In the dusty desert near Dohuk, Northern Iraq, an oasis for refugees has sprung from nowhere, starting in the unlikely form of a shipping container. The nearby refugee camp is home to over 1,000 families from ethnic minorities. These families have trekked through mountains to escape the horrors of genocidal violence. Nobody could be more in need of a place of peace, regeneration and healing, and our partners sought to help them build one.

We have worked with these partners since 2017 to ship medical goods to Northern Iraq for distribution to clinics and refugee families. People living with injuries and illnesses have received brand new wheelchairs and walkers. We have sent hospital beds that are expected to serve around 7,000 people a year. In total, the shipment allowed them to equip five different medical centres serving refugees and displaced people.

After one set of goods was unloaded, they asked themselves what to do with the container that brought them. “Instead of letting it go to waste in the desert of Iraq, or simply it for storage, we found a better purpose,” they said. Local staff worked to transform the container into a medical clinic with a pharmacy on one side and consulting room on the other (pictured below). The oasis had begun.

 

That oasis grew. Soon, their plans included a community garden in front of the clinic, and a soccer field where young people from the camp can play. Looking ahead, they are planning a fully equipped gym, which will help the entire centre to become a focal point for the refugee community. Their aim is that, through this oasis, they can help alleviate something of the tension which leads to youth depression and even suicide. “Our hope is that all who come and go through the refugee camp will not only find physical healing and recovery, but mental and emotional healing too,” they said. “After being forced to flee their homes, in the wake of ISIS, then having to cram into a refugee camp with thousands of other displaced families, these people are not willing to let their adversity win.”

 

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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The people in Marie’s* region knew the soldiers would come – it was only a matter of time. They had heard stories of nearby villages burned to the ground in their part of Cameroon, but when the soldiers finally reached their own town, the pain was unspeakable. The attackers killed both of Marie’s parents, and she – a young teenager – fled in terror to the bush. There, Marie had no shelter from rain or sun, no medical care, little by way of food to be found. They lived alongside others who had escaped with their lives but, sadly, it wasn’t the safe haven she needed. She was raped and assaulted repeatedly, leading to the birth of two young children. As a new mother, she desperately wanted a home, with food and security for her little ones, but fear of life in her own village made return impossible. Marie made her way out of the bush with her baby and her toddler, to seek help. Her search brought her to the doorstep of a children’s home, run by our partners in Cameroon. Upon arrival, the small, traumatised family (pictured above right) hadn’t eaten for many days, and they had no clothes at all. It took days, they said, before Marie could manage to eat again, but, with their care and expertise, the home managed to give the relative safety she and her little ones so desperately needed.

The current conflict in Cameroon has hardly made it on the current world news radar, as is true of so many tragedies in our scarred world today. It’s been made very real to us here, though, because we are hearing from a stream of partners there with a cry for help. In the past, they’ve needed help with poverty alleviation and rural need, something we did often. Now, though, they write about war: displaced people, the need for clothing for people hiding in the bush, and the pressure of conflict seeing the NGOs we partner with having to pack their belongings to escape to safer towns, as illustrated in the picture above, sent by Marie’s group. “Many of our people are dying here,” they told us. Other photos they included with their application were some of the most graphic and tragic that we’ve received.

In 2007, we first shipped to this particular group with goods that helped set up a vocational training centre, seeing hundreds of youth trained in employable skills. This summer, with the help of volunteers from a financial consulting company, we loaded a shipment of goods (pictured below) for this group that will help not just projects for longer-term survival, but also the likes of ‘Marie’s who are desperate for immediate care: families whose homes have been burned, and displaced people living in the bush.

*Not her real name

 

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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In the massive global discussion surrounding refugees, one desperate reality seems rarely mentioned. While much is made of the movement of refugees in places such as Western Europe and the UK, a far higher proportion is being absorbed by fragile states and under-resourced nations. One of the largest camps in the world this year, for example, is housing South Sudanese refugees in Northern Uganda: a region where people, at the grassroots, were already struggling.

Not so long ago, that part of Uganda endured a 20 year civil war which left the area devastated. Education and medical provision are extremely weak. Jobs are few and far between, with some areas citing formal employment as low as 1%. Sheer, unmittigating poverty holds this area in its grip. With what, then, are they to absorb the constant stream of refugees pouring over their border?


NUTRITION: A simple meal of corn flour and water is the staple for many. It offers very limited nutrition

WOMEN & CHILDREN: The refugees in Northern Uganda are largely women and children. The men have either been killed in the conflict, or are still in South Sudan caught up in the fighting

 

MEDICAL CARE: The life of this little child is at risk because of malaria. Medication is available in these area, but is not accessible for these refugees.

HUNGER: The food provided for refugees, monthly, lasts for only two of the four weeks. They also grow what they can, but their plots of land are small and they cant manage on the yielded crops. Malnutrition remains high.

 

SHELTER is a major challenge as the number of refugees continues to increase.

FUEL: Firewood sounds like a simple enough requirement, but it comes at a cost to both the refugees and the Ugandan residents whose own supplies are limited.

FUTURE? There is hope in this little refugees cheeky face, but one has to wonder what future life holds for him.


