Supporting and Advocating for Refugees

Wadi works to advocate for refugee rights and IDPs and works with refugees and IDPs to provide them with the tools they need to organize themselves and their communities. Our work is based on our belief in human dignity.

For the past 30 years Wadi has been vocal about the rights of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs). Talking to people, listening to their concerns, their needs both immediate and long-term, we know that the best way to work is to empower individuals and communities to organize themselves and to give refugees the freedom to create their own concepts and local networks. Wadi’s role has been and continues to be in building technical capacities, providing training that allows people to have the tools to solve the issues around them. We know through experience that ‘helping refugees’ although noble in intent, can be misguided and sometimes actually harmful.

What is truly helpful, is to not view ‘refugees’ as a monolith but to ask individuals what their skills are, what the problems around them are, and what they think would be a good way to improve or fix those problems. Wadi believes in investing in people first, and 30 years of work have shown time and time again that a few motivated people can transform a community.

Wadi’s refugee and IDP projects in Iraq are part of our core belief of long-term engagement, investing in communities and human capital and advocating for human dignity and refugee rights.

As a result, our projects invest in people, not in outputs, and many of these projects have become independent partners advocating loudly and successfully for their communities. You can read more about that in ‘From Project to Partner’.

Wadi’s projects expand beyond Iraq to Greece, Turkey, and Germany. In Turkey Wadi has provided consultancy for NGOs aiding refugees. In Germany Wadi has conducted research, hosted conferences, provided consultancy as well as a project encouraging newly settled refugees to participate in Civic life. In Greece Wadi has provided consultancy and support for NGOs in Athens and in Lesvos.

Current Projects

Yazidi Projects:

September 2014 WADI began providing emergency support and psychological aid for over hundreds of women and girls who have escaped from being held as slaves by the so-called ‘Islamic State’. To date Wadi has assisted 20,529 women and young girls. Hundreds of cases of sexual slavery by ‘IS’ have been documented and reported to international media, to have these crimes recognized internationally. After talking with Yazidi community members and providing emergency response, Wadi opened the Jinda Centre in July 2015 as a long-term response to the overwhelming needs  of  women and girls who escaped or were rescued from Daesh (ISIS) captivity. Wadi’s Mobile Teams are led by two Yazidi women (social workers) and provide the point of first contact, as well as determining which cases need immediate medical, or psychological assistance, which they then coordinate. When they arrive in the Dohuk area, these women and girls are in urgent need of care.

Although we do not wish to sensationalise their experiences, it is important to understand that many (if not most) have suffered extreme violence, torture, beatings, forced conversion to Islam, sexual violence, captivity, and being sold as slaves. Many have seen entire branches of their families killed, others have lost their husbands, brothers, and have their male children forcibly taken from them.  Upon their return, they are in a fragile mental and emotional state, many feel conflicted about having ‘made it out’ while others are still held captive.

Our teams are experts, and operate with professionalism, kindness and discretion, and are well liked in the refugee camps and the area in general. The centre follows up on the work of the Mobile Teams by offering an inviting and pleasant (all woman) space where groups are offered in depth counseling treatment, vocational courses such as crafting, knitting and sewing, agricultural skills, social activities, and most of all a safe space where they can share their experiences without judgement.

In Kurdish ‘Jinda’ means new hope, and that is what the center stands for, a place to regain strength, and hope, and start new chapters in their lives. A place where women can find some of the agency that has been taken from them. With the knowledge they gain from different vocational courses, the goal is that they can provide for themselves and their families financially and feel proud of their accomplishments.

This project has received international and local media attention. The Jinda Centre is now an independent NGO, as part of WADIs long standing strategy ‘project to partner’ which provides support to local actors who then remain an integral part of our network.

Currently the Mobile Teams in Duhok continue to provide support to the Yazidi community by aiding on a need basis, encouraging economic empowerment, and by providing Coronavirus awareness in the refugee camps of the Dohuk area as part of our ‘Citizens to Citizens Corona Campaign’.

The staff have been trained to work with traumatized victims of violence, specifically sexual violence by UNICEF, Salt Foundation, Heartland Alliance, UNESCO, and the Jiyan foundation.

