Volunteers of Handicap International in Domiz camp in Iraqi Kurdistan
Volunteers of Handicap International in Domiz camp in Iraqi Kurdistan.

We make the voices of the most vulnerable heard

In 2015, at the Domiz camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, 16 refugees were actively involved in the implementation of mutual help and awareness-raising activities. The beneficiaries: disabled and injured people who fled conflict zones and found refuge in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. They travelled the camps and host communities to make the voices of people with disabilities heard.

Sefadin, Leyla, Youssef and Zahra came from Syria, fleeing the combats in their country and finding refuge in the Domiz camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. All four have volunteered to support families of refugees with disabilities. They ran mutual help sessions about the isolation of people with disabilities who are at risk of being cut off from the humanitarian aid available in the camp.

This was a crucial issue for Zahra:

Because of their disability, some people find themselves isolated and not sufficiently considered by the camp officials when setting up support services, especially those with reduced mobility. With winter approaching, those living in tents may not have the means to protect themselves from the cold. We must ensure that their voices are heard and that they receive the necessary assistance, just like others. "

The purpose of the mutual help sessions was to allow families to discuss the difficulties they face and to find solutions together to improve the lives of people with disabilities in the camp.

"Our goal is for the participants to be actors in their own development, to find solutions that come from themselves. These sessions also allow them to build networks: participants frequently exchange their phone numbers and keep in touch outside the activities organized by the volunteers," said Haidar Hawler, former volunteer of Handicap International.

Sefadin, Youssef, Leyla and Zahra were all motivated by the desire to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable.

"Assisting in helping others is what counts for me," says Youssef. Leyla, meanwhile, wanted to be present for people in need.

Before I had to leave Syria, I was a nurse in a children's hospital for 13 years. I will do everything I can to continue to be there for the children of my country.

While there was still much to be done, Leyla was "already seeing progress through these mutual help sessions and through raising awareness about the needs of people with disabilities. They must no longer be forgotten by the camp. We must continue our efforts, and not give up,” she concluded energetically.

This story was orginally published on 10 December 2015.

This story is published as part of the campaign for International Volunteer Day 2017: Volunteers Act First. Here. Everywhere.