Arjan happy with his cow
Arjan is petting his lovely calf in the barn of the house.
Photo credit: Malik Anas.

Hope is born from the womb of suffering

Written by Malik Anas, Livelihoods Assistant

When problems abound and difficulties seem to hound someone, people need something to help them rise again; perhaps a strong family, a close friend, or even a pet. This is what Arjan found when he was younger with his cows when he was a child in his father’s farm.

Arjan is a 31-year-old man. He is married and has three children, two daughters and one son. He is living in one of the towns that is five km away from Tooz district.

Arjan grew up at his parents’ farm, where they still live. From the start, life presented him with challenges as he was unable to walk at all due to disability at birth. But he persevered. His father used to take him on a wheelchair to show him how he was feeding and caring for cows. Arjan’s dream in those days was to move towards them and feed them with his hands. Since those days, Arjan has grown up with the cows which have always made him happy.

Life got even more difficult for Arjan when the conflict started in his area. Bombing of their town began in the middle of the night. With loud explosions coming closer and closer, Arjan and his family were in grave danger. So the family fled in the night, out of town with whatever they could move with them. Arjan didn’t leave the cows behind though, he took them with him and nothing else more.

Arjan says “I still remember how we were worried about our lives, and I was more worried about our cows and how to protect them.  We decided after great fears to get out of the house and take the cows out too.  My brother, Yunus, carried me on his back along the road, moving on foot, rushing towards Tooz, five km away from our town and farm. When we arrived in the morning, we heard that our whole house was burned down.” Arjan’s mother said on that day to Arjan, “I thank God so much that we decided to go out when we did. I can’t imagine what would have happened if we stayed home for another hour.”

While they were lucky to get away with their lives, problems continued for Arjan and his family. Having left their home, they did not find a suitable place for themselves and the cows in Tooz so they moved again. They also did not have enough money to feed the cows so the cows began to get sick and died.

Arjan's psychological state drastically deteriorated then and he subsequently became ill, not leaving bed for more than fifteen days. After doing some lab tests, Arjan had to undergo an urgent surgery outside Iraq on his spine to prevent further deterioration to his mobility. The surgery was very expensive for the family who had lost everything. The family sold off the remaining cows to collect money, as well as get donations from the people of the region to afford the procedure. They also borrowed money and fell into debt to make up the balance to pay for the surgery. His sister in law said “A lot of days passed and we could only eat one meal during a whole day.”

Nevertheless, His uncle took him to India where he stayed for more than fifteen days to get the treatment he needed. And after they brought him back, Arjan remained immobile for more than twenty days.  Arjan shared “I feel that I am one of the reasons for the loss of our only source of livelihood and the reason for selling the cows that accompanied us throughout our lives.”

This feeling was the reason he worked hard to recover so he could do something about helping his family rebuild and recover their livestock and their farm. With the passage of time, Arjan was able to walk again

When the conflict ended, the family returned to their village after more than five years of suffering, disease and poverty to their burned down home. Arjan, his wife, his brother and his parents started cleaning the house and restored it step by step. Arjan restored and cleaned the cow barn by himself. He said “I believed that I would find an opportunity to bring our cows back again.”

So he left his information with the mayor of their town in case that there was an opportunity from civil society organizations to help him achieve his only goal.

At this time, World Vision Iraq in partnership with UNDP Iraq and with funding from by BMZ and KFW was implementing a Sustainable Livelihoods and Economic Recovery Project. The project helped more than 840 beneficiaries in Tooz in general and more than 50 beneficiaries from Arjan’s town specifically.

Arjan was able to participate in business management training courses. During these courses, Arjan always came early for lectures throughout the course, and was one of the most interactive members with the coaches. Excited to take advantage of this opportunity and achieve his dream

After that, Arjan received the financial grant from the Sustainable Livelihoods project, he went directly to buy a cow with her calf and took it to the barn of their farm to restore what was lost.

Now Arjan is the one who takes care of these cows and feeds them himself.  When the cow started producing milk, he was able to sell its products to the people of his town.

He works very hard to provide a suitable environment for the multiplication of the number of cows and return to their production to where it was before they lost everything. He rented some land next to their farm and planted some wheat to help him feed the cows to minimize costs and ensure less dependence on the market where crop availability and price varies.

“Now Arjan and his wife are looking for a new home, they have high ambitions.” Said Arjan’s mother, smiling. She continued “Arjan completed my ambition and I know he will not stop at a new home.”