Come with us on a food distribution
On my round of distributing food packages, I imagine what it would be like if one of you was on the road with me. Soon my parents will come and so I thought more about what it’s like for a newcomer to step into this world for a while. I dig into my memory what it was like for me here in the early days. Anyway, I imagine my parents in the backseat of my pick-up watching everything that passes by, how I avoid all the pitholes in the road to avoid being launched into the verge, etcetera.
After several calls, Dakwaz’s mother opens the door and gets her son to lift the bags out of the car. With gratitude they walk back inside. I have known the following households for a long time, almost 5 years. They receive me warmly and almost cling to me and invite me to have a bite to eat. The weather is not very stable and it usually takes me longer than I estimate to deliver the packages. I often choose to have a quick bite to eat on such a day and continue working. In the evening and in the afternoon it is not so busy on the street and you are not easily harassed.
The next address is the family next to the center. Mother cannot speak and father is paralyzed in his legs. They have a whole bunch of children, the youngest of which I can barely tell apart. I am greeted enthusiastically by grandma who also lives with them, she comes over to hug me, I quickly bow my head and kiss her hand to show her my respect. She says I don’t have to, she greets me and at the same time she prays that God will bless us for the good things we do.
I pick up Shelan my teacher and we deliver the last packages. I sometimes forget where all those families live. And well, it’s not that easy to remember between the white tarpaulins of the tents and the muddy roads. Some parts we have to maneuver the car zigzag through a courtyard of a house to get further behind the houses on yet another uneven path with boulders. There, about at the end of the world where the road ends, we deliver the last package.
On the way we meet a group of children, they are on their way to the center. When they see me driving the pick-up, they shout, oh look Miss Arianne and oh look Miss Shelan. They jump up and down and wave and watch us as we carefully drive up the road.
Now first to Geripan. I deliver the first package to an Arab family. They are the only ones living there between the Shingali Yezidis and a number of Islamic Kurdish families. They are shepherds, the sheep belong to someone else but they get income by tending them. We can’t communicate much because I don’t speak much Arabic. But full of joy the food package is brought in by the mother and her daughters. And they try to thank me in their limited Kurdish. Even as I drive away, one girl is still showing her gratitude and respect by touching her head with her hand.
The next stop is with the Faqiris (families of certain Yazidi tribe). This family also herds sheep. I open the mesh gate and walk into the courtyard and call if anyone is home. After a few times, an answer comes from behind the white tarpaulin, which should stop the wind and rain. “who is it?” Yes, it’s me. On the other side next to a meadow is a ruin, only the walls of what was once a house are still standing. This village, like the other villages, was bombed by Saddam’s regime in the 1990s. I hear the echo of a ball being thrown against the wall, and then, I hear, “Miss Arianne is here!!”. Two children appear, they are Khamza and her brother. They run towards me with open arms. I get hugged and I give her a big kiss. Our Khamza the talkative and the pacesetter, a cheerful and busy girl. Meanwhile, her older sister and brother also cam outside. They walk with me and carry the food inside. But not without first asking when I’m coming this week for the kids’ club and if they can come again some day to the center.
I haven’t left yet when an Arab girl and her little brother approach me. In her mixture of Arabic and two words of Kurdish, I gather that she would also like a package for her family. I walk with her to see where they live. I didn’t know there were now more Arab families. I recognize the girl, she was also on the lookout a while ago when I handed out shoes. She had gathered all her younger brothers after I told her I had shoes for them. Since then they occasionally participate in the children’s club. We can’t communicate much, but they are visibly having a lot of fun. And now the girl takes me to the ruin which is their house. No one is home because she says her father is in the hospital and her mother is there too.
Later when I leave the village I meet her other brothers. They pull a big bale behind them. When they see me, they immediately put a big smile on their face. They have collected cans in the bag, which they sell at the rubbish dump. With gestures and a few Arabic words I tell them that the food package has already been delivered to their home. They thank me and they drag the bale home after them.
I also give Khalil a package, the poor man lives almost at the end of the village. Now that it is raining there is no passable road to reach his house, but I drive slippery as far as I think I can also drive back. Nowhere in this village do I go unnoticed for long. Two kids run down the hill toward my pickup. While I call Khalil, they lug the sacks along, careful not to fall headfirst into the mud, I slither after them. Khalil has also arrived. He used to be very strong, after a cowardly attack in which he received 17 stabs in the back, his health is not so good anymore. He and his wife never had children and so there is no one to provide for them.
It starts to drizzle and before I drive back to Sharya, I decide to put the remaining package in the car. It is raining heavily when I deliver a package to Nabras’ family. I decide to give them a short visit. Nabras’ father was injured in the army in the Iraq-Iran war and is therefore unable to work. His lungs function only 50% and he is regularly dependent on oxygen bottles. Although he still receives a small benefit from the government, that is barely enough for his medicines. Nabras and his sister take on all kinds of odd jobs to help their family. Nabras’ sister bakes bread and then earns 200,000 IQD (120 euros) per month, of which 100,000 IQD is immediately spent on her own medicines for rheumatism. Nabras is a day laborer, usually in construction, if there is work he earns 20,000 a day, but most of the time there is no work. It is hard work, a lot of lugging large stones and cement.
It is pouring rain when I enter the camp. I hope the camp guard won’t stop me, I still have an excuse ready but I’d rather not have them send me to the camp manager first. Any kind of help or activity should actually be reported first. Only in exceptional cases do I share food packages in the camp. But I do come here regularly, usually to pick up the handyman Jameel when something is broken in the house or in the center. Jameel never wants me to pay him and so I regularly give him a food package. In the camp he has a shop where he repairs washing machines and swampcoolers (a kind of air conditioner). His nieces are very handy with hook and yarn and regularly crochet some bags for me. When I am welcomed in their tent, the girls are summoned in no time. The yarn is distributed while we sit around the stove. Meanwhile, Leyla the lady of the house makes tea that is placed in front of me somewhere in all the commotion. With my toes almost in the tea and while someone shines a flashlight (the electricity went out again), I make a start for a bag, so the girls can learn how to crochet bags. The little kids are sitting on top of me and also want some attention. Even the youngest don’t easily forget that I sometimes hold a kids’ club in one of the tents. In the corner of the tent there is a cradle made of reinforcing steel, it contains a whole pile of blankets. Leyla steps into the tent and burrows under the covers. To my surprise, there is still a baby sleeping under it, even though it is almost a cauldron in the tent and the young children are kicking over a few tea glasses in their enthusiasm.
When I lie in bed at night, I am grateful. Grateful to share and grateful to know so many families and children and be a part of their lives.
This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)