Sharo and Alexis, along with their family, have lived for the past three 3 years in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq, working to bring hope to communities where the majority of people have been displaced for many years. In this blog article, Alexis shares some of their story, their heart for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth, and what’s next.
Sharo always felt called to return to Iraq. It’s where he’s originally from, having left as a child making the journey that many refugees are doing today, first living in Turkey, and then coming to the UK. I (Lex) am a doctor who grew up in London, where I met Sharo, who is a nurse, and we now have two beautiful children and a puppy! So why are we here now?
A significant moment in shaping our vision was following media coverage of the tragic drowning of the Syrian Kurdish boy Aylan Kurdi in 2015. His family, like many others, had lost hope in a future remaining in their current situation and risked everything to escape. We were shaken, and it really put refugees and Internally Displaced People on our heart. According to the UNHCR, ‘one person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution’. Those forcibly displaced are currently amongst the world’s most vulnerable. We didn’t want families to feel such hopelessness that they would risk their lives trying to escape. Our response was to move to Iraq and start a UK charity ‘Hope for Communities’.
We currently work in a displaced community which seems to have little hope. In honesty, at times it is difficult to walk around without feeling burdened by the pain and despair felt by the community. But we believe there is hope. We began simply by walking around and asking “How can we love your community? What can we do to serve you?”. English classes were most requested as they create opportunities for potential employment. So we started with these, mainly through children’s classes having fun; singing, playing games, drawing. Just think, this will be the only time many of these children will have ever done any of these activities with an adult. When learning about families we made the mistake of teaching the children the song ‘baby shark’, and we then found ourselves having to sing and dance to this song. Every. Single. Week.
We were encouraged visiting the local school to hear how they have noticed an improvement in the English of children attending the centre. We believe this is less about the content of our lessons and more about building confidence through praise. It is sobering to realise you might be the first person to ever tell a child they are amazing… we make sure we do it a lot!
Next we started karate classes, which for some was a strange choice, but martial arts are very popular here and the thing these children dream of being able to do. Given our medical training, next we would love to start some healthcare projects. We want to invest in communities for the long term, bringing lasting change that will really restore hope. At the moment, Hope for Communities isn’t a big charity, it doesn’t have a large team of people to assist with promoting our work and gaining support. But what we do have is a big heart and determination to see lives changed. The more time we spend with this community the more passionate and committed we become to seek out the best we possibly can for them in terms of education, training and health care and all the necessary support designed to enable individuals to generate a sustainable income and be self-sufficient.
Perhaps you are reading this and wondering how you can help? As a new, small charity your support can go a long way in working with us to change lives. Please visit our website by clicking here
to find out more about Hope for Communities. You can also keep updated with what we are doing by liking or following our Facebook Page
. Or, if you’d like to hear more about other aspects of our life in Northern Iraq, we would love to hear from you. Maybe you even share our vision and feel stirred to come and work with us?! Who knows!