Paintings by beneficiaries hang on the walls of CRP’s second story room. Inside, traffic horns barely filter in through the windows, and a dozen or so plastic chairs sit, