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Redefining Yesterday

The news of our Newroz flame has literally spread like wildfire this past week. The village is talking about it, Shariya camp tent dwellers have asked if they can “register“ for next year’s event in advance. I will dwell on the fire, the flame a little longer and then focus upon the music and art.

“Arise! Shine! For your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness the peoples but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”

Isaiah 60

“I am speechless at this lavish event which brought tears to my eyes. I saw a strong connection between every element, the beautiful view, the fiercely cold weather, the amazing music, the art, the blazing fire and the horses.

The fire was stunning. I felt its bravery, battling the winds, and it won. It burned bright and strong and sent the message that the days of darkness are over, the light has come. Everyone at SOHF gathered to welcome a new day, a day full of hope and light which has come to us.”

Sahla. Director of The Hope Centre.

“The most surprising and pleasant aspect of this event was the unity. To see American citizens, one dressed in Kurdish clothes, lighting this sacred fire with Yezidis from Kurdistan, Yezidis from Sinjar, and Muslim Kurds from Syria, this unity, this gave us great hope for the future.”

Shex Khalid, Director of The Rainbow Zone center for Syrian refugees.

“As I stood around the fire holder and then helped light the fire, I became full of bravery and courage knowing that together, many different people yet one, we were lighting holy fire, not just for us but as a message of hope for the entire region.”

Dawod. Director of Horses for Hope.


“I am facing many difficult situations at the moment. The moment that we lit the fire I became infused with hope and courage and my fears died in the fire. The fire somehow touched the core of my being.”

Barzan. Equine Trainer.


“Just before the Newroz event the sky turned black. Midday was like midnight. Maram, one of my students, told me that she was scared that the blackness would take us into a great abyss. Then suddenly the wind changed direction and blew the darkness away, Shex Vagar leading his group on the daf prepared the way for a life changing event.

My focus was on my students who had worked hard, not just for Newroz but to open the Academy for Performing Arts on that day, signifying a new beginning, a new season for the art and music department. There was so much to take in that my senses were on overload.

Later when home I began to reflect, once again on the journey of Springs of Hope Foundation, where we began and where we are now. We have faced so many challenges but these challenges have pushed us further, and higher.

Without Springs of Hope, what destiny would my students, the art students and all of our large family of kids have? I ask you to think about this. This event for me was all about students participating in their destiny. Without SOHF our Academy kids would be nothing, just refugee kids wasting their time in a camp. Kids without purpose, kids without education, kids without focus, maybe with a dream but no one to help them realize it. Kids living in their past unable to see ahead. SOHF has given them direction, and has given them a future.

I was filled with joy, because our small dreams are becoming reality. We are living our dream, we are proof of our dream. Three of my students, all displaced from Sinjar, are now on SOHF staff as teachers, leading yet another generation of refugees into the world of music. I saw the results of the dedication of my students, the results of education that goes beyond academics, the fruit of life coaching, of setting standards of behavior and a dress code, even while living in camp conditions. I saw strength of a generation emerging on their feet after genocide. I saw the newness of life. I saw their yesterdays fading like the vanishing clouds.

The music was a combination of songs from Kurdish history and tradition about Newroz. The backdrop of horses emerging from fire painted by Salam was incredible. It set the tone. It arranged the stage. It was as if fire was being lit everywhere, up the driveway, in the music room and then finally outside. Everything about the decoration and the layout of our new music center was perfect and totally unique in Kurdistan. I and my students are so grateful to all who helped SOHF establish this academy for the arts. Our next public event will be at the end of April when we will celebrate the Yezidi New Year.

It meant so much to me that so many of our students and friends came for this event, even more so, those who were confined to a wheelchair. To see the effort they made to be with us was very moving.”

Natik. Director of The Hope Academy of Music.

“It seemed like a dream, too good to be true, we laughed and we sang.”

Psalm 126

“I came although I was just one week after preparatory surgery for prosthetic legs. The SOHF staff lifted me, and all my friends with great care and love up to the event floor so that we could all be part. I could not stay for long due to the cold and the pain but it was enough for me to know that I am important to them.”


Nawaf, Saadon and Hassan

“Thank you for lifting us up to the second floor. Thank you for your continuous love and care for us even in hard situations. We were able to participate in the art show, hear the music, clap and sing, and watch the fire being lit from upstairs. We were all full of great joy and hope for a new day. Thank you.”


“I have just one hope in life. I find my hope in Springs of Hope. You are the ones who open new doors for me to continue. I live in a safe room that you built for me. You do everything for me. This wonderful celebration gave me hope again, gave me courage to continue to pray that my son will be found in Syria and will come home to me. My dying dream was lit again.”

Miss Kene


“When Lisa gave me the theme of Horses and Fire for Newroz, I could immediately see it. I saw the fire, and from the fire the horses emerged. It was a very special assignment, one which I was proud to accomplish.

Once I had completed the backdrop for the music stage, I turned my focus to turning the traditional stand which holds the wood for the fire, into a piece of art bringing the horses and the flames outside of the music room.

The combination of horses and fire symbolized power, courage, bravery, hope and light. I personally was filled with light both as I worked on creating and on the day when I stood by the sculpture to help light the flame. This year the flame was different from other years, it was personal and it’s a flame that will continue to burn and will lead us through the coming year.

All of the artwork painted by our students both Yezidi and Syrian was exceptional. Each one of them showed a personal interpretation of the theme. It was a powerful event which in the preparation and in the enjoyment, touched our lives and will remain with us forever.”

Salam, Director of The Hope Academy of Art.

I close by quoting Leonard Cohen ( upon whom I was raised ), “How can I begin anything new with all of yesterday in me?” Our communal Yesterday is one of genocide, of ethnic cleansing, of the results of evil men. We can not eradicate the Yesterday in our community but over the years, I believe that the Yesterday has been refined and then redefined. Much dross has been burned away, our kids moving ahead leaving it in the ashes. We have seen great beauty emerge from under those ashes for which we give God the thanks. We move into a new year with great hope, yes acknowledging the Yesterdays of our lives but refusing to be defined by them, instead redefining Yesterday itself. We pray that the ancient cloud will lead us by day and the pillar of fire will be our guide at night. We pray that we too will halt when we see a bush on fire and allow our Yesterday to be consumed so that we walk in destiny. We pray that in times of need we, like the prophet Daniel who lived “just down the road”, will encounter a fourth man in the fire. We pray that like the horse portrayed in the book of Job, we will be fearless, laughing at fear, afraid of nothing. We pray that as a community we will live the biblical command to Arise and Shine, and as light around is dimmed, as the clouds of darkness gather, we will be light to our region.


photo credit : Hevedar Shari

video credit : Sarhat Nariman



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1 Comment

Oh how beautiful. Thank you and Amen.

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