It’s 45 degrees in Dohuk and the heat is difficult to describe. It sucks the life out of you, making it almost impossible to move.
I asked the driver to drop me off before reaching Garmawa camp, in an area where children were playing in the sun. Soon they were crowding around me, obviously interested in my camera.
These scorching extremes are the everyday reality for the 200 families at this camp, who have fled the sectarian violence in Mosul and have come north to safety in Iraqi Kurdistan. The children have left behind their toys, clothing and everything that is familiar to them.
UNICEF is responding to the needs of these children; opening corridors to reach them everywhere possible. We are working to provide life-saving interventions like access to water, immunization, safe places to play; until they can be home and in school, with their families and friends, once again.
I started talking with the kids and almost forgot about the heat when we played soccer together, but I couldn’t match their energy.
Fifteen minutes passed and still I had hardly met any adults. I wasn’t surprised, it was noon and everyone was hiding. Some men and women were peeking out from their tents, which provide scant protection from the extreme temperatures.
Guided by the children, we threaded our way between the tents. That’s when I met Doua’a, a 15 year old who wasn’t playing with the other children, but wasn’t staying inside either. She was curious to know who I was, and what I was doing, but was too shy to talk about herself. I asked, “What are your dreams?” and could sense that she was surprised by my question.
After a long pause, I asked her if she understood my question. She said:
“Of course I understand the meaning of dreams, but it’s been so long since I thought of my dreams. When I was in Mosul, I quit school at the fifth grade. Back then I dreamed of returning to school, but now after I lost my home and friends and almost everything, I just hope. I don’t dream anymore, I quit dreaming. I hope my three sisters and four brothers stay safe. I am the eldest and I can feel the pain my parents went through.”
I was touched by her words. “If you were to dream again, Doua’a, what would your dream be?”
She shyly smiled and said: “If I were to dare to dream again, my only dream would be to get back home safe with my family.”
Her words left me speechless.
All I could promise was to share her story. I’ll visit her soon so she can see how many people read and shared her story and heard her very simple, heartbreaking request. Maybe when I show her this – when she sees that she is not alone and that others also want for her what she wants – she will not only hope, but start dreaming again.
Philip Hazou is a communications specialist working for UNICEF Iraq for the last 2 years.