Nawaf is 34. He came from the Yezidi village of Kanya Eido in Sinjar. He lives in Shariya Camp, now in a block house that we built for him. As he sat outside our office in The Hope Centre, drinking chai waiting for his photography class, he began to talk.
“Child” said the Lion. “I am telling you your story. No one is told any story but their own.”
“I began going to Horses for Hope a few months ago. Nurse Salah from Springs of Hope called me and invited me along with Yasser who is also in a wheelchair. I decided to go just to get out of the camp. That was the best decision of my life, my entire life has changed since that day. I can easily divide my life into two sections, before the horses and after the horses. I lost the use of my legs and one arm when I was a child. Within hours of receiving a vaccine, I felt my body becoming dead. I have a little use of my legs, but it has nearly all gone. It was the most terrifying feeling, of being trapped in my own body and powerless to get out. I have spent all of my life watching others, being on the outside looking in, feeling helpless and hopeless. Before going to Horses for Hope, I just sat in my tent, sad and depressed. I smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and drank glass after glass of chai. I watched everyone else, coming and going, busy with their life, and there I am, just sitting, waiting for nothing and nobody.
Video of Nawaf
“The first time I went to the stables I thought that I had been transported to a different world, maybe even to heaven. It was so quiet, trees that are green in the summer, grass that is growing in the summer, the ducks that wander around. To be honest, the first time I was nervous about the horses and scared of Oscar the dog. I did not want to participate, because inside me I was scared that maybe something in my life could change. I was scared that maybe this was the hope that I had been waiting for, and that I would have to respond. I was scared that I would be stuck inside myself, trapped, unable to get out.”
“Do not dare not to dare.”
"When I returned to my tent, I thought about the horses, how although they are so big, they are gentle, Nawroz in particular, and how she did not push me in any way. I realized that I wanted change in my life and that without making an effort I would not reach the “next step”. It simply would not happen.
"The first time that I rode was on Destiny, as the Kurdish saddle is more suited to her than Newroz, my goal was to get on and off and remain alive and unharmed. There was no interest and no experience as such. It was just determination to take a step with all of my body that I can not take with my legs. “No one can teach riding so well as a horse." The next time as I sat in the saddle a new hope arose. It was tangible, I felt my numb legs becoming hopeful, I felt my heart being flooded with this hope. I knew that God was with me, protecting me from falling. I knew that He had been there with me when I was escaping from ISIS. I knew that he was giving me another chance to escape from myself and my misery through the horses.
"I began to take an interest in all the horses, particularly in Newroz who encouraged me in every step. Newroz is like a human, she knows me, actually she knows me better than I know myself. I love all the horses, but Newroz and I are best friends, she is mine. She is very connected to me, she recognizes me, she greets me and is very kind to me. She comes and smells me and knows it is me. Her eyes are gentle and understanding. There is peace in her eyes which causes my body to relax. There is comfort in her eyes and I know that all will be well. She knows that she is going to be my legs. She has all the time in the world for me. I trust her.
"I am at peace at the stables, I am joyful again. Hope is coming to me, I am beginning to dream and make plans again. I promised Newroz that I would stop smoking, so far I am down to 10 cigarettes a day. I will keep going. When I am riding Newroz, in my heart I share my dreams with her, she understands and encourages me to keep moving ahead. The horses are giving me a new life, a new beginning, they are showing me that I can succeed, that I can be strong and independent. They are showing me that I have much to contribute when I join, when I connect. I know that through these horses God is opening a door of life for me. I intend to go through that door." - Nawaf
“There is something about all this that I do not understand, but if ever we need to know it, you may be sure that we shall.”
“When Nawaf first came to the stables he was totally broken, a very sad man with much grief and sorrow. He did not connect with Barzan and myself, he sat there smoking ( Miss Lisa decided to allow him to smoke outside rather than him not come ) We tried to reach him, nothing, we tried to include him in our chat but there was no response. One day we made breakfast, he just smoked and didn't eat with us.
It was like being with a dead man. I counted 15 cigarettes, 15 in one hour!! Now maybe sometimes he smokes just one!
"Today he is a different man, his face has changed. He smiles, he laughs, he is relaxed, he connects with us, with his friends Yasser and Hassan and of course the horses. He totally loves Newroz, he is very attached to her. He asks questions, this week he asked how fast horses can run,what distance they can run, what are the signs of tiredness. He asked us who cooks, myself or Barzan, what we cook and who cooks better!! He is becoming interested in everything at the stables. We are watching a different man who becomes more whole every week." - Daoud, Trainer
“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.”
“Thanks to my life being changed by the horses and a new door opening I am now enrolled as a student at The Hope Centre. It is so amazing to wake up with a goal and a purpose. I am studying photography and I will begin to learn English and Kurdish as at the moment I am illiterate… that is going to change. I will read and I will write. I greatly enjoy my photography class. I come by myself, I am always the first student to arrive. Khero makes me tea which I drink without a cigarette. I sit and relax in the center, watching the kids come, hearing their chatter and the musicians beginning to tune their instruments. It is wonderful. As a student I have a responsibility to be in class on time, to prepare myself, to do my assignments. I am very interested in every aspect of photography, not just taking photos but all the technical side of photography . Mr Evan is a professional photographer, he is patient and kind and explains very well. Newroz has taught me that I can do anything and do it with excellence.” - Nawaf
All quotes are taken from “The Horse and His Boy” by C.S.Lewis.