When we asked to take a picture, J quietly requested a few minutes. She unwound the customary bun at the top of her head and shook out a thick mass of jet black waves that fell almost to her waist.
This hair is precious. J has been married twice, and each ex-husband was an abuser. One of them had made her cut all of her hair away. J loved her long, flowing hair, so it was a deep blow, another wound to the many she had received at his hands.
J is a survivor: of 2 horrifically abusive marriages, war, the loss of her home, and life as a refugee.
J is just 17 years old.
Now, thanks to you, J is a business owner.
You first met J when we asked you to help her start a business.You wouldn’t look at the young woman in these photos, and imagine that she has been through trauma so profound, it robbed her of her ability to speak. The weight of her experience would be an incredible burden on an adult with support and stability, nevermind a child who is also suffering from the trauma of war. And yet, each day, she finds the steel to get up and forge ahead. To trust that you would hear her story, make space for her pain, and support her.
And you responded. You loved her from across oceans, and gave enough to help her start the business she’s always wanted: a clothing store for women and children that also sells makeup and fashion accessories.
This store is significant to J’s life in so many ways.
J’s shop is a critical source of income in a situation where job opportunities are few and far between. J and her family are earning, dollar by dollar, the building blocks of their future, and a way back home to Syria, when it is safe to return.
2. A Dream Come True
J has always wanted a shop just like this. Her interest in fashion began when she was a tiny child, and it is very much a part of her identity. Denied the liberty to pursue her aspirations in both of her marriages and despite fleeing war and living in a refugee camp, it is a literal dream come true for J to be standing in her own light-filled space, running this very business.
Having her own business and income stream means J is free. Free of needing a spouse to survive. Free to work, to earn a living, to decide what she does with her money, and consequently, her life. She is free to express her creativity with fashion and shape her business on her own terms. J is free to succeed.
And J is working hard every single day to grow her business, and to speak again. Little by little, one bravely fought step at a time, she is growing, and healing.
But J is still not free from war, and the insidious hold it has over her life. And neither are thousands of other Syrians that live in refugee camps all over northern Iraq. And until home is a safe place again, that shadow will continue to loom over them.
Home is healing. And the way home starts with businesses like J’s, which provide jobs for hands that want nothing more than meaningful work, incomes to rebuild homes and lives, laying the foundation for a world without war.