Still Displaced, But No Longer a Refugee

“Aid organizations still come to me, but I don’t need their help.”

We’re standing in Faris’s warehouse—a large room, really—surrounded by soap. Next door is the house he shares with 14 relatives, including his wife and three children.

Faris is relaxed, confident. He smiles a lot. He’s not what comes to mind when you think about refugees.

And that’s fine by him… because he doesn’t think of himself as a refugee anymore.

Make no mistake: Faris is still displaced. He and his family fled their home three years ago, when ISIS tore across northern Iraq—and they haven’t gone back.

plc sweatshirt

The militants were determined to wipe out Faris’s people, the Yazidis. By the time he and his family reached safety, miles from home, the refugee camps were full. Many people had to find whatever shelter they could—an unused shipping container or an abandoned school building. For Faris and his family, it was an unfinished hotel. They pitched their tents on the concrete floors… and waited.

But it was too much to bear. No matter how hard they tried to protect their children, they were at the mercy of their unstable and unsuitable environment. One day, Faris’s nephew fell down four flights of stairs while playing. In that moment, they knew something had to change.

The family pooled what little money they had and rented a small house together. But without steady work, Faris could not provide for his family. The money would soon run out and they would be back where they started.

War had taken everything from them.

When you’re displaced, you lose more than your home. Your identity, who and what you were before—parent, provider, business owner—is overshadowed by this new label you now wear: refugee. It’s a label you’ll likely carry for years.

But no label can erase who you truly are.

Men like Faris were not helpless before the war, and they’re not helpless now. They have every capacity they need to support themselves. They want to support themselves.

They don’t want to be dependent on handouts or confined by the barbwire fence of a refugee camp. They don’t want to wait for the dust to settle before they start building their life again.

People like Faris are determined to rebuild now.

When we first met Faris, we were struck by his eagerness to learn new things. He’d never made soap before, but when we pitched it as a business idea, he jumped in. We gave him a small business grant, along with some training and supplies—and within a week of launching his business, Faris and his brothers had earned almost all their rent.

It was a huge step toward stability.

Faris never slowed down. He is constantly experimenting with new soap blends—new fragrances and ingredients. He’s always thinking of new ways to grow his business.

Making soap has given Faris an outlet to be the person he always wanted to be—the person he always knew he could be. He’s reclaimed his identity, as something more than a refugee.

Faris is a provider. But this is not just what he does. It’s who he is.

“Work is better than anything,” Faris says. “Most people, they just want food. But when you work, you can provide for others.”

Every bar of Kinsman Soap helps Faris and others like him move closer to independence—so they can take care of themselves and rebuild their lives here in Iraq, rather than in some distant country.

Every bar of soap provides hope.

“People don’t see me as a refugee anymore,” Faris says.

And neither does he.

Today is the last day to order Kinsman Soap, handmade by refugees in Iraq, and receive it in time for Father’s Day. Order now and help men like Faris reclaim their lives—and identity—from the ashes of war.