Between 2014-2016, as ISIS’ destructive presence spread through the country of Iraq, many Iraqi Christians fled to neighboring countries in search of safety. These refugees often left everything behind – their homes, jobs, and even clothes – arriving as empty-handed foreigners in a strange land.
In addition to having the basic physical needs of food and shelter, these refugees are also suffering emotionally from both the trauma they’ve endured, and the loss of dignity they experience in the foreign country where they live. It was in trying to meet this latter need that the NGO Al-Hadaf in Jordan found a creative, dignity-restoring solution: opening a clothing boutique for Iraqi refugees.
“The refugees need to eat, to dress, and to have their basic needs cared for, while they wait for their resettlement,” an Al-Hadaf staff worker named Lara shares. “Many refugees who travel to Jordan have the intention to migrate to other countries. This is a process that can take years.”
Open Doors, who helps support Al-Hadaf, recently visited this clothing boutique to see it for ourselves. The store feels like an ordinary clothing shop in the Middle East, and that is exactly the intention.
“When people bring these clothes in, they just put them in garbage bags – some of the clothes are torn or are still dirty,” Lara says. “For many Iraqi refugees, having fled from good families and good situations, that is a shameful situation. They find it hard to accept the clothes that way.”
That is why Al-Hadaf opened the boutique. “Just like in a real boutique they can come here to shop, to choose the clothes they really like, to try them on and to shop with dignity. This way, we can help to restore the dignity that was taken from them.”
Walking through the boutique, Lara points out, “All these clothes are all donated by people in Jordan. When we receive their donations we first remove the torn clothes. Then we wash or dry-clean the good clothes and hang them here. There are pants, skirts, bags and boots, but also small stuff like accessories. All presented in a proper way. The refugees need to eat, to dress, and to have their basic needs cared for, while they wait for their resettlement.”
‘Buying’ clothes at the boutique is free for the refugees thanks to the generous support of those who give to Open Doors. With our, these Iraqi refugees receive coupons that represent a certain value based on their situation and family size. With those coupons they ‘pay’ for the clothes. Lara says this also helps them to feel human again: being able to make transactions helps them feel accepted, after losing everything.
“This is a safe place for them where they can shop, have a good time and feel like a normal member of society again.”