With its bare concrete walls and makeshift air-cooler, the little room was a welcome relief from the heat. We are in a Syrian refugee camp in northern Iraq, in the home that Khadeeja and six of her children share.
“You should have seen this place before,” Khadeeja says. “We didn’t have this room, only a tent in the corner.” We fall silent, trying to imagine life with only a sheet between your family and the desert.
As her fingers thread loop after loop around the crochet hook, turning soft yarn into a washcloth, Khadeeja’s journey from Syria to Iraq unwinds.Her story bears echoes of many other refugee women in the camp: forced to leave the Syrian village that was her home, she brought her children to Iraq to escape ISIS. They made it to this camp after her husband set out for Europe, to begin the long application process for the family’s asylum.
Khadeeja misses her husband. It has been four long years since she said goodbye to the man who cared for her and kept her safe. Born just after he left, their youngest daughter has never met her father, nor lived in the home he built with his own hands. She may never know Syria, or that home, as Europe holds her parents’ dreams of starting afresh, in safety.
She sees the work in her future, the thing that will nurture a new beginning for the family when they are all together again. Each completed washcloth is woven with a little more hope than the last.
Until the family is together again, the challenge of raising her children with an infrequent, meager income is Khadeeja’s to grapple with. Without her husband, problems with broken things like electricity or plumbing overwhelm her. Alone, she is left turning to strangers for vital assistance, laying her need bare.
Asking for help is difficult; harder still when you have to ask again and again.
Isolation binds her words. Even before she says it, we know that Khadeeja has no one to share her pain.
Her hands still move. The yarn continues around the needle in a steady rhythm. As each washcloth takes shape against our conversation, we discover she learned to crochet by reverse engineering: picking apart a washcloth completed by another woman in the camp, and putting it back together again.
She enjoys crocheting, she tells us, and wishes she had started it earlier. She sees the work in her future, the thing that will nurture a new beginning for the family when they are all together again. Each completed washcloth is woven with a little more hope than the last.
Khadeeja is making a better life for her family, a stitch at a time.
You made that happen.
With every washcloth you buy, you help Khadeeja and other refugee women doing this work, to build a better life.