Mays while sewing in her home.  Aveen Hussein Ali, © World Vision 2022.
Mays while sewing in her home. Aveen Hussein Ali, © World Vision 2022.

A glimpse of hope

Living in poverty is difficult. It makes life’s problems even more cumbersome. But for Mays*, poverty has already been real. Her parents were poor too. But they were proud. Her mother practiced patience and her father never allowed his children to extend their hands in supplication to others. He taught his children to be thankful for what they already have.

Mays has lived on those morals and so she has been able to face poverty and live patiently for many years. Mays comes from a family of nine members.

Early in her life, Mays and her family lived in a relative’s house and shared space with the relative as they didn’t have a house of their own. Mays remembers those days very fondly as one of the happiest memories of childhood to have shared space and time with her relatives. She used to enjoy herself playing with her cousins.

In those days, Mays’s father was a teacher but he was also doing a side work to make ends meet for his family. During those days he was making wooden chairs and selling them in the market. Mays and the rest of the family members were aiding the father. When Mays reached the third year of high school, her eldest sister got married and she had to drop out of school to help her mother with house chores. In few years, she also got married.

But as a determined woman, one whose father taught her the importance of education despite their difficult circumstances, she told her future husband that she wanted to complete her baccalaureate and do a final external exam.

During those days, her father told her that if she needed money to enter the exam, he would sell his jacket to make it possible for Mays to pay for the exam fees and go every day to the exam centre. These words of sacrifice by her father resonates well until today in her memory. She often very tenderly remembers those days of the exam. She bought books, studied on her own and received some help for some subjects she struggled with from her father and her brothers. Mays didn’t want to be left without a certificate. Her youngest sisters were completing their education and she didn’t want to be any inferior academically. Today, she is so proud of what she has done.

Today her dream is also to complete college one day. However, in her marriage life, the financial situation has never been good. Her husband works in a car repair business and their income depends on if there is a client that day or not. She recalls that there were days were they didn’t have enough food on the table. However, living on the morals of her parents that of patience and the value of soberness helped her in those days. She never wanted to ask her husband for more. She knew he would do all he that could within his capacity for the family. But as the children have grown older, their demands have increased also. Mays’s parental family knows about her financial difficulty and they also help her when she is in need.

Recently, Mays was part of Savings Group of a Safe Return Project that World Vision Iraq implements on behalf of the Australian Government. Through the savings she received, she was able to buy a sewing machine. Although the machine she bought doesn’t allow her to make a business yet, but it is good for her to practice sewing at the moment for her family and to practice her hands on. Mays shared, “I sew what I have in home for the family. I try to enter the sewing sector so I get a better machine and sew for people.” She continued on her participation in the project, “We also had psychological support and I benefitted a lot from it. We talked about our problems. This changes someone’s psychology and improves it. Many women who participated liked the therapy part.” Mays believes that now there is a glimpse of hope in life. She shared, “Honestly before the program, I didn’t have so much hope in the world. But after participating, my situation changed a bit.”

Today what puts a smile on Mays’s face is to see her children succeeding in school. Through the Safe Returns Project, 577 beneficiaries participated in Saving Group Activity. Of these there were 232 males and 345 females. The Participants were from three locations: 199 of them from East Mosul, 219 from West Mosul, and 159 from Hamdaniya District. Beneficiaries were divided into 42 groups and each group had ten to twenty persons participating in saving activity.

The participants like Mays were trained by World Vision Iraq team on life expense management, saving in convenient ways, and requesting loans and repaying them. Some groups managed to save up to 2,000,000 IQD ($1,369 USD). The participants used the loans for opening small businesses, returning their debts, paying medical non-planned expenses, and paying for their children’s school requirements. Of the Group Problem Management Plus (Group PM+), an evidence-based psychosocial support that aimed to improve the well-being and resiliency of the participants through teaching different psychological strategies to manage practical and emotional problems, participants were divided into groups of eight to twelve persons, and each groups received five sessions (one per week). A total of 656 (307 Males, 349 Female) beneficiaries participated in the Group PM+ sessions. Participants were from different locations: 374 from Hamdaniyah district, 149 from East Mosul and 133 West Mosul.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity.