Life in Northern Iraq is very difficult right now. Government salaries have not been paid in months. The federally imposed flight ban in the Kurdistan region has greatly hindered economic development. The devastation of ISIS continues to be seen and felt everywhere. Furthermore, northern Iraq functions as a regional safe-haven for oppressed refugees from Iran, Syria, and Turkey, all trying to find a way to support their families.
In the midst of these hardships, many stay-at-home moms and grandmothers are left feeling helpless as their husbands and sons spend their days desperately looking for work while they do their best to manage the daily routine of keeping a multi-generational household functioning. While many of these women would love to find a job to help support their families, it is not considered culturally acceptable for women to work outside the home. Because of these cultural barriers and economic hardships, Back to Jerusalem wanted to provide an opportunity for women to work from home.
One trade that is well-known by many women in this region is crocheting. Realizing this, Back to Jerusalem wanted to work with refugee women to create something that would help supplement their family’s income, thus “Baby Fufu” was born. BTJ is teaching low-income women living in Iraq how to create these crocheted “Baby Fufu” pandas. Each of these women involved in the project meet with BTJ missionaries personally, and they are prayed for and encouraged.
Many of these women are Syrian refugees who have had to flee the homes they have known their entire lives. One woman lives in refugee housing that many would consider a glorified tent with her 8 children, son in law, and 2 grandchildren. She came to BTJ in desperate need of work. She wanted to send her daughter to college so she would have an education and aspire to lead a different life. The money she receives from creating “Baby Fufu” is helping to get her daughter into college. Another lady is a young mom of two babies. She also had to flee Syria with her family. Her husband is having a hard time finding a job, and is only able to pick up odd jobs here and there. By crocheting these baby pandas she is able to supplement her family’s income in a steady way.
Each stitch of these baby pandas is crocheted by women who are not only hurting financially, but spiritually, and in some cases physically. Some of these women are new believers, others are seeking, and some are still trapped in the isolation of Islam. Purchasing these pandas gives every person an opportunity to support these ladies and their families financially, and through prayer.