When we visited Lamia, she was sitting calmly in a chair, positioned so the stacks and stacks of candles her team had made quietly demanded to be seen behind her. We greeted her and she tilted her head in hello. Laughter relaxed her body as she introduced herself.
Her eyes were filled with the wisdom she has gleaned from raising four children—three daughters and a son—through conflict and hardship in Iraq, while also overseeing the Sisterhood candlemaking project in Baghdad.
Lamia has trained over 50 women in the precise art of pouring and finishing each candle. She has raised them up in their livelihoods. These women are her sisters, her daughters. She cares for them as if they were her own family.
We asked what candle making has meant for her, and she answered somewhat matter-of-factly. “After I graduated from university, I couldn’t find a job. And then I got married and had kids. So I couldn’t work meanwhile.”
“This job is good for me because I can work at home. It’s very difficult for a woman to work outside here.”
She shared her candle making story and how her job has helped provide for her family throughout a long period of job scarcity in Iraq. She told us how she became a trainer and taught other women how to hand pour and finish candles over the years. Lamia’s ability to make candles has meant survival for her family, but her biggest smiles were reserved for the women she works with.
“How would you describe working here with the others?” we asked, and her lips parted into a grin. Her eyes deepened as they crinkled upward.
“It’s like family. I feel like I'm home, it’s my second home. They are my family, we talk and work very close. I am proud of them. I am proud of every minute I spend with them,” she responded, beaming with joy at the thought of them.
She went on to tell us that all the women—many of them widows—have her personal phone number. They call her whenever they need help—“spiritually and physically.” No matter what, she is there for them, like a mother hen, gathering women under her wings.
“We help them with simple stuff. But to them, it’s a lot, and means something.”
As we sat and listened, we were struck by Lamia’s care and compassion.
We think a lot about mothers in conflict zones and the strength it takes to raise the next generation peacefully. What astounds us about Lamia, though, is how she has taken on responsibility for mothering her work community as well—caring for people even when it’s not intrinsically required of her.
Her maternal heart has expanded to include her peers—neighbors and women just like her.
We are awestruck by Lamia’s boundless capacity for love. She and countless women like her inspire us to reach in deeper, to scrape out the very bottom of our hearts and be mothers (and fathers) for those who need us most. Lamia shows us how—by choosing to love bigger, to love more and to love anyway. Join us as we learn from her.
As you honor the moms in your life this Mother’s Day, you can share the gift of empowerment for women in Iraq like Lamia.
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