Refugees in Germany have developed an initiative that provides donations to internally displaced persons in Northern Iraq. These refugees are working alongside Germans to provide for the needy in the Middle East.
Haza works as a volunteer teaching German to refugees who are not yet entitled to get integration courses. "I managed to convince the Carnitas organization in Straelen to give German courses to refugees who can't yet participate in integration courses ,and thus began teaching them myself. I want them to reach a sufficient level in order to pass the beginner German proficiency tests," she told DW.
Haza Saleh is herself originally a refugee from Kirkuk in Northern Iraq. She now lives with her two sisters, after both her parents died in Iraq, and was forced to leave the country. She can't forget the war and suffering that those at home are facing. She remembers in particular the displacement of thousands of people from the city of Mosul to Kirkuk and Iraqi Kurdistan.
"I was forced to leave Iraq and immigrate to Germany in December 2015. During my trek, I faced a harsh winter as I passed through Greece, Serbia and Macedonia along the Balkan route. We didn't have much to cover ourselves from the cold, but some humanitarian organizations distributed warm clothes.” said Haza. She also said that many of those displaced in Iraq these days face similar circumstances.
"We were shivering constantly due to the cold, and began to get numb as we walked long distances. It's hard for me to think about the refugees who are are in the situation as I was without doing anything to alleviate their suffering,” she added
In addition to teaching German lessons to refugees and providing counseling, Haza is raising money for the displaced Iraqis who fled from Mosul.
It all began when Haza began explaining to her teacher Manfred Feldmann about the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and the number of displaced people in camps. She explained that she wanted to help them and they then turned to the "Friedensbrücke" or "Peace bridge" charity organization in the German city of Geldern. They soon started collecting donations and items such as warm clothes to send to the Iraqis who are in camps.
"We are certainly not the only ones who do volunteer work to help refugees all over the world, but we are currently the only ones in this city. We send donations of winter clothing and other items to displaced people in Iraq,” Feldmann told DW.
The clothes and other items are distributed personally by an Iraqi volunteer to those in the camps. "This is to ensure that our donations reach the camps. We then purchase warm blankets with the rest of the money left over,” he said.
Haza began going around the city of Geldern to give talks to Germans about the situation in Iraq. "I gave seminars to a number of schools and organizations on the situation of displaced people in Iraq through pictures and videos. I also provided statistics on the crisis from the United Nations,” she said.
As a result of these seminars, she was able to collect over one ton of clothing and 1,000 euros, which was used partiallly to fund the transport of the material and partially to buy blankets for 850 families.
Other refugee volunteers
Haza isn't the only refugee working on this project, as there are four other refugees who are involved. Three of them are from Iraq and one is from Syria.
Qutayba, a Syrian refugee, is one of those who volunteered his time working with Haza on the project. "I joined Haza's team after studying German together. I'm now happy to be working on this project for internally displaced persons in Iraq. I used to work with relief organizations in Syria,” he told DW.
Qutayba claims that his motivation to be involved in the project does not come from religion or any other reason. It comes from a desire to help others and provide aid to those in need. He's distraught because he can't help the displaced people back home in Syria. "The current circumstances mean that it's difficult to send aid to the displaced in Syria. But that doesn't mean I can't help those displaced elsewhere,” he explained.
Mr. Feldmann also stated that this organization has had other volunteer projects in Sri Lanka and Romania over the years.
"Working with these refugees on this project is a wonderful thing,” said Mr. Feldmann. "They understand that they have a duty to help others who have been put through the same circumstances they have endured. They now live in a safe country, while those still stuck in Iraq often lack the basic necessities of life," he continued.
Qutayba expressed that the volunteer work comes naturally to him, especially after he endured the harsh conditions in his home country of Syria.