“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead
We’re back again in Iraq, this beautiful place that contrasts between peace and conflict, joy and hardship, scarcity and generosity. I couldn’t be happier to be here. I can’t wait to visit friends, experience the incredible hospitality of the Kurdish people, which includes drinking lots of tea and sharing delicious home cooked meals. But first, we are off to see one of Love Does’ newest projects. I jump out of the car at the site where we built the village for Syrian refugee families and look around in amazement.
A year ago, this was just an idea. A year ago, these families were living in makeshift shelters along the sides of the road in Soran, or barely scraping enough money together to pay rent on one bedroom apartments. And now, these homes exist, and there are rugs hanging over the walls, little shoes on the front porch steps, and I can smell baking bread coming out of one of the kitchens. These 20 homes are humble, but their view over the mountains of Northern Iraq is breathtaking. Right now the green hills are lit up with a pink and orange sunset and a bunch of kids are outside, playing for a few more minutes before being called in to dinner. I join them and pretty soon we’re all walking hand in hand like some mini parade, the kids each pointing out proudly to me which house is theirs.
A year ago, this didn’t exist, and it’s hard to believe it’s here now. What blows my mind even more is that in a way, these houses were created by Instagram, Facebook and emails, because that’s the way we told the stories of these families and the needs they had. In a time when it seems we’re oversaturated with social media, it’s especially exciting to think about how those tools can be used for such good. And my favorite part is that we did this together. We told you about these sweet families and the challenges they faced: nowhere to live, no school for their kids, no money to buy groceries. Then you rallied together to build homes for them, which have changed their lives.
Now I sit in one of their living rooms, a little girl shyly reaches out to touch my sleeve and I grin back at her, sipping my coffee. Her father sits on the rug in front of us and shares about how he couldn’t buy groceries for his family because at the end of the month, all their money went to rent. His face, bright and animated with joy up until now, breaks and for a minute he cries at the memory as we sit there with him in silence. He gestures to his family sitting with him, speechless, unable to explain how difficult that was. I could imagine how hard it would be not to be able to care for the ones you love the most. He looked back at us and a smile re-appeared and his eyes brightened up again.
”“But now look,” he says, gesturing around the room.“Now we are here, we have money for food. And our kids can go to school. For now, we are safe."
He told us that one day they want to return home to Syria, but it’s too hard to say when that could be as the conflict continues on, their homes are destroyed, and their families scattered. Even though we can’t come close to fixing everything in the world, we can at least make life for some families a little better, a little more stable, a little more like home.
Thank you, so much, for loving these families enough to rally together to build them homes. It means so much not just to them, but to all of us on the Love Does team as well. Your partnership has made dreams come to life, and we are filled with gratitude.