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Spokes


It is Thursday evening, the week draws to a close. Each week contains so much. Each week is so very different from the previous and the one following. Each week carries its joys, and its sorrows.

Two of our rescued students, Awas and Azad, both sole survivors of their families, announced that they were getting engaged, which basically meant having photos taken in a park with a few friends present. The wedding will be tomorrow, Friday, also in a park but with a white dress and of course a cake. There is great joy, great triumph for them both as we look back at how they came to us, a frontline soldier and a trafficked woman, and here they are, taking a step for a joint life forward. But of course, there is great sorrow that their parents are not part of the planning, and witness to this joyful occasion. Their wedding ushers in a new period, several of our young men have come to me asking for permanent work saying, “Day work is not enough, it is time for me to think of my future, build my home, get married.” Several have come to me showing me their stomachs pressing their solar plexus, announcing stomach ache which usually means that they are in love, feeling and showing emotion for the first time since 2014. It is a hot harsh summer but it holds a softness for some, maybe for those who are ready. That spoke is slowly going down into the wheels of injustice.




Whilst our new couple were busy sending the traditional candies via Daoud to us, so that we could share in their sweetness, Maqbola, another of our students was weeping at the side of a mass grave that was opened in Sinjar, trying to get a glimpse of every corpse lifted out. Living eight years waiting for some news, until recently in captivity without access to information. We can not imagine the daily anguish and agony of the soul. The weightiness in being a sole survivor, as if the future of the dead lies on her shoulders. Just a few days ago she was riding Newroz and smiling, laughing. Today and for the coming days, she grieves and we must be there to apply the bandages after the wounding of the evil wheel.

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This morning there was a gentle breeze, our music groups chose to work outside, as the generators were out, and without electricity there was more air outside. By midday the morning clouds had passed, the sky was black as threatening smoke poured over our sports campus fence. Nurse Salah, Khero and Sami grabbed our large wheelie fire extinguishers and ran towards our perimeter, backing on to the outside the camp shops. The shops were totally consumed by the fire, thankfully there were no injuries.




We opened two new summer school ventures, English and Chemistry both of which will run for the duration of the summer. Registration in War City opened for summer kindergarten for our Syrian kiddies where the big question in the community is “swimming pool or not”...mixed or separate, and how to block off the pool from the eyes of the surrounding apartments! Spokes saying “future” are being hammered into those wheels of injustice.

Our days are long and our weeks are full, so to help us get a bird’s eye view of all of our work, we will produce a quarterly emag, commencing in August, where every staff member will present a short update on his, her department. I find it is easy to focus on an event or particular need, to the detriment, at times of the whole.

 

Last weekend the teenage girls asked for a break from classes in order to have a spa day. The guys, well most of them, decided to watch a movie together. Some crept into our spa, and stayed!




Spa days are a big deal for our girls. They are a step in the process of healing, of accepting one’s worth, one’s beauty, one’s value and even the body of a woman after it has been abused, and degraded in every way possible to the human imagination. These times are very intimate, revealing vulnerability, of peeling off the armour like make up. They are times of fun, camaraderie, times which build strength, confidence, and empower the women as individuals and as a group. And times of reflection on the very real and close past.

I am always surprised at the courage they show by allowing their face, their eyes, nose and mouth to be covered by a sheet mask. The bravery it must take is enormous. These are the same girls who as young kids, were torn apart from their families in the blinking of an eye. Their simple world of family, of values and modesty was demolished as they were groomed for the slave markets of Raqqa by men with evil hearts negotiating sales as far away as Saudia, Yemen and Libya. Faces were made up, prepared to pique the interest of a foreign buyer. Then once sold, covered, hidden not to be seen again unless the captor was pressing his hand down over the eyes, over the nose, over the mouth to staunch the screams of protest as each girl was raped over and over again by him, and by his soldiers. Booty of war, infidels, chattel. Dehumanised on purpose. To cover or to allow one's face, eyes, nose, and mouth to be covered is an act of courage, and triumph. This show me that over the years we have by the grace of God, "been able to bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice" but they the girls by applying a Korean sheet face mask are themselves “driving the spoke into the wheel itself” Bonhoeffer. Using a face mask is an act of triumph.


“She is worth far more than rubies.” Proverbs 31:10


Let’s begin with Maqbola who today is examining every corpse coming out of that mass grave.

