The Fountain of Love Community Center offers holistic assistance in northern Iraq
The Fountain of Love Community Center is living up to its name. It is demonstrating the love of Christ to internally displaced people in northern Iraq through livelihood classes for women and children and a medical clinic for the entire family.
The center opened in 2008 to serve those affected by Saddam Hussein’s Anfal campaign. Initially, these attacks against the Kurdish people in the late 1980s leveled villages with bombs and tanks, terrorizing any survivors and displacing them from their homes. But the attacks intensified until Hussein’s forces used chemical weapons on the Kurds, leaving families torn apart by senseless injury and death.
Seventy thousand people affected by Anfal ended up resettling in the city where Fountain of Love is located, increasing the population there by many fold.
This area was also recently home to as many as 50,000 displaced people of Arab background when ISIS took over Fallujah and Ramadi in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Since ISIS retreated from those areas, the Arab population in the city has dipped to 15,000.
Offering Medical Care
To alleviate some of the acute healthcare needs in this community, Fountain of Love’s medical clinic offers the services of two general practitioners, an obstetrician/gynecologist, a dermatologist, a dentist, and a breastfeeding coach. Seeing up to 1,500 patients a month, the clinic provides its services free of charge.
One 37-year-old who brought his brother in for dental work said, “Honestly, this is a very good place for families. The center is very important, very helpful with the doctors and dentists.”
One female dental patient said, “I don’t know how to thank them because they give so many services.”
This beautiful woman, whose name is a type of flower, remembers well the ugliness of April 14, 1988. Hussein’s troops burned her village and forced her to move 45 minutes away. “If you disobey, they kill,” she said.
Her dentist at Fountain of Love can empathize. An internally displaced person himself, Aulada understands the plight of his patients.
An Assyrian Christian from Mosul, Aulada’s brother was killed by an improvised explosive device planted by terrorists in 2013. It was just before Aulada was due to take his post-graduate exams. Amid his grief, God gave him supernatural grace to still study and he passed with the highest grade in the class. But when ISIS activity intensfied, Christians were forced to flee, Aulada among them. He later returned, only to be captured at one of the ISIS checkpoints and imprisoned for five days before being released.
To assist those who find it difficult to come to the clinic, Fountain of Love has also sent a mobile medical clinic into one IDP camp. With a general practitioner, obstetrician/gynecologist, and a small pharmacy, they are able to serve those who would otherwise likely go without care.
As the clinic provides medical services, women and children gather for classes ranging from sewing and crocheting to computers, art, English, and Kurdish.
The sewing class is run on a cost-share basis where women pay for half of a sewing machine and Samaritan’s Purse covers the other half. With it, students aged 16 to 60 learn everything from basic stitching to button holes, equipping them to make dresses, pants, blazers, and traditional Kurdish clothes.
To allow the women to focus on their classes, Fountain of Love also provides on-site childcare. Stories, songs, arts and crafts, and lessons in hygiene fill this time.
Nearly 100 adults participate in the five levels of English classes at Fountain of Love while children ages 7 to 13 are offered computer and art classes.
The community center graduates 150 people from their livelihood programs every six weeks.
Investing in the holistic development of the displaced women, Fountain of Love provides an aerobics class on Saturday mornings. In a male-dominated society, this opportunity for women to get out of their homes, care for their bodies, and get to know one another is welcome reprieve. One participant, Belim, 40, said, “Everything is difficult for women [here].”
The purpose of the livelihoods programs at Fountain of Love is not just to teach skills, but to provide a safe place for women who have experienced trauma. According to their cultural customs, they usually remain in their homes, isolated from other women outside their family. Meeting together for class allows them to build community with one another.
“The biggest thing is to teach them hope and empower them,” said Fountain of Love’s programming coordinator. She added, they need to know “they can do this. They can achieve.”
Please pray that the Fountain of Love Community Center would continue to demonstrate God’s love to the displaced in northern Iraq.
*Names changed throughout for security reasons.