IRAQ REFLECTION : It takes a village


January 2012
REFLECTION: It takes a village

by Bud Courtney


multicolored van wove its way along the rocky dirt road, and gently up a
hill. Looking ahead I could see them — twenty five or so young children
dressed in their school uniforms, standing in front of the building, swarming
about their two teachers. As they spied our vehicle (not terribly hard to do),
they began to jump up and down, jog in place, and wave to us.

were three members of the Halabja Women’s Project plus CPT intern Ramyar and
myself. Today’s project was part of the work that WADI does (Association for Crisis Assistance and Solidarity Development Cooperation). Our team had had a meeting with
WADI project coordinator Sauuda earlier and she invited CPT to participate in
any way we saw fit.  One of the projects she mentioned jumped out at me: The
Mobile Playground. Sauuda explained that they drive out to one of 54
villages surrounding the city of Halabja and set up a small playground for the
village youth for an hour or so, 5 days a week.  This sounded more like a
day off than a work project to me, and I immediately said that I would be
interested in participating in a trip with them if at all possible. Sauuda and
our team laughed, perhaps figuring that I was, once more, just playing the fool,
but she said that would be fine. We phoned her the next day and it was set up
for Ramyar and I to meet them in Halabja unless it rained, in which case they
would not go out.

The day
dawned dark and cold but no rain. We went. Another phone call as we stood in
the center of Halabja and waited a few more moments. Then a Volkswagen van
arrived, reminding me of so many VW vans that were stylish in New York in the 1960’s. 
It pulled to the curb and we jumped in — two women, three men, and a full load
of toys, games, and sporting equipment.

drove out of Halabja, passed the city checkpoint and pulled off onto a dirt
road, and continued into the village, soon to be spied by the children.

set up two rugs, and unpacked slides, a teeter- totter, soccer balls, sock
balls, bowling pins and plastic balls, modelling clay, and toy jewellery — seemingly
something for everyone. I watched for a few moments, then picked up a sock ball.
Soon two of us playing catch became five of us, with others jumping in and out.
We were laughing and mimicking one another, applauding good attempts.

too short a time, the hour was over. The children lined up and we gave each a
cartoon book and a toy. The teachers escorted them back to the classroom as we
reloaded the van and left.

I don’t
think I spoke ten words in that hour, either in English or Kurdish (ten words
being about the limit of my Kurdish), but as we drove off, I felt that we had
done some peace work. We looked into each others’ faces and took the risk of
playing with one another, welcoming the stranger. And I wonder why it is that
we adults are not as free and open with each other? Why is it so much harder
for me to reach out to another adult and smile? And what could the world look
like if we all were willing to take that risk?


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