Here in Shariya Village there is never a dull moment. But some things happen with boring regularity such as garbage. One morning, same as always I took the garbage out. We had finally tracked down a bright blue garbage dumpster..had to go as far as Fadiya to buy the ugly thing...and now in front of my eyes five kids are just about to fall into this blue monstrosity head first.
I decide to take action and go into rescue mode, i.e. just yank them out before some kid be carted off to the garbage tip. I halt, breathe deeply cos the kids are rummaging through the garbage with a great sense of purpose, for pieces of cardboard, and styrofoam . We had just purchased some item for our house which left us with a significant quantity of cardboard...which unknown to us was the beginning of Saad's Project, one which could and indeed will become a recurring theme.
Just the previous day we had been over in the Khanke . I had wandered into a group of kids. Kids who live in tatty tents. Kids who were torn from their homes and warm beds in the middle of the night and gathered into " wedding halls" ready for the selection of Daesh. Kids who never saw their homes or families again. Kids who lost all within the space of a few terrifying hours. Here they were in the rubble and sand of the outside- the- camp camp giving expression to their deepest desires. A home. Their home. My heart stopped when I saw them. Building rooms, with bottles of water, fruit and candies.
That winter's afternoon I squatted down next to them and quietly and thoughtfully watched and observed as they both recalled and dreamed. Fast forward now to my neighbors, another group of outside-the-camp camp kids, head first in my garbage. I sit outside with them and watch their progress as they construct their homes and hideaways between the olive trees.
I know my neighbors. From 8 am to 8 pm the kids are outside their tents looking for something to play with. A piece of garbage, an old plastic bowl becomes a car, cardboard a house. They ask for nothing but creatively use every scrap they can find to keep themselves occupied day after day in life in the dust or the mud.
Saad arrived as punctual as ever. Spic and span in his blue suit, white shirt and red tie. " What do we have today Ma'am? " he enquires. " A playground Saad" I reply. " We are going to build a playground " His eyes widen as he moves into military mission mode. We jumped into our non- cardboard vehicle and set off for Duhok, the city of promise in the form of playgrounds. Me and Mr Saad on an Abrahamic journey. Leaving our garbage behind, kids behind...we had in our excitement dropped a small hint to them prior to leaving..we set out for a Duhok destination unknown. Mazi Mall, and the bazar lay in front of us to be explored and conquered. And conquered they were. The city of promise delivered the goods. ( After a hard round of bargaining I may say )
And thus began Saad's Project. Oh what a project. Cement, blocks, sand and a hose pipe appeared within minutes of our return. Cos love springs into action. And as much as Saad may scream at the kids in the broadest of Shingali when they jump into his fresh cement, he kind of deeply loves them as do they him.
Two days of Saad running around like a chicken with its head cut off every time a child dared to stand on his new cement or perch on one of his blocks finally came to an end. As the sun rose on Friday morning, the day where all of Kurdistan sleeps in deep slumber until 2 pm, shrieks and screams and shouting were heard outside my front door at 7 am.
Then the door bell began to ring. I ignored it. Then they climbed over our wall. They wanted to play. 8 kids. All was well. It's a playground. But one hour later there were 80 on still somewhat soggy cement. I did the only thing possible. Call Saad. It's Saad's Project.
" I know it's Friday. I know you are asleep. But some kind of control is needed here Saad. If you don't get over here, the kids will rip the slides out." The very possibility of that nightmare was worse than the prospect of lack of Friday sleep. Saad got over here. Pronto. The playground had opened itself. No ribbons, No champagne. Saad's well rehearsed presentation speech forgotten and abandoned. Around 8,000 kids and one tired looking tent dweller unable to sleep!
We do these things such as playgrounds for one reason. We love. Love builds bridges. Love mends holes in mens hearts. Love is that oh so tangible expression of hope . Love turns up. Even on a Friday morning at 7 am. I will never forget that moment when I walked outside towards the playground and a dozen refugee kids threw themselves into my arms with hugs and kisses. Parents later began to wave. Love won. Love won.
Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks of whom I am known to quote spoke about the book of Genesis, the Book of Beginnings in this way, " It's God book of humanity and each of us is a chapter in its unfinished story."
Our Kurdistan journey began due to abandonment of humanity. I find it hard to even use such a word which has little or no meaning or significance these days as one eyeballs the cleverness and cunning of evil that would eradicate a people group and ancient civilization out of sheer hate.
But we are here in Father Abraham's land. The land of Beginnings. And we are writing chapters in a very unfinished story. Our chapters are based upon tangible, sustainable, profitable hope and radical, uncompromising, unlimited love. Our chapters include cement and playgrounds.
What do your chapters include?
If you would like to be part of Saad's Project and bring laughter, fun, colour back to refugee kids and their tent dwelling families , get in touch with us. We'll direct you to the cement factory and teach you a bit of Shingali. :)