Malcolm Begbie, Crossroads’ Co-founder and Director, along with Crossroads’ Global Village UK Manager, Natalya Kan, visited Northern Uganda, this year, where we had sent 2 x 40’ containers to support refugees in need.

Malcolm Begbie visits a school project

Natalya Kan with community leader, Katherine Okello


SOLAR LIGHTS Crossroads partnered with solar company, d.light, to give solar lights to refugees in this area.

 

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds. We are growing.”

Drop Earrings, Not Bombs

 

The memory of bombs and gunfire still echoes loudly among the 3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. All refugees feel dis-empowered when forced from home, but none more so than women who come from a culture where they are often not allowed to work.

One group of refugee women has taken matters into their own hands. It is the first time some of them have ever had paid employment, and they have created a workshop to make drop earrings from wire and brightly coloured thread. We love their brand name: “Drop Earrings, Not Bombs”. It’s a heart-cry for peace, from some of those affected most deeply by the brutality of war. Their workshop is so much more than a place to earn income. It is itself a refuge: a place where they share their stories and encourage each other through their ongoing hardship. Their income is making a real difference to their families, covering, as they put it, “the monthly grocery expenses of a Syrian family here.” This way, women don’t have to ask for money from anyone when they’re shopping for food. As their Social Media powerfully puts it, “they tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds. We are growing.”

You can purchase the beautiful jewellery from Drop Earrings, Not Bombs at our Global Handicrafts shop at Crossroads Village.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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It’s a large courtyard, filled with people, like any other marketplace you might find in towns across the world. Colourful flags are strung around, and little stalls hold boxes of clothing and household goods. Yet, stepping into this marketplace in Haifa, Israel, it’s suddenly clear that this one is special.

In the left corner is a stand with a woman busy writing down names and contact details of half a dozen other people standing around her. There’s a positive atmosphere in the courtyard. In the back is a huge pile of furniture, all from Crossroads, all waiting for new homes. Looking around at the people browsing the goods, it’s suddenly clear what makes this ‘marketplace’ different: no money is changing hands. The ‘customers’ looking at the goods are refugees and others in need who have found themselves in desperate circumstances in Israel.

Between 1989 and 2006, almost a million people emigrated from the former Soviet Union to Israel, escaping violent conflicts and collapsed economies. For a nation with only 4.5 million at that time, it was a huge influx of people. In recent decades, Crossroads has helped supply NGOs like the one running  this  distribution ‘marketplace’ in Haifa. We’ve shipped more than 20 containers of goods to support refugees and new immigrants start life afresh in a place of safety.

Most recently, 2014 saw a new wave of immigrants from the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, many of whom have sought help from this distribution centre. “I had families here, the last year, who came with war visible in their eyes,” said Victor, the centre’s director, who was a refugee himself from the former Soviet Union. “They didn’t have food, they didn’t have a house to stay in. They had absolutely no idea where to go. They didn’t even have official status in Israel because that takes some time. In the meantime, they were just wandering through the streets – mothers, fathers and children, all together. They don’t speak the language and they don’t know Israeli culture, so these people need a lot of help getting through these first weeks here.”

The government helps these new arrivals with accommodation, but often the homes are bare. Furniture from Crossroads, given out through this distribution centre, has helped many such refugees move from having nothing, sleeping on the floor, to having a real home for their family.

“It happens all the time that they come to me and ask why we are helping them and why we are being so nice,” reflects Victor. “I always explain that I was not different than they were, and have been going through the same process as they are now. It’s my vision to offer them the same chance as I had: to start a new future here. Not in war, but in peace.”

Outside, in the marketplace, an elderly lady is leaving with some pieces of clothing and a smile on her face. No strings attached and no bill to pay. This is not a place to pay money for clothes, but a place to receive love and the chance to start a new life.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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read more ...

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read more ...

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It was the end of an era when Hong Kong’s beloved Excelsior shut down in early 2019. As their doors closed,...

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As refugee families battle for survival with the ongoing conflict in Syria, education is one of the greatest casualties. While living in Syria, prior to the fighting, many refugees had professional careers and their children looked forward to the same. Now, however, gifted young people watch their career aspirations fade as education moves beyond their reach. The Basmeh and Zeitooneh’s Women’s Workshop in Shatila refugee camp trains 120 Palestinian and Syrian refugee women in embroidery and in crochet, allowing them an opportunity to sell their production and earn an income with dignity. This is allowing mothers to put their children in school. We are selling their embroidery in our marketplace. Every piece helps another woman and, very often, another child.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

HELPING LIGHT THE DARKNESS

The BBC calls if ‘the worst refugee camp on earth’. A camp on the far-flung island of Lesvos, Greece, seen by...

read more ...

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The quantity was astonishing: 7,000 brand new toys, donated through our Global Hand service by a leading toy manufacturer. NGOs across...

read more ...

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It was the end of an era when Hong Kong’s beloved Excelsior shut down in early 2019. As their doors closed,...

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Helping equip Ukrainian maternity facility

"Finally, the repair of our maternity hospital is finished," wrote our colleagues in the Ukraine. "Your beds are in refurbished rooms...

