At the Jiyan Foundation, we believe that art is a fundamental facet of life. Through art we can share our stories, explore our inner emotions, and express feelings that we cannot put into words. Similar to a therapeutic undertaking, the artistic process is one of self-expression and exploration. Combining art and therapy can allow trauma survivors a culturally sensitive way to process difficult experiences and help them to look towards the future. That is why the Jiyan Foundation works diligently to promote art and artistic endeavors in all aspects of our work.
On April 12, Tanja Gönner of the German Society for International Cooperation, Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller and Salah Ahmad of the Jiyan Foundation discussed the situation of refugees in the neighbouring countries of Syria. The event took place at the “Der Tagesspiegel”, a German newspaper.
Millions of women, men, and children in Iraq live under a reign of tyranny imposed by the so-called Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as ISIS. Those who oppose its inhuman ideology of hate face torture and public execution. Women and girls are abducted and raped; children are enslaved and forced to join the terrorists' assault.
The fate of the Yazidi women has dominated the headlines of the international media for months. The atrocities they have been subjected to and continue to suffer are hard to believe. Yazidi women and girls have been held captive, enslaved and systematically raped by fighters of the terror organization "Islamic State". Their ordeals have aroused great public interest, with the consequence that selected individuals are now being flown to Europe to receive treatment abroad.
More than three million Iraqis were forced to flee their homes. More than one million of them found refuge in the safe Kurdish provinces of the country. Every fifth person in Kurdistan-Iraq is now a refugee. Most of them live in overcrowded camps and struggle to make a living. Winters in Iraq can be rough, especially in unheated tents, yet not every family can afford buying gasoline for the heaters or even shoes for their children.
The Jiyan Foundation is building a therapeutic garden for women and children in Chamchamal. The first of its kind, the healing garden will provide a safe space for women, children, and youth who have experienced domestic violence, abuse, and other human rights violations. Together with you, we can make a difference!
Our garden will provide survivors and their families with a safe and unique space to heal. Garden therapy and group work will offer our clients new ways to overcome their ordeal. A petting zoo will help child survivors approach their fears and worries through animal-assisted treatment.
The Seminar House: Preserving Cultural Heritage
Within the grounds of the healing garden, the Jiyan Foundation will create a seminar and guest house where people can meet to learn, discuss, and gain strength. The facilities will be used for therapy sessions, trainings for the team, and seminars for our clients on topics ranging from health, rights and justice, traditional architecture and handicrafts, environmental sustainability, and entrepreneurship.
Reviving Traditional and Sustainable Architecture
All buildings on the property will be made out of sustainable materials such as clay, bricks, and wood combining the traditional Kurdish style with the expertise of modern clay architects. Present-day glass and concrete buildings are not sustainable in the area, but are becoming more popular as fewer people know how to build with clay. However, traditional buildings have superior insulation and keep houses naturally warmer in winter and cooler in summer. With today’s knowledge, clay can be made to last, reducing the environmental impact significantly. These buildings can be a role model for similar developments in the region.
Rejuvenating Traditional Artisanal Handicrafts
The seminar house will be a space where the Jiyan Foundation offers traditional Kurdish handicraft courses in sewing, knitting, pottery making, and carpet weaving to women survivors of violence. These artisanal abilities are quickly fading, as fewer people opt to learn these skills. The classes will help prevent these art forms from being lost, while also providing therapeutic benefits for our women clients.
Promoting Environmental Awareness
Our healing garden is the perfect place to start the much-needed conversations on climate change, renewable energy, and conservation in Chamchamal. We will have plenty of examples in our own garden ranging from: sustainable gardening, bee keeping, housing and heating. Our German partner BORDA funded and built a fermentation plant to produce energy from the waste materials produced by the plants, animals and guests of the garden. Local staff will be trained in maintenance and upkeep, spreading the knowledge needed to operate the machinery.
Another issue is preservation of water: Kurdistan has been experiencing severe shortages of rainfall over the past years. Groundwater levels are depleting. As the garden and its animals will need a lot of water, we are focused on keeping this resource safe. As luck would have it, a sewage canal runs underneath the garden that carries household greywater from the nearby houses. With our partners from BORDA, we are constructing a decentralised water treatment system that will clean 100 cubic metres of dirty water each day. Enough to provide the entire garden with clean water.
The healing garden project is being made possible with contributions from our partners Misereor, the Foundation Wings of Hope, and Ein Herz für Kinder as well as a private benefactor. With their help, we have raised over € 350,000 to build and maintain the garden’s core elements for the first three years. Another € 25,000 came from private donors.
Bremen Overseas Research & Development Association (BORDA), a German NGO, provides designs and specifications for a constructed wetland, which will clean waste water. A fermentation plant will be constructed and staff trained on its use and maintenance in order to turn the garden's waste products into clean energy.
How You Can Help
To provide all plants, trees and animals with clean water, our constructed wetland needs to clean some 100 cubic meters of water from the sewage canal each day. Construction will cost about 160,000 Euros. Currently, we are just 50,000 Euros short of our funding goal. Help us with your donation! Subject: fresh water.
More than five years of civil war have left large parts of Syria in ruins and severely affected its civilian population. While some five million people have fled the country, another eight million have been displaced within Syria.
At the Jiyan Foundation, we support traumatized Syrian refugees in four camps in North Iraq through medical aid and psychological assistance. Every year, some 4000 Syrians receive help in our centers. About 90% of them are women and children.
Women and girls who have escaped from captivity by ISIS are among the most vulnerable members of society. While reporting about their fate is important and often may seem the only news that gets attention, their rights to privacy and protection of dignity and personal integrity must always come first.
On May 26, the Jiyan Foundation distributed water-powered air conditioners to the 3120 Yazidi families living in the Khanke camp near Duhok. Each family received one cooling device. With outside temperatures already approaching 40°C, the delivery of these air coolers was a welcome relief.