Amid the horror and chaos of the Iraq War, a citizen could not stand helpless watching families and children seek shelter in his hometown after being forced to leave their homes.
Seeing how the war has brought families to the streets of his hometown Samarra in search for shelter and safety, Iraqi Ali Farhan hurried to establish “Reception center for IDPs in Samarra,” a one-stop center that shelters, protects and supports displaced families from the ongoing violence.
The center empowers displaced people with basic necessities including food, clothes, medical services and education, enabling them to lead decent lives with their children until it is time to go home.
Farhan said he made the move when centers nearby could no longer accommodate the rising number of refugees and internally displaced people feeling war-torn cities.
“With the support of volunteers, we established the center, through which we coordinated distribution of donations with local and international organizations and monitored number of families in dire need for help,” said Farhan.
The Iraq War has left approximately 1.8 million people internally displaced and 6.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Insecurity, lack of social cohesion and livelihoods, and destroyed or damaged housing hamper people's ability to return home.
Besides providing urgent relief items, clean food, water and clothes to visitors, the center offers medical services, with a special focus on people of determination. They held vaccination drives and provided medicines, wheelchairs, as well as prosthetics to those impacted by war’s violence.
It also funds the education of displaced students in the University of Samarra and supports student enrollment in schools in town.
In collaboration with economic and social activities in the city, the center helped provide job opportunities to hundreds of families to integrate them in society.
Volunteers at the center also organize comprehensive skills workshops and vocational training to prepare the youth for future work opportunities and improve their career prospects. Workshops were held to support small enterprises to empower young people gain their own income.
Since its inception in 2014, the center has collected over two billion Iraqi Dinar, supporting over 800,000 people through over 60 projects across the country. Over 34,000 volunteering hours were dedicated to support and serve those displaced by the war.
The center also organizes seasonal campaigns to collect school bags, books and uniforms to students and donation drives to supply families with summer and winter clothes. During Ramadan last year, the center provided Ramadan food baskets to about 780 people in need and Eid clothes to over 450 families.
Farhan said the center helped unite all segments of Iraqi society towards helping others regardless of background differences.
He added that the next step is to provide psychiatric services and rehabilitation to help war-affected children heal from traumas and loss. He also looks to expand developmental projects to help families achieve full independence whether in Samarra or elsewhere.