This week I will share a little of the stories of several of our guys. Four are very happy stories and one shows the ongoing struggles with which we deal behind the scenes. Firstly, our struggle story. A month ago one of our younger rescued boys was badly beaten on the football field. His ear and cheek were bleeding with the punches he had received. I sent the older teen home, home being a three hour drive away, and wrote him a letter of dismissal. Musa and Nurse Salah went to visit the family, and to give him treatment until the wound healed. The young boy is back with us and all is well. Awful to say but his uncle regularly beats him so he didn't see anything wrong with a raw cheek and ear. The perpetrator, also a young man who was rescued from the battlefields of Syria has called me endlessly during this past month always with the plea "It was not me." I allowed him a visit this week in order to talk face to face. It turned out that it was not him, this time. After four years with us, he shared some of his story. He and another of our students ( whom we will refer to as “the saviour" ) had been sent out on a mission in Syria. All the soldiers including several Yezidi friends were killed in action, their bodies left for the wolves. "The saviour" saw this young man lying motionless amongst the dead. He decided that he would carry his corpse until he could find a place to bury him. As he picked him up, blood pouring out from multiple wounds he discovered that he was alive. He carried him, a skinny young man carrying his tall, broad friend, on a trek of hours, back to base where he received treatment. He saved his life. And yet he took it. The life-saver is a troubled young man, one with whom we have not seen significant progress. As I talked to the young man who had been accused of beating this kid up, it turned out that the one who saved him in Syria was giving him and other students orders which they felt obliged to follow. This was one such situation. The culprit was someone else who has been removed from our programme as there is no remorse. Daesh is still embedded in him without recognition of right and wrong. The “saviour” has now become a clever predator hiding in crafty silence using those whose lives he saved, to now carry out his missions of destruction upon those who irritate him or whom he considers “owe him”. Needless to say, “the saviour" is now suspended with a warning until there is a change of heart, until there is remorse or repentance. As I saw those whose lives were truly heroically saved now being used like puppets, my heart broke as it was the strings and pulls of Daesh that I saw still influencing their lives for evil. I can tell them to break their soul ties, I can give them rules to which we will adhere, but they have to find freedom for themselves. My heart broke as X told me of his memory of being carried wounded, his life blood running out, to safety and how now he owed “the saviour" his life and had to obey him. Some of our life still reflects the battlefields of Syria, Some of our life is still dealing with fallout. How could it be otherwise with young men who have no fathers, no men of influence and direction in their lives. This is a long haul journey indeed.
And here we have the stories of healing of three young men who are wheelchair bound and one born with severe dorsal scoliosis and kyphosis (we question the completeness and accuracy of the diagnosis). Men who are now finding their place in life, and the freedom that it brings. Freedom from self primarily.
"My advice to other disabled people would be, don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically." Stephen Hawking
“Prior to coming to The Hope Centre and Horses for Hope, I was not in a good place. My psychological condition was bad. I connected with no one, saw no one. I spent my time sitting in my tent thinking about my condition, both emotional and physical and blaming myself for this. There is a small shop close to my tent. Maybe two or three people visit the shop everyday, I was one of them, I would go to the shop and return home and sleep. My thoughts were negative, I felt choked from the inside as if the air inside me was being sucked out. It was awful, a feeling that gave me extreme anxiety as if any minute my air would run out and I would die. From the very first time that I came to Springs of Hope Foundation I saw the care of the staff, I knew that I would be comfortable there. Miss Lisa is amazing to me. When she welcomed me I knew that it was the right place for me. I now connect with everyone there, and my thoughts have become positive and full of hope. I am busy making new relationships, the staff love me and I love them, they respect me, and I them. My psychological condition is stable and I am super happy. Everything is perfect. Springs of Hope Foundation has changed my life and I am at peace and become more happy every day. I participate in the equine learning experience. We have a group of four of us who are less abled, we have all become good friends, also with the trainers Daoud and Barzan. Miss Lisa always comes and just hangs out and chats with us, which is wonderful. She has made us into a family which looks out for each other and deeply cares for each other. From the equine course I realised that I have the ability to learn. I discovered that I am intelligent, I have opinions and others listen to me. I asked for literacy in Arabic and English. Once I have mastered the alphabet I will study computers. I also study photography, and Mr. Evan will teach us printing and editing. I love photography, it gives me the ability to see from a different perspective. I have chosen to learn these subjects so that hopefully I can open a printing shop inside the camp. I am going to visit family in Shingal this weekend and I have asked my teachers to record the English and Arabic classes so that I don't miss anything. I am so grateful, I am so thankful . “ Nawaf
"I am so happy when the four guys come. They come every Monday morning and never miss. They have their routine, we make tea, they sit and chat with Miss Lisa for a while. Together they decide on a subject, or one just opens up. They ask very personal direct questions. They have all told me that it was the first time that they were allowed to share their life stories, that someone saw the value in them and wanted to listen. They did not know that they had the right to talk as they had felt so marginalized. They are brave men. They love to be with us, they love the horses who also love them, and are gentle and respectful to them. We are here to encourage them, help them and support them. The Horses are their launching pad and place of refuge and regrouping when they run into challenges." Barzan, Trainer.
