endless time. And what if not? We believe that love does, that loves wins, that loves conquers all. Maybe at this point you will sigh deeply and say " oh how naive these people are"...well we have young men who were forced to fight on the front lines who are stars in English, and have laid down their weapons to open barbers and cell phone shops.
We carefully tend our plants. We water them with great care. We weed daily. Our gardens are bearing good fruit.
As is everyone who walks through the doors of The Hope Centre.
We value your financial partnership to keep our blue gates open so that those being found in Baghouz and Idlip, Syria can find home, shelter and future with us. So that Daesh loses big time.