When the Islamic State seized Qaraqosh in 2014, hundreds of Iraqi Christians were forced to flee. Their houses, churches, schools, and businesses were destroyed. Not event public parks and children’s playgrounds were spared.
Now, as the local population returns home, debris and rubbles have slowly been replaced by trees, flowers and colorful playgrounds in some areas, like the Municipality of Al-Hamdaniya, where AVSI and local authorities inaugurated on November 18 the Al-Narjes Garden.
The reconstruction of the community public space was made possible thanks to the project “A virtuous production cycle to relaunch a city and its economic fabric for IDPs and returnees to the Nineveh Plains, Iraq”, funded by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM).
“We chose to rebuild this garden as part of the project because we believe it’s an important space for social cohesion between people with different religious and ethical backgrounds living in this area,” says Mr. Issam Behnam, the Mayor of Qaraqosh. Behnam also acknowledged AVSI and PRM for their participation in the revitalization of the community garden and the significant role they have and are still playing in the reformation of the economic activities. The project’s primary goal is to provide livelihood opportunities that contribute to the creation of economic recovery and the full return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their original homes through the reconstruction of farming businesses. In the first year, AVSI rebuilt 83 farms and offered vocational training to 50 women, among other activities.
Afterward, Mr. Rami Khodor Boulos, Manager of the municipality of Al-Hamdaniya, expressed his desire to collaborate in any future projects implemented by AVSI in the region because he believes they are candidly addressing the needs of their community.
Before community representatives cut the ribbon and announced the opening of the AL-Narjes Garden, Lorenzo Ossoli, AVSI Project Manager, explained the context of the project and the main idea behind the rehabilitation of the community garden.
“We built this garden to restore the town's beautiful landscape and create a positive environment in the community. This would increase social ties in the community which is vital to the well-being of people” says Ossoli. “In the coming months, I hope to see many children playing on the playground while their parents, uncles, and grandfathers socialize.”