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“The Spa Day was a wonderful day for me. I have done nothing for myself during the past 8 years since the Yezidi Genocide began. How could I pay attention to myself after what happened? With all of my family missing? With myself being in captivity? Even after I returned to Kurdistan, I have not paid attention to myself. I thought that I don't deserve anything beautiful , anything enjoyable in this world because of losing my loved ones. Today I saw how very happy my friends were when they put on face masks and eye masks and reclined like princesses as their nails were painted. They encouraged me to join them, and I realised that our stories are the same, so if they allow themselves to enjoy the activity, then I could too. It was actually wonderful, and totally relaxing. I felt the stress going, and was relieved of a heavy weight. I suddenly felt that I am a woman, that I have femininity which is good and healthy for me to connect. I told myself that life goes on despite the hardships and that I have to recognise my worth. “ Maqbola


Our prayer for precious Maqbola, is that she will remember the restorative memories that she has recently made, the trip to the Rose Garden with its beauty, the time spent at Horses for Hope, and the simple face masks which helped her love herself again, that these new memories will help her cling to life and to put away the shroud of death that is draped over the Yezidi village of Qane in Shingal.


“Look, we only get together with our friends when we are here in the centre. These days we are so close as friends and love doing things together, so a spa day was right at the top of our list. The summer is always hard, with both the heat and the knowledge that the 3rd of August is fast approaching. Even in June, it is close and our thoughts begin to go there and get stressed.


It was the perfect time to have a spa day. I just love it because we switch off, we love on ourselves, spoil ourselves, all of us together, hanging out, laughing, telling jokes.

It is great for my face and great for my soul. I felt relaxed, peaceful, happy it was wonderful, truly a change of atmosphere for us all. Thank you.”


Yusra



“Some of us guys walked into the girls' session because the sound of laughter drew us. It was an honor for me to participate in the girls’ activity. I am a strong believer in their empowerment and their rights. I work hard to support them. So when they said that we guys could stay, it was an honor, I did not take it lightly that they were sharing their private space with us.”


Viyan











“You are altogether beautiful my love, there is no flaw in you”

Song of Solomon 4:7


“I was in captivity for most of my school life, so I have to work harder than the average student to catch up. There is something about being in captivity that made me feel not a woman, that devalued me, that took away a sense of worth. I felt that I was not a human being. When Sahla and Kajen told me that we would take a break from classes to do facials and nails, that was hard for me, I needed to study and I was not sure about confronting myself in that way. It was too close, too personal, too intense. But, I decided to try. It was great, it was good to have fun time with my friends who I then realised I had lost touch with to some degree as I was only focused on study, which does affect my entire welfare. I loved doing the facials, which quite surprised me. I went home feeling good about myself and very relaxed.” Yasmin


“I heard the laughter coming from the girls room, laughing, then singing and the sound of feet pounding the floor in dancing. Viyan and I were together sitting outside , we decided to see what was causing the girls to laugh and clap their hands. Facial masks. I thought that if such things make them so happy, then I want it too. It was wonderful. I told them to call me next time they do it.”


Haitham









“My family was very poor, we never heard of such things as masks for faces and eyes. Even if we had heard, we could not have afforded to buy them, we worked to eat rice and potatoes. Then of course the Genocide took place so all my effort has been on staying alive in captivity. We were totally masked then, different masks though. Ugly masks of slaves, of nobodies. These masks for the face were completely unheard of to me.


I don't have much to say because I don't know what to say. It was amazing. I felt that this was another way that Springs of Hope took care of us, helping us to feel like women. I really thought that I was in a beauty salon. It was perfect. I hope that we will do it again very soon.”


Shahala



“No photos of me. This is cool. Can I have one to take home?” Alo


“She is clothed with strength and dignity and can laugh at the days to come” Proverbs 31: 25


“Before the Genocide, my sister taught me how to apply make up so I wanted the chance to help and to find out how good I am. I did not want to put a mask over my face. I am not ready to cover my face again even with something that is good for me.


It is still too hard for me, but I was very happy to help apply it for my friends. It was a great feeling to help my friends enjoy themselves. That made me happy. Maybe one day I will be ready but not yet.”


Bassima






“I remember my mother always telling me to take care of my face, not to use makeup. I asked my family if I could use the products offered by Springs of Hope because I am only 16. They told me that SOHF would only offer the highest quality products which would be safe for my face. They were right. All the products came on a plane from America. They were superb quality.


I left the mask on for 15 minutes while Kajen painted my nails. I felt like a princess, pampered and well taken care of. It was wonderful to just feel very positive feelings for a couple of hours, and to push all the cares aside, all the pressure of the camp aside for that time.


My face was glowing after.”


Vina



I quote from Prof. David Isaacs paper: Mask Wearing: A Historical, Cultural and Ethical Perspective.

“Masks have been worn for display or disguise. They have been worn to woo or to wage war. They have been worn to hide or to identify. They have been worn to protect or to punish.”

Our girls have known, have lived only the cruel experience of life behind the face covering, life behind the mask, life behind the veil. They are now rejoicing in the complex simplicity of a nourishing sheet that comes out of a package, that helps them to know that they “are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139.14. When that becomes a life revelation, the spoke will dismantle the wheel of injustice.



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