Four of the fingernails on my right hand—and a good portion of the surrounding skin—are freshly painted purple. Toleen, four years-old and not yet skilled with the tiny brush in the bottle of nail polish we gave her a few days ago, decides she has finished my impromptu manicure. She climbs up into her mother’s lap and settles in for a few moments.
Her mom, Abeer, buries her face into her daughter’s messy curls, barely held back by a yellow plastic hair band. Toleen is her treasure.
Sunlight shines in through the front door, projecting a brilliant shaft across the floor and far wall. We sit together drinking sugary tea, at least five conversations happening at the same time. There is a lightness and warmth here—a palpable sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Fadeela and Madeeha were our first two business grant recipients, pioneers of our empowerment project two years ago. It is a joy to visit them again. So much has changed in that time, but it took the full two years to get to a place of real stability.
We enter the raw concrete courtyard through a metal gate. Curious, barefooted children screech in excitement, then run to stand in the shadow of their grandparents.
Little puddles of water glisten in the sun—the floors have just been washed and aren’t yet dry. This home in a nearby refugee camp, a couple tiny rooms lining a small courtyard, is impeccably clean. So clean that it takes a minute to actually register the space.
There is almost nothing here.
Khadiha, a Syrian refugee, with a member of the Preemptive Love team in Iraq
Syria. Libya. Syria again. Then Iraq.
Circumstances have dropped Khadija and her family into three separate war zones.
A Syrian refugee, Khadija has a certain kind of boundless, creative energy. She is never still—even when visiting friends or enjoying lingering conversation over tea. There is always something in her hands, in the process of becoming.
Editor's note: The crisis in Aleppo has made headlines this week, but our support of Syrian refugees began long before that. While we show up for people in emergencies—as we're doing in Aleppo right now—we refuse to walk away once the immediate danger has passed. Our empowerment programs provide the resources and tools people need to rebuild their lives.
Many of the people participating in these programs are Syrian refugees, now living in Iraq. Sameeha is one of them. She is a perfect example of why we don’t stop at emergency relief or settle for only giving people handouts.
Nasra and another displaced woman buy supplies for their new sewing businesses
When we look across Syria and Iraq, it is easy to lose heart.
Faced with the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, the numbers quickly overwhelm. It becomes easy to see statistics instead of people.
When desperate families near Mosul overrun our aid distributions—because they have nothing and they’re tired of waiting for help to arrive—it becomes easy to see victims instead of people.
Caretaking comes naturally to Chinar, 11. Unlike some other girls her age, she can usually be seen around home with a baby on her hip and a gaggle of children surrounding her. She is one of the oldest children in her village, and she takes responsibility seriously.