“There was a time when things were difficult, but now I feel safe”: Cash Support Brings Hope to HatraPublished: Sep 26, 2022 Reading time: 4 minutes
Under the glaring midday sun, Mishan soldered the edge of a large oil drum. Old metal doors and frames, chicken wire fences, truck bed racks, and worn-out filing cabinets laid scattered around him, left to bake in the Iraqi summer heat. In the background, his brother wielded an angle grinder, sending the sound of screeching metal echoing around the courtyard.
Mishan gestured to the arch-covered garage opposite, and led us through the twisted debris into the shade of the arches. From the other end of the passageway one of his employees began hammering sheet metal. ‘This is the quiet part of the workshop,’ Mishan said, laughing.
A blacksmith by trade, Mishan began his workshop with the help of cash assistance from PIN. With the money he received, he bought the first tools and scrap iron he needed to build his business. “So many people benefitted from PIN’s project, and I was one of them. It helped me a lot. With the first round [of cash assistance] I paid off my debts, and with the money left over I bought the materials and essentials for my workshop,” he said.
With the cash he continued to receive from PIN, Mishan began to save. “For now, I don’t have a house of my own. I live with my family,” he said, “I’m trying to save money so I can buy one.” He raised a finger and tapped the top pocket of his overshirt. “I keep my savings right here,” he said.
Mishan smiled wide and called his son over and rested his arm over the boy’s shoulder. “I’m married, and I have four children with another one on the way,” Mishan said, “so of course we need a house!” He spoke with the excitement of a new father. “The cash helped me a lot,” he said, “without it, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything. I could barely pay my bills before, but now all I think about is buying our new home.”
Mishan is one of several people in Hatra who has benefitted from PIN’s cash assistance programme. Shaha, a mother of seven, is also hoping to start a business with help from PIN. “I would like to build a small shop near to my children so that I can be close to them,” she said. “That’s what I’m planning to do, but I need the cash to start. There are no jobs for women in Hatra at the moment, and I would need a lot of money to begin building my business.”
As a single mother, providing for her large family is sometimes an overwhelming challenge. Shaha’s husband, a policeman, went missing during the fight against the so-called Islamic State. “Everything changed after he disappeared,” she said. “He shouldered many responsibilities for our family and children, and after he went missing I had to provide for our family on my own. We had everything we needed before the war: a home, two cars, a generator for electricity. It was all destroyed. We can never go back to our old house because it is no longer safe. It’s no place to raise six young girls.”
Many of those from Hatra have had their lives scarred by personal tragedy. In a simple stucco room, Mahmoud sat on the diwan with his two sons. The sound of goats bleating came through the unpaned windows, amid the whir of the makeshift air conditioning unit. Mahmoud lived in a neighbouring village and tended cattle and sheep before being displaced. He was forced to flee his home during the conflict with the so-called Islamic State.
Mahmoud continued “Before receiving the cash from PIN, I had no income or salary. I can be honest with you, PIN saved us. Once PIN gave me the grant I began to buy vegetables, meat, anything we wanted.” He said, pointing to the crate of tomatoes and bags of aubergines at the other end of the room.
“The cash grant had a very positive and strong impact on my life. I only hope for the best for the future, and after everything that’s happened, I’m just happy to be alive. There was a time when things were difficult, but now I feel safe,” he said.
PIN’s cash assistance programme in Northern Iraq would not be possible without the generous support of the Iraq Humanitarian fund and OCHA. PIN is supporting vulnerable IDPs and returnees to help cover basic living costs through monetary aid.