Many Christians around the world celebrate the Feast of the Assumption today and it’s also the two-year anniversary of when we first started receiving funds to help the people of Ankawa.
We thought we would take a quick look back at what’s happened.
Two years ago, thousands of families from Qaraqosh in Northern Iraq had fled the advancing forces of Da’esh and the fall of Mosul. Overnight, 800 of them took refuge in the churchyard of Mar Elia. Having arrived with nothing, thanks to the efforts of their untiring and charismatic parish priest, Fr Douglas Bazi, they were quickly provided with tents, food and basic sanitation.
This is where you came in – all our donors who quickly gave generously in support of this emergency. We were able to help contribute to the food, fuel and basic needs as well as equipping the camp with refrigerators. However, the outlook for this new community looked desperate.
Over the last two years, much has changed. The tents have gone, cabins have been set up for each family, and a small school and library have been established.
The Ankawa Foundation has continued to help in whatever small way we can. We have delivered 2 tonnes of winter clothing to help the families facing the icy nights with no heating. We have supplied artists’ materials for the children and supported the Rise Foundation in their Castle Art project. We bought a volleyball net and some soft toys for the children. We have recently delivered a 15 seater minibus which provides a flexible, cheap source of transport for the community, helping them to access resources and move materials between centres and around the town.
Our support has only been possible thanks to the efforts of our friends in the UK and abroad. Over the last two years, we have been grateful for the fundraising work led by Holy Trinity, Sloane Square, and in particular the interest and engagement of the children and staff of the Holy Trinity Primary School. Radley College has been the source of vast amounts of winter clothing, helped by Warwick School and Third Southgate Scouts. Gonville Consort, Joanna Marie Skillet and Ian Beadle all gave fabulous concerts to raise funds. Clare College Cambridge, Radley, Shrewsbury School and a huge range of individuals all gave generously to support the minibus project.
If you visit the Mar Elia Churchyard now, the settlement has taken on a sense of permanence. Fr Douglas has been moved to New Zealand by his bishop for a rest, there are regular classes in the little primary school and the children are busy in the evenings with clubs and activities.
This masks greater dangers, however. There is mass unemployment; severe shortages remain; families are desperate to leave and most still have nothing in the way of personal possessions or longterm security. The UN calculates that the average displaced person spends an average of 17 years before finding a permanent home. The battle to retake Mosul is looming, 50 miles down the road, and with that the prospect of what the UN has turned “the biggest, most sensitive humanitarian crisis in the world.” The future, then, for the people of the Mar Elia Camp, remains bleak.
Over the next few months, we will be working to identify how best we can continue to help the people of Ankawa. In the short term, we will be looking to provide support for the church’s newly established Trauma Centre, which works with those who have been mentally scarred by the events of the last years. This includes women raped by Da’esh fighters and their families. For them, the past remains all too present.
On this feast day, please remember in your prayers and thoughts, the displaced peoples of Ankawa. If you would like to help us to continue to offer solidarity and material aid, we would be very pleased to hear from you.