“So you know all about me?” asked the boy. “Yes,” said the horse. “And you still love me?” asked the boy. “We love you all the more.” - Charlie Mackesy, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.
“Before being employed by SOHF at Horses for Hope my life was normal. I should maybe explain more, in the period of being released from captivity and beginning my new life with the horses. Since I came back I have looked for work. There was no permanent work. I took every day jobs that I could find, in the camp, in the city, even in Erbil. I knew that many were afraid of me, but there was always a lack of work anyway. Every opportunity to work that came my way, I took it but my life had no form, no color and no meaning to it. When I was not working, and there were many many such times, I would kill time on my phone. I knew that was not a solution but that is all we have inside the camp, internet. I knew it was not good for me, so I tried to use this time with my mobile for good, I would check up on my friends who were with me in captivity, when I saw that they needed something I would let Miss Lisa or Dr Saeed know so that we could try to find a way to help them. That is when I began to get closer to them and build a relationship.
“When things go wrong you’ll find they usually go on getting worse for some time, but when things start going right, they often go on getting better and better.”
- C.S.Lewis, The Horse and His Boy
I know my past, I did many things that I had to do to survive the black flag people, things that I am not proud of, things connected to captivity. When I was released I began again at zero with no immediate family, only myself to rely on. I knew that everyone would look at my past and would get stuck there. Springs of Hope were different, they gave me a chance. It has taken a couple of years to build a relationship of honesty, transparency and integrity.
Then Miss Lisa gave me a chance with the horses. She was straight up with me, she told me that she loved me but if there is one security issue or mess up, she will throw me out. We understood each other, and I respect that.
In the last month, my life has changed. Everything about my lifestyle is different. I learned how to dress like a cowboy. I have forgotten about my phone. I go to bed early, I wake up very early in the morning and I know that two horses, Taj and Nawroz are waiting just for me . They are always on my mind, they are my last thoughts at night as I lie there slowly falling to sleep. I hope that they will be comfortable during the night, that they will sleep well and have good dreams.
I feel responsible for them. I had many responsibilities when I was in captivity, none of which were positive though I became a responsible man. The horses depend upon me and Barzan. They look to us for everything. I feel responsible for the stables, for the security, for the beauty, for everything. Kids have wandered down from the village to look, I am always kind but I firmly send them home. Some cars have driven up to us as our building stands out. I am polite but tell them that this is private property and they can't be here.
It means the world to me to have a permanent job. I never would have believed that Springs of Hope Foundation would employ me. It means so much to me to be a horse trainer. Slowly I will be able to build myself up and to take care of my family, even have a family one day. This is a great achievement for me.
“ We have such a long way to go,” sighed the boy. “Yes, but look how far we’ve come,” said the horse. - Charlie Mackesy.
I know that I am still learning and it will take years to learn but I see how I have changed in one month. Until now my past weighed heavily upon me, I had many negative thoughts, my past always invaded my present. My psyche was struggling. For the past month, my mind has been clear, my sleep good, my thoughts and my focus are sharp and are directed. I see that being with the horses is healing me. They both bring me such comfort and such joy. They are therapeutic. The stables, the horses, the nature, this is my happy place.
My desire is for Horses for Hope to become a happy place, a safe place for others who like me were rescued from ISIS. Most of us are orphans in need of comfort, in need of joy and in need of a friend. It will be so good for those rescued from ISIS to have a reason to wake up in the morning, sometimes it takes us so much effort just to force our eyes open. The horses will be their reason, they like me will come to know that the horses are waiting for them, and need them. They will come and touch them, talk to them, feed them and enjoy the clean air and the beauty of nature here. This is a place for healing.
This is more than a job. This is my life, all of my life. They may be horses but they are now my family, like children, they are my responsibility. We have bonded, mentally, physically and spiritually. We have begun to feel each other, to know each other’s needs. This is a good journey."
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here, this is the land I have been looking for all my life though I never knew it till now."
- C.S.Lewis, The Last Battle.
I met Barzan, about two weeks after he was released from captivity in Syria. He walked into The Hope Centre, accompanied by the shadow of death, of Sheol, the grave and hell itself who walked in with him. His eyes were blacker than black but his spirit was quiet, with a promise of gentleness buried inside. He asked for work, and that is when our dialogue that has spun almost three years now, first commenced. “What if? What if not? He was persistent, coming back time after time for day work which we gave him. We would “hire" four of our rescued teens, agree that they would come for breakfast at 8.30 to begin work at 9.00. Barzan would come ready for work at 8.30, the others… well you can guess the story, they would turn up after lunch, if at all.
“Sometimes I think you believe in me more than I do,” said the boy. "You’ll catch up," said the horse.
When looking for horse trainers, my mind turned to Barzan and remained there. I called him in to talk, his entire bearing changed. We took the boys over to the horses, and the rest is Barzan’s story.
“Even though I have only been working for one month for Springs of Hope Foundation, two weeks of training and now two weeks just myself and Daoud, I can say with certainty that my life has changed. It is awful when you have had a position, even if it was in captivity, but you were active and busy… and then there is nothing, no goal, no reason to get up, nothing to look forward to. It is a killer. I have tried many kinds of work and although I was good, and responsible, I did not succeed because people saw my past, not me. Miss Lisa saw me and gave me a chance. My life has changed, my routine has changed. Gone are the days, and now I know how wasted they are of being online all night, or just hanging with friends who have nothing to do, and then sleeping all day. I now have responsibilities, I have these beautiful animal family waiting for me. I sleep early and I wake up very early.
Only when we have fed the horses and turned them out, do we allow ourselves to cook our breakfast. How can we eat when they are hungry?? By taking care of the horses I am discovering myself, the child that was lost when taken into captivity. I am responsible, I am becoming well mannered, thoughtful and healthy in my body and in my spirit. The horses are my friends and they are my family. They already know me and I am getting to know them.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked the horse.
“Kind,” said the boy.
Sometimes in the night I hear their voices. I get up and go and check on them, it’s like hearing your child call you, you can not ignore that call. I love sleeping in the room that we made inside the stables. It is comforting to be under the same roof as the horses. I will give my all to take care of them and to protect them. I rode horses when I was in captivity, but we were cruel to them. I didn't know that then, because we had no lessons, we just had to survive on the horse as we had to survive everywhere in every situation. I am determined to be patient and treat them with kindness. I asked Taj and Nawroz to say sorry to their horse friends for my behavior in my former life. I am genuinely sorry. Now my goal is to win their trust and not let them down.
Now that I can see how I am changing, how the horses affect my mood, my smile, all my feelings, I want all the survivors of ISIS to come here, I want to see all those who are hurting come here and receive their healing. I am sure there are those out there whose dream it is to see a horse, to touch a horse. They will come. I am so grateful for this chance to build my life and to be part of the process of bringing new life, new hope, new beginnings to the region. This is the very best place for me to be. This is the best choice that I have ever made. I am grateful. - Barzan
“ I have realised why we are here.” whispered the boy.
“ For cake?” asked the mole.
“ To love,” said the boy
“ And to be loved,” said the horse.