“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and to endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. Christopher Reeve
“Before coming to Springs of Hope Foundation I was sitting in my wheelchair alone at home, oftentimes in conflict with my wife. I fell five stories from a building site and broke my back. My psychology was bad, I was confused. I would occasionally go to sit in a shop just to while away some time, but even there I was in conflict with myself and everyone and had no friends. When I came to The Hope Centre and later to Horses for Hope I knew that I had come to a safe place, the people were safe, the staff were safe, I felt comfortable, a feeling that I had lost years ago. I felt, I knew that I was loved so I began to see myself differently. My thinking has changed, my emotions and mood has changed and as a person I am beginning to change. The horses give me a very positive energy which goes deep inside me. I am being healed. I forget everything that happened to me, I forget everything traumatic and negative, I spend my time doing life building things with people who give me life. I might be in a wheelchair, but I am totally fine." Hassan
Daoud. Director of Horses of Hope
“When the four guys first came to Horses for Hope, honestly it was hard for us. We didn't know what to do with them, how to relate to them, they were all closed down, bitter, sarcastic and very depressed. Nothing that we did was right, not even the amount of sugar in their tea. We basically took time getting to know them, talking, chatting and listening. When they got on a horse their faces began to glow. Their faces have totally changed, they shine. Through the horses they are gaining confidence and believing in themselves, and are now branching out to learn as much as they can. They are unstoppable. We also, Barzan and I need the challenge and experience of working with them. It is an incredible journey of healing.” Daoud. Director of Horses of Hope.
“I’m officially disabled, but I’m truly enabled because of my lack of limbs. My unique challenges have opened up unique opportunities to reach so many in need.” Nick Vujicic
“I was a bad person before I came to SOHF, I was a totally bad person. My mood was always bad, I was sad, constantly blaming myself for my condition and my life. Since 2018, I have been taking Olanzapine and Amitriptyline daily, without fail. My psychological condition was deteriorating every day until I came to The Hope Centre where I experienced how much I am cared for. I experienced love. I became involved with the equine program and am learning how to ride a horse. I am studying photography and taking literacy lessons. I have a new healthy routine. The atmosphere inside The Hope Centre and Horses for Hope is unlike anything I have experienced.
My mood and psychological situation have totally changed. I am learning self-worth, I am beginning to look at myself differently and accept myself, even be pleased with the new path that I am on. The staff respect me, so I am learning to respect myself.
As if this is not enough, my life further changed when I began at Horses for Hope. After a few sessions I quit all my medications. Yes, they are psychological medications but I know that I am in a healing process and my emotions are stable, balanced and healthy and I know that I have no need for them.
I first met Miss Lisa in 2018 when she invited me to The Hope Centre for an event. I guess I was not ready for anything more than one event then. Today it is my home. Nawaf and I are first in and last out. Today I love everyone, I love it when Miss Lisa sits with us as friends not as the president but as our friend. I asked her to play domino with me today. I have found real true friends, and we have become family.
Over the years many organizations have come to me. They wanted my story but they did not show any interest or care for me. Everyone in Springs of Hope loves me as do I, the staff, the horse trainers, the horses. I even feed Oscar the dog who loves me and let Mimo the kitten climb on me.
Thanks to Miss Lisa who loved me as I was, to all the amazing staff who do their best to care for me.