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Education and medical care

Somalia is ranked 161 out 163 in the list of poorest countries in the world. The war, already raging for 20 years, has fuelled a huge stream of approximately one million refugees living both in Somalia and in neighbouring nations. Many fled to countries in Europe, America and Asia. The remaining 10 million are left with huge challenges. 3 million people face drought and shortages of water, food, clothing, education, medicines and much more every day. Crossroads partner NGO, already working in the area since 1992, tries to be a beacon of hope in the midst of despair.

Potential impact:

  • Crossroads’ shipment will help save the lives of vulnerable people who are in desperate needs for proper medical services.
  • The shipment will contribute in giving education to a generation of children who have lived in a war environment for their whole lives.

Shipment includes:

  • Medical equipment
  • Computers, school tables, desks and benches
A88

Students at school helped by Crossroads’ partners.

“We are deeply thankful for this nice and well equipped school at our village” says Mr Ahmed.

A53Mr Ahmed’s children can now go to school, thanks to the work of our partners. “Eight of my children, 5 daughters and 2 sons along with other children from the village are currently benefiting from this school, studying Basic Primary Education Subjects. They can now write and read, getting rid of the ignorance they were living in. It is doubtless that we, the parents are pleased with the good performance of our children at the school. Without this noble assistance, they would have lived in a dark world forever”.

 

Crossroads shipment will help children like Mr Ahmed’s go to school.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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Somalia Snapshot

Population: around 10 million
Capital: Mogadishu

Population living on less than US$2 per day: 73%; 43% is living on less than US$1 per day

Life expectancy in Somalia is 54.7 years

Less than 20% of the children in Somalia have attended primary school. For girls, the number is 15%.

Most of Somalia`s factory`s have been destroyed during the war. Unemployment is estimated to be over 50%

Gender-based violence and discrimination against Somali women is widespread.

A56

“I can now afford to educate my son who is physically challenged. By buying my products you have changed my life, and my family’s, positively.” Refugee craftsman, Mikono Crafts, Kenya

Every good father longs to give his son a safe, fulfilling future. But for the Dads amongst Nairobi’s estimated 100,000 refugees, it’s not something they can always offer. Some of these refugees escaped wars in Somalia, Rwanda and DR Congo. Others fled starvation during the East African famine. Each of them hopes their children will have a more secure future than what they have fled.

Starting a new life from scratch, though, can be almost as traumatic as what they have left behind. Mikono Crafts exists to help refugees in Nairobi – many of whom are living in slums – learn new skills, or use the skills they have, to earn an income and become self-sustaining.

Global Handicrafts sells several products made by refugees working with Mikono, including wooden carvings, adorable soft dolls and our popular banana fibre nativity sets.

See videos about their work here.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

HELPING LIGHT THE DARKNESS

The BBC calls if ‘the worst refugee camp on earth’. A camp on the far-flung island of Lesvos, Greece, seen by...

read more ...

7,000 brand new toys for Christmas

The quantity was astonishing: 7,000 brand new toys, donated through our Global Hand service by a leading toy manufacturer. NGOs across...

read more ...

Excelsior Hotel close equips HK social enterprise

It was the end of an era when Hong Kong’s beloved Excelsior shut down in early 2019. As their doors closed,...

read more ...

Helping equip Ukrainian maternity facility

"Finally, the repair of our maternity hospital is finished," wrote our colleagues in the Ukraine. "Your beds are in refurbished rooms...

read more ...

For decades, refugees from around northern Africa have fled to Egypt to escape horrors like persecution, rape and genocide, yet they find that life in their new home is still a struggle. Finding safe, fair employment can be almost impossible.

For Sudanese refugees, the situation is particularly dire. 75% of the Sudanese refugee community in Cairo is trying to survive on less than $1 a day. Finding a proper job, with fair conditions and a decent wage, is almost impossible.

Tukul-teatowelAlmost 30 years ago, a small group of displaced Sudanese people in Cairo were battling this same problem, so they started a little workshop to make some means of living.

They began with beadwork and printing t-shirts with simple stencils. After a while, they introduced basket weaving. They named the project “Tukul”, which means “small hut”.

Today an established social enterprise, Tukul produces and exports a large range of beautiful, vibrant products that reflect the style of the refugees’ home nations. Global Handicrafts sells several of the Tukul range, including their gorgeous tea towels, perfect for your Fair Trade kitchen!

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

HELPING LIGHT THE DARKNESS

The BBC calls if ‘the worst refugee camp on earth’. A camp on the far-flung island of Lesvos, Greece, seen by...

read more ...

7,000 brand new toys for Christmas

The quantity was astonishing: 7,000 brand new toys, donated through our Global Hand service by a leading toy manufacturer. NGOs across...

read more ...

Excelsior Hotel close equips HK social enterprise

It was the end of an era when Hong Kong’s beloved Excelsior shut down in early 2019. As their doors closed,...

read more ...

Helping equip Ukrainian maternity facility

"Finally, the repair of our maternity hospital is finished," wrote our colleagues in the Ukraine. "Your beds are in refurbished rooms...

read more ...