The Rainbow Zone
Somewhere out there in Northern Iraq is a faded, jaded, tenement town erected for Syrian refugees escaping war. The nature of this tiny town is as its name, War City ( how it goes to be a city no one knows ) and it is a veritable war zone. Hostile and sometimes threatening, especially to outsiders such as our good selves.
In the midst of this war zone we inherited a series of broken and neglected buildings, all grey, covered with mold and mildew, not to mention full of holes and strategically positioned buckets just daring the rain to come in. Old bottles of Dettol and lice shampoo were strewn over the floor in their dozens. Not exactly a welcome party.
The neighbors were also complimentary with good wishes such as " Your community centre will not succeed, the children here are bad children, nothing good can happen here in War City"
One gloomy day in the midst of hundreds of bottles of cockroach spray and lice shampoo I began to hum. A hum that came out of nowhere, yet invaded the atmosphere. " Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly, " and then, lo and behold, pots of paint kind of danced their way from the next village over our barbed wire fence.
And thus the Rainbow Zone was born. Home to 30 Syrian refugees who all have a story of dangerous escape from Aleppo, and 5 recently liberated children who lived under the black flag in Mosul. Kids aged 9 to 14 who have grown up under the ravages of bloodshed and war and learned that childhood is a word just for fairytales. .
The Rainbow Zone is officially a community centre but ,and the but is huge, it is a place of unconditional love and acceptance, a place where each child is taught honor, respect, dignity and expected to love his neighbor as himself.
Our kids walk and dance through the rainbow every day upon entry and they swear that the atmosphere is different inside the Rainbow Zone. There is dignity in difference, and then there are English lessons. There is integrity and there is Computer Science. There is tolerance and patience amidst art and music and drama. There is the freedom to just be. Childhood restored.
Yes. Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly.
The Rainbow Zone in War City.