Jessie's Story

In the spring of 2016, I went to Northern Iraqi Kurdistan to work for Hear the Cry, a nonprofit that works with indigenous leaders in compassion and justice causes around the world. In Iraq, I met the Ray and Buxton families of The Refuge Initiative (TRI), a division of World Orphans. TRI is aiding refugees and internally displaced people in Iraq. While there, I documented stories about their work and life in Kurdistan.

In May 2017, I am returning to Northern Iraq to serve as the communications and media person for TRI, using both photographs and the written word.

Since Northern Iraq is a geographically remote and often an unknown “other”—sometimes only understood through biased sources—communication and storytelling from Iraq specific to TRI are not only vital for education on the East, but also assist the West in knowing how to help, what to pray, and where resources are immediately needed.

Stories also make sense of things. They quicken us to empathy, which begets constructive responses to what we would have otherwise been unmoved over, or worse yet, what we might have ignored entirely. This is the primary aim of my work with refugees and IDPs connected to TRI—to give them the dignity of being heard and give others a way to respond.

Moreover, the humanitarian crisis and instability brought about by war are forecasted to deepen throughout 2017. Continued fighting in Mosul is expected to displace an additional one million people. Resources in Kurdistan are in short supply as it is with the 3 million people who have already come since ISIS arrived; therefore, Kurdistan is in no position to support more. This acute need necessitates communication that enables others to assist people on the ground in Kurdistan and helps them give and pray specifically.

Additionally, TRI is near completion on a new housing project for 20 Yazidi girls and their families who have survived recent captivity from ISIS. What a great need those young women have on multiple fronts. Specifically, they need other women with vast margins to make them a top priority: to befriend them, love them, and hear their stories. Men cannot engage their trauma in the same way women can—for obvious reasons. God has so graciously given me heaps of time and freedom to give away, the capacity to nurture, and a heart sit with them. So I, quite perfectly, fit that description.

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