Refugee/Internally Displaced Persons Appeal - June 2017
Doubles and Triples
I just finished reading an inspiring report written by one of The Outreach Foundation’s partners in Jordan, the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC). For the past few years, with your generous gifts, The Outreach Foundation has supplied funds for MECC’s ministry with some of the 2.7 million – million – Iraqi and Syrian refugees who have sought a haven in this country which, admirably and with great dignity, refers to them as “guests.” MECC’s “hands and feet” for this ministry has been the Greek Orthodox Church which has been faithfully ministering to these refugees and bringing them glimpses of Hope and Light. The following excerpts and photos are taken from that report on their Winter Appeal, which focused on the “Orthodox Initiative (OI).”
About 65 extended families left the recognized camps and headed north, as close to the border of Syria as possible, with the hope of returning home at the soonest opportunity. They are mostly farmers and rural people who are used to their particular way of life. They settled around areas suitable to their needs, typically on or near farmland, and dealt with local land owners to pay rent. They all pitched in to produce collectively. The result of this movement and resettling close to the border has been five unofficial, scattered camps, each with 300-650 people and increasing. Those in the scattered camps were the most vulnerable of the refugee population in Jordan. The Orthodox Church decided to provide them relief to the fullest extent possible. Per the values of the Orthodox Initiative (OI), this meant to provide more than just food and other basic needs. They also aimed to protect the dignity of those suffering in this crisis and to allow them to thrive, develop, and nurture their creativity despite their current circumstances.
The OI team has worked closely with the local communities and churches who have been struggling to host the influx of the displaced that were fleeing from ISIS and the devastation of the war. To alleviate the burden of the hosting communities, The Outreach Foundation has been providing direct assistance such as food parcels, hygiene kits, school materials, and winter necessities and organizing activities on special occasions.
For the past seven months, the children and their mothers have been immersed in workshops where they have produced more than 250 items including handmade decorated mugs, paintings, and flower pots all made with locally sourced raw materials. The OI team also implemented art therapy workshops with more than 40 Syrian refugee kids from the same camp. During the workshop the children could express themselves through creative techniques, and their art was used to make postcards, paintings and flower pots to present to their moms on Mother’s Day. Theater acting therapy was the prime activity – a very powerful tool to reach children and snap them out of the frozen years they went through with primitive basic schooling.
The outcome of the Winter Appeal was shown towards the end in a recognizable change of attitude in the children. This appeal, partly intended to be vocational training for adults and children, became a platform to raise awareness about the reality of the silent 80% of the refugee population living across the country and the urgent need to take steps in those refugee camps and help support the children to become active again, happy and full of life. It also aimed to break boundaries and stereotypes of the image of a refugee through working with them on their self-confidence and inviting partners and guests to visit them and spend quality time with them.
Jawahar, a lovely young woman from Syria who is one of the refugees herself, has taken on the responsibility of teaching these children every single day. She is working with the Orthodox Initiative to teach them a curriculum of general knowledge, art, hygiene, and other important topics. With the support of the OI team, the children were more than ready to prepare projects, shows, and special events for their families and guests. On the day of one visit, the children performed a series of skits to illustrate their most recent lessons about environmental, personal, and food cleanliness. They had clearly internalized the information and had written creative scripts that demonstrated what they’d learned. With costumes and props provided by the Orthodox Initiative staff, the children performed with complete memorization, bright enthusiasm, and confidence. They knew their cues, when to improvise, how to emphasize points, and treated each other with kindness and respect. From what we know about the children initially, it was clear that a significant transformation had taken place over the course of their time learning and receiving proper aid. Their demeanor appeared to be that of healthy, thriving children. Their surrounding environment had also been visibly impacted, clear of any litter, and taken care of with pride.
The report ends with an assessment that echoes Christ’s words in Matthew 25 (…I was hungry and you gave me something to eat….): “This Winter Appeal achieved its purpose, reaching to all the most vulnerable, whether in feeding the hungry or in guarding their dignities through providing their necessities and daily bread; the most important thing that counts at the end is if you have the good intention to reach the hungry, the sick, the stranger, the naked; support will appear and, most importantly, no matter how humble is the fund, God blesses and doubles and triples.”
God blesses and doubles and triples…I am reminded, yet again, that in the doing of Kingdom things, and in God’s economy, we can do “more with less” …. because HE “doubles and triples.” Now there is math that we all can use!
Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development
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