A personal experience in the Middle East

Dorcas staff members provide humanitarian aid every day, using tailored approaches that suit the situation in various countries. Christel Mulder, program coordinator Disaster Response is visiting projects in Lebanon and Iraq this month. She shares with us what she is doing:

Wednesday: Today, I’m visiting the community centre in Aley, Lebanon. Children are educated about healthy food and there is also a hairdressing course for Syrian girls going on. During a three month period, twice a week, the girls learn how to cut, dye and style hair. I was selected to get a styling, so my hair will be professionally styled under strict supervision of the teacher and the laughter of many girls. I’m touched by the fact that, even though these girls and women are from another country and have gone through so much, we are still very alike. Spending time with them feels like spending time with my friends at home. After the visit, I heard one of the girl had lice (some families live very close to each other and lack proper hygiene) so I felt itchy instantly. It was a false alarm fortunately!

Thursday: Today I visited the Dutch embassy in Beirut. Together with ZOA and World Vision we will discuss the work the Dutch aid organisations are doing.Christel-768x576

Friday: Today is my last day with my Dorcas Lebanon colleagues and they prepared a goodbye lunch for me. I had to decide which falafel was better: the one from Iraq or the one from Lebanon. Earlier this week we decided to start emergency distributions in Aleppo and they are starting today. One of the newspapers in the Netherlands called me because they want to write an article and I’ve been on the phone with colleagues in Aleppo collecting input for it. They are happy with this opportunity and that people are interested to hear what’s happening in Aleppo. In the meanwhile, I’m preparing to travel to the Dorcas office in Iraq.

Saturday: After almost missing my flight (as I had to wait in line for 1.5 hours at customs) I’m on a plane to Iraq, getting weird looks from people, probably because I, a girl from the Netherlands, am traveling alone to Iraq. Fortunately, the person sitting next to me is like a parrot in a cage so I will just assume they are looking at the parrot instead of at me. Three colleagues pick me up (after they jokingly tried to make me believe they were all sick and couldn’t pick me up). The drive from Erbil to Dohuk takes about two hours. The mountains are barren and the heat is intense but this country is incredibly beautiful.

Sunday: This is my first day back in the office in Iraq. The working week here starts on Sunday and ends Thursday. At this time emergency distributions in Aleppo are happening and I’m receiving WhatsApp pictures and videos about what is happening. It is kind of weird to receive pictures from such a war torn place with colleagues laughing and smiling right next to images of completely destroyed buildings. Here in Iraq, my colleagues are playing soccer tonight (in 37 degree heat) but unfortunately women aren’t allowed to join.

Monday: Today I spent most of my time in the office preparing for the Mosul Response Plan. Mosul is currently under IS authority but there are groups preparing to free it. When these fights start, 1.5 million (!) people in Mosul will need humanitarian aid. The UN estimated that around 284 million dollar is going to be needed. Means of communication have been completely shut down by IS and nobody knows what the situation is like and how the people are doing. People fear the worst. We are currently hiring more medical staff, preparing the purchase of emergency items and making safety plans for the staff. Most Dorcas staff members in Iraq are from Mosul and they are counting down the days until the city has been freed.

23 August 2016

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