Hannah Hamrick is the Samaritan’s Purse Child Protection Program Manager in northern Iraq. Recently she helped celebrate the women’s sewing class graduation.
The rain fell steadily, and the wind blew. The camp seemed deserted except for the brave little souls tottering around the playground.
Dozens of muddy boots were carelessly piled outside the tent, all of the partygoers having arrived hours early to help with the preparation. Mischievous young boys darted around, each tasked with blowing up balloons for decoration, though somehow managing to pop them at a much faster rate than blowing them up. Colorful banners were put in place, and the cake arrived.
A community of Syrian refugees at Arbat Camp in northern Iraq was gathering to celebrate the graduation of 15 women from the Samaritan’s Purse sewing project. Each woman has participated in a six-month training and livelihood course. The project provided an opportunity for income generation for their families and a place for the women to gather together.
A beautiful community of friends has taken shape. Many days, the center was filled with far more laughter and chatter than actual garment production. The women have sewn clothes for every woman and child in the camp, as well as for other camps in the region. And today, we gathered to celebrate these achievements and to honor them for their service to the community.
The seamstresses arrived one by one in their finery – ornate dresses, colorful scarves, and striking makeup. The ceremony was lively. The art class from the camp school performed songs and traditional dances. Representatives from the camp’s refugee council, the UN, the mayor’s office, and other organizations gave speeches, congratulating the women. Each seamstress received a certificate to honor her contribution to the community. Her face beamed with pride.
The disruptions were continuous: the wind howled outside; children cried and darted to and fro across the tent; the power cut on and off; mud covered the floor. But the day was just as it should be. After the ceremony, we danced away the afternoon with laughter presiding. It was a day filled with unparalleled merriment and joy.
I looked around, amazed at the capacity for joy that exists within each of us and the reflection of our Father in heaven that I recognized so clearly in the faces of those around me. It was suffering and loss that created this small community within the confines of a barbed wire fence. If you took but a glance perhaps you might only see disorderly rows of endless white tents and the inhabitants plodding through another day of an existence they didn’t choose.
But it is days like today that we see the Father’s goodness, His creativity, His joy. We celebrated in the midst of chaos and disorder, knowing that this place, this community is not forgotten. Our Father sees, and he exists in the midst of it all.
In this we hope and take great joy.