Yazidi Empowerment Project Opens in Iraq

3rd March 2022

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Samaritan’s Purse welcomes government and religious leaders for the grand opening of a community that will provide work, training, and homes for members of a persecuted minority group.

Samaritan’s Purse celebrated the grand opening of the Yazidi Empowerment Project on March 1 in Northern Iraq.The 43-acre facility lies at the base of the Kurdish mountains and includes housing and greenhouses for 75 families, 35 of whom have recently moved in.

The facility lies at the base of the Kurdish mountains.

The facility lies at the base of the Kurdish mountains.

Their new homes and gardens provide a source of stability and income—a welcome contrast to the last seven years of living in temporary accommodations with no employment since ISIS brutally forced them from their homeland of Sinjar. Many had been relying on charity, since they had few other options.

Program Director Sipan Yazdeen, who is herself a Yazidi, opened the ceremony by welcoming a Christian leader in the Middle East who has worked closely with Samaritan’s Purse. “I don’t want the Yazidis to always be receiving rice and sugar. I want them to work with their hands and live an honorable life,” he said. “I want to let the Yazidis see the love of Christ.”

That vision has become reality. “I had not been here in two years and when I first saw it, I cried,” the leader said.

Helping the Vulnerable

Pshtiwan Sadq Abdullah, minister of endowment and religious affairs for the Kurdistan Regional Government, also spoke at the event and expressed gratitude for the work of Samaritan’s Purse in the region ranging from providing food and housing to water and sanitation.

“They did a great job,” he said. “When we needed their support, Samaritan’s Purse really helped us with the internally displaced people and their needs.”

Each family is provided a greenhouse to help them produce nutritious food.

Each family is provided a greenhouse to help them produce nutritious food.

During the ceremony, Minister Abdullah received the Good Samaritan Award from Samaritan’s Purse. The statue of an outcast helping a man in need, based on the Biblical story from Luke 10, symbolises the care this government leader has shown to the persecuted Yazidi people over the years.

Governor of Duhok, Dr. Ali Tatar, and Yazidi dignitary Faris Kti also spoke at the ceremony and both thanked Samaritan’s Purse for our work on behalf of the vulnerable.

“I thank Samaritan’s Purse for their continual support of our Yazidi people,” Kti said.

A Community with a Purpose

After the ceremony, guests toured the facility. They walked out of the community center, past a playground, and down a beautiful pedestrian thoroughfare lined with lampposts and covered with occasional pergolas overhead.

Brad Hansen, an architectural engineer for the project, explained that this thoroughfare was important for the project because Yazidis often gather in the street at the end of the day to talk with friends and neighbours as they pass by. This public place is important to their community life.

Residents of the Yazidi Empowerment Project will enjoy a new community center.

Residents of the Yazidi Empowerment Project will enjoy a new community center.

Homes line either side of the thoroughfare and face out to side streets. One such home they passed belongs to Khedir* who lives there with his wife, sister, and mother. His home, like all the others, includes a living area, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Outside each is a small yard and a covered car park area that can also double as outdoor living space.

“I am very happy since my arrival to the site,” he said. “I’m really motivated to work in my greenhouses.”

At the end of the thoroughfare, the guests stepped down to an open area that is the future site of the community’s bazaar with a stunning view of the Kurdish countryside. Turning left, they passed another playground and a soccer field before reaching the vast expanse of 150 greenhouses, some of them already budding with sprouts of tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce. Each family is given two of these more than 130-foot-long greenhouses in order to produce food for themselves and to sell at the market.

Building on a Strong Foundation

The Yazidi Empowerment Project, complete with its community center offering classes to adults and children alike, builds on a long and diverse history of relief efforts in this Middle Eastern nation. Samaritan’s Purse began serving the people of Iraq in 1991 when the visionary for the project reached out to the people of Baghdad. Our focus shifted to helping the Yazidi people specifically in 2014 by airdropping metric tons of food and water while they were trapped on Sinjar Mountain and later drilling two wells there.

Matthew Nowery, Samaritan’s Purse Iraq Country Director, and Program Director Sipan Yazdeen.

Matthew Nowery, Samaritan’s Purse Iraq Country Director, and Program Director Sipan Yazdeen.

In 2015, we opened Grace Community Center to serve the needs of entire Yazidi families with classes in carpentry, sewing, computer literacy, and more. That same year, we opened an office in Sinjar to serve families who had started returning to their homeland.

“To date, Samaritan’s Purse—by the grace of God—has been able to serve over 120,000 Yazidis,” said Matthew Nowery, Samaritan’s Purse country director for Iraq. “In the process, we’ve fallen in love with the Yazidis.

“Tragedy brought the Yazidis to the world’s center stage. Now the world can see just how brave and resilient the Yazidis are. Together, we plan to work to bring a bright future and hope to these families.”

Please pray for God’s blessing on the Yazidi Empowerment Project, and especially for successful crops for the families this first year. Pray also for Samaritan’s Purse staff as they serve these families in Jesus’ Name.

*Name changed for security.

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