Education in camps – UNESCO project Syrian refugees:

Since 2017 WADI has aided with Syrian refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan through a variety of projects addressing their many different needs. The ongoing conflicts in the region have led to continuous waves of displaced persons from Syria and Southern Iraq seeking refuge in Northern Iraq. This displacement and all the issues that come with it have placed children and adolescents aged 6-17 at the highest risk of not starting or continuing their education. By working closely with those at risk and with locals and camp teachers Wadi found that the greatest threats to education were at the entry point; not being able to afford the basic materials (books, pens, pencils), not having access to transportation to school, and teachers with poor training on how to deal with traumatized children in their classrooms. The students who are already in school are suffering from low level of learning materials and inadequate basic school supplies (notebooks, pens, books) which leads to poor performance and high dropout rates.

While the current Covid-19 global pandemic continues to have far-reaching consequences on all parts of life including children’s education. This project has adapted to respond to the difficult circumstances.

The project is supported by UNESCO and funded by The European Union. WADI is implementing the project in cooperation with its local partner organization “Jinda”.

Supporting Self-Organization of Refugees and Local Communities in Lesvos, Greece:

Wadi has been supporting refugees in Greece since 2017. Working with partner NGOs to provide non-formal education, psycho-social support, economic opportunities, tools for developing community self-organization. In 2018 -2019 Wadi continued its commitment to increase the capacity of NGOs working on similar issues with shared values. We have done this in the past supporting and increasing the technical capacity of various NGOs and projects.  We choose to work with a local Lesvos NGO called  Stand by me Lesvos; a collection of local Lesvos teachers, professors and small business owners that decided to come together to create an opportunity where refugees can improve their education, and grow their skill sets. We were interested in their different approach, in their words “we are taking a bad situation and with very little funds, working to make a safe, positive space, where we can train and teach refugees, and advise them on how to reintegrate from the margins of camp life, back into mainstream society”.

In 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic created a situation that was especially dangerous for refugees living in already cramped and unsanitary conditions. Wadi worked with refugees with existing medical training to develop a targeted campaign to fight misinformation about Covid -19 and to empower refugees in the camps in Lesvos to try to protect themselves from the disease. This campaign along with the camp being cut-off from the volunteer community sparked a positive frenzy of self-organization among the refugees. Wadi provided technical capacities to these activists and now more than one year later we have the Moria Corona Awarness Team, the Moria White Helmets who are actively working to improve the cleanliness of the camp, recycle plastic waste, repair electrical issues, provide first aid and fire response as well as coordinate many activities as they and their communities see a need for.

Previous Projects

Halabja Summer of Peace: In 2016 Wadi in cooperation with longtime partner in Halabja ‘NWE organization’ piloted a project to bring locals, IDPs and refugees in a collaborative effort to improve relations between different groups and to welcome and help each other. The ‘Halabja Campaign for Peace and Mutual Living’ focused on teaching essential skills to foster economic independence, being able to sell or trade their products or skills. Moreover, these courses also increase women’s self-esteem, and sense of power, independence, and pride in being able to provide for themselves and their families. This is especially important given the lack of routine, normalcy and constant upheaval faced by refugees and IDPs. Courses offered: computer literacy, sewing, hairdressing, literacy, English, baking, cooking, knitting and other crafts. Seminars offered included: Women’s rights awareness, anti FGM classes, health care, first aid, hygiene, and childcare. This highly successful project was covered and amplified by local media, and the lessons learned about integration and community building between locals and refugees have been incorporated into all projects going forward. 

2016 : Women from the Summer of Peace courses enjoying a picnic after their courses

Playbus: Wadi started the Playbus Project in Garmyan in February 2016. The purpose of this project is for vulnerable and deprived children to play together and enjoy themselves, and to bring together local, refugee and IDP children (and their families) to build trust between communities and combat prejudices between Kurds and Arabs. A team of two women and a (male) driver visited the villages in Garmyan three times a week. The Playbus is a minibus filled with toys, and educational games, all safe for children, along with basic health and hygiene equipment, and provides a fun, safe atmosphere. This longterm project has been very successful and allowed Wadi to build trust with communities.

Playbus in Garmyan region 2017

Activities in Syria: Wadi has supported and shown solidarity with the goals of the protesters who are fighting for a free, pluralistic and democratic Syria. Through our long-term expertise, they provided consultancy and assistance for the development of various projects including setting up a community radio in Darbassiya, play-busses for children and mobile medical teams with local NGO Zelal. In Ghouta and other suburbs of Damascus besieged by Assad’s troops and attacked with poison gas Wadi (supported by Green Cross) provided consultancy to the organization Al-Seeraj which provided medical and social assistance to the survivors of the chemical attacks. Additionally Al Seeraj and Wadi published a dossier about the chemical attacks on the Ghoutas.

Our partners:

NWE — Stand by Me Lesvos — ADWI —- Jinda —