Inshallah. Probably the singular Arabic word I hear most on a daily basis. Meaning literally, “if God wills it,” the word serves as both a filler and as a daily reminder of things that are out of our control. As frustrating as it can be when making plans to have someone respond with an “inshallah,” my understanding of this word, its meaning, and the day to day uncertainty it underscores has deepened over this past summer.
I’ve spent the last ten weeks in Amman, Jordan working as an Advocacy Project Peace Fellow at the Collateral Repair Project. My main task was to implement what, inshallah, will become an annual embroidery project in collaboration with CRP’s Hope Workshop. The Hope Workshop is one of CRP’s longest running programs, and is a collective of refugee women from different countries and backgrounds. Throughout the year, the women work together on various handicraft projects, which give them the chance to use their skills and also serve as a small income generation opportunity. The project this summer required that each member produce two embroidered squares, which will be assembled into advocacy quilts, sharing their experiences as refugees with the wider world.
Spending the summer with this incredibly talented and motivated group of women has taught me many things. How important it is for refugees to have a shared, welcoming space. How boredom and loneliness are struggles for many, and how collective projects combat these issues with a sense of common purpose. How sharing stories can bring people from different countries and cultures together. And how the feeling, the uncertainty of this word, inshallah, is the undercurrent of nearly every aspect of refugee life in Amman.
All the women of the Hope Workshop have endured common struggles as refugees. Leaving their homes. Leaving their loved ones. Starting new lives in an unfamiliar place. Struggling to honor their good memories and erase their bad ones. After hearing their respective stories, and seeing these memories stitched so vibrantly in their embroidered squares, it’s hard not to feel in awe of their determination.
When you’re living life on the edge, where everything is “inshallah,” some days are good and some days are bad. But what I’ve learned over the course of this summer at CRP is that even the smallest things can make a world of difference. The assistance people receive at CRP can quickly change a bad day into a good one.
There’s still good happening everyday, and while we might be inclined to measure this good on a grander scale because it’s what we’ve been trained to do in this world of loud and ever-changing headlines, to witness positive change we can’t lose sight of the smaller victories. The progress someone makes in an English class week to week, quiet acupressure massages exchanged between friends, laughs and smiles shared over embroidery, stories exchanged, a sense of safety and community that’s been cultivated when everything else going on around you is inshallah. It’s these small, everyday acts of continuance, of carrying on with life as usual, that must be honored. This is something we need to remember and hold on to when we feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the refugee crisis.
I walk away from this fellowship humbled by the resilience of the CRP community. Their ability to say inshallah with a smile, rather than with traces of fear. Their ability to help each other, to heal, to work together to regain a sense of normalcy and friendship in the face of incredible hardship. And their strength to believe that everything will be a little bit better tomorrow. Inshallah.
Advocacy Project Peace Fellow, 2016