Living Her Dream

On the cusp of milk tooth time and womanhood, twelve-year-old Nazi witnessed ISIS storm Sinjar and obliterated the Yazidi community with its wrath of violence. Terror rioted through the Nazi as she and her family ran to the top of Sinjar Mountain for safety. With little food and water, they stayed for eight days under the unrelenting sun, enduring eight nights of discomforting cold until it was safe enough to leave. But they couldn’t go home. Their house, everything–all the personal mementos that mark the milestones of life, were lost to ISIS.

Dream Maker

The center in this Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp radiates joy as Nazi teaches a group of kids how to draw. Nazi smiles while she works. Teaching art brings her journey full circle. 

Nazi discovered her passion for drawing and painting when she was eight years old. An artist neighbor nurtured Nazi’s talent, unlocking the magic of pencil markings taking shape, of paint brush strokes becoming pictures. Nazi dreamed of becoming an artist. But when ISIS attacked, she and her family barely escaped with their lives. There was no time to pack her art materials.

When she and her family left the top of Mount Sinjar, they found space in an unfinished building in Zakho, where they stayed for two years until she and her eight family members moved to an IDP camp near Dohuk. You heard about Nazi from the IDP camp’s management and decided to invest in Nazi so she could realize her dream. 

Thanks to your small business grant, Nazi bought painting and drawing materials, photo frames, papers, and stationery supplies to open her own business selling the artwork she creates. Providing grants to start small businesses is just the first step of our journey with new business owners. There are follow-up visits, coaching, and advocacy, when needed, to make sure entrepreneurs have the best chance to succeed. 

Nazi opened her business last fall as she started her senior year of high school. Running a new business and finishing high school would intimidate anyone, but with the year-long support she received from our coaches, Nazi now runs her business from a center in the camp, where her art adorns the walls, instead of from home. Expanding a business in a camp can be complicated as the competition for space is fierce, but Nazi’s business is thriving. Her income has increased tenfold, enabling her to support her family and pay for art college in the fall. 

Impact Ripples Throughout a Community

Despite running a business and preparing for her first year of college, Nazi makes time to teach drawing and painting to children in the camp, holding classes for free. The art lessons are a lifeline for the kids who say they learn more about drawing in Nazi’s class than they do at school.  Last month, Nazi taught 45 children, instilling in them the same love of drawing she learned from her neighbor over a decade ago. The children love drawing so much, they keep practicing when they get home. 

The children taking these classes are of all ages. They are Yazidi, Kurdish, Muslim, and Christian. Some remember the ISIS-led genocide first-hand, and some have spent their entire lives living in a camp. What they have in common is a shared excitement for making art, making friends with one another, and having fun. While they learn to draw and paint, these kids are living that we belong to each other. 

Join us in partnering to create businesses that unite, delight, and make dreams come true.