I am also using the phone camera to take many pictures at Horses for Hope, we are surrounded by nature so it is the idea place. I also like to take photos of poor people, and people in wheelchairs because they need to be seen in a respectful way and I know how they feel. I want to stay in the stables and the photography class for eternity, there is always something new to learn and ways to improve myself.
I have told Mr Natiq the music director, that I want to learn to play the saz as I need to make the best use of my hands.
Evan, Photography Teacher
“I am Evan, the photography teacher. I have many groups at Springs of Hope but the best group I affectionately call the wheelchair group is these guys, They arrive an hour early, they ask for homework and do it, they call me to check their homework. I have never had such eager, connected and dedicated students. We don’t have enough cameras, so it would be a huge benefit if each could be given his own camera so that they can develop their skills. These men will use photography to make a living. I look forward to my classes with them because they are all in. Nawaf told me that nothing in his life has made him happier than holding a camera. He told me that as so much has happened to our people and to him, that he finds is both comforting and empowering to look through the camera lens and gain a new perspective. He told me that he believed that he was worthless and would not succeed even in holding a camera. Now he is planning his future with a camera.” Evan
“I do not have a disability, I have a gift! Others may see it as a disability, but I see it as a challenge. This challenge is a gift because I have to become stronger to get around it, and smarter to figure out how to use it; others should be so lucky.” Shane E. Bryan
“To be honest I thought that I was totally fine before I came to Springs of Hope Foundation because my parents take good care of me. When I came to Horses for Hope and then the Hope Centre for education, I discovered that I was not fine. I discovered that life was passing me by, without education or friends. I discovered that I was shy and did not know how to connect. I knew my value; I have self-worth but there were many things that were missing in my life and now I am finding them. I love the horses; I also love photography and computer class. I am a computer fanatic and read much on my phone about computers. I would love to own a computer shop or to work in this field. I feel that photography and editing will complete this field. I have begun to smile. I did not know that I never smiled. I am learning to stop saying “whatever you like or as you like” and to express what I would like. So, I was wrong. I was not totally fine but now I am becoming totally fine.” Saadoun
“I see that all these men, Yasser, Nawf and Hassan in particular came to us as broken men, broken by life, disappointed in both life and people. Saadoun was somewhat different because he had been kept in a cocoon and had no idea of the world outside. Each of these men came to us empty. An empty shell. They had no self confidence, no self worth, they perceived themselves to be of no value. Nawaf and Hassan in particular feared rejection so did not want to become close to anyone. Yasser got married but then had no idea how to nurture his marriage. Saadoun is learning to connect outside his family and oh when he smiles it is as if the sun has come out after a violent storm. They were broken, stubborn, angry, hurting and empty. Today, after only a few months surrounded by nature, surrounded by music, surrounded by art and sculpture, they are contented men. They are becoming whole and healed. They engage in deep conversation. They can laugh and chat but they like to sit and ask questions, they don't hold back because they are safe. They ask questions that no one else could even think of, there are no barriers.” Haifa Noori, Psychologist.
To sit with these precious men is one of the highlights of my week. Time and obligations elsewhere stop on Monday mornings. This week they asked if we could eat lunch together. “That's what friends do, right?” said Hassan. Tears welled up in my eyes as I saw the four of them around the barbecue. Yasser and Hassan were master chefs in carving up the chicken and marinating it. Nawaf was busy on the grill. Saadoun admitted that he knew nothing about cooking as his Mum takes care of him. Hassan brought dolma and rice which he had made at home. We had a feast of food and friendship. I looked around at four broken men coming to life and as I did, I pictured the Roman numerals for 4, IV. I realized that our 4 are connected to an IV of life and hope. Their change, their healing is visible to all around. Nawaf wants to help with equine training for the disabled. As he learns to read and write he wants to compile an instruction manual. Hassan wants his back to be healed. He is convinced that he will walk again. I second that. After lunch we surveyed the land and decided where one day we will bury their wheelchairs. IV of them, because the IV of life and hope wins and love prevails. I have an “ask" for these IV this week. They have no income and they have medical needs. They all have only two t-shirts. That is it. I would love for us to be able to bless them by giving them monthly support for 12 months, to help them stand on their feet. I am asking for four kind donors to step up with $60 a month for 12 months. If your heart is willing, please contact me. Finance is part of their IV of healing and will help them to reach their highest and fullest ability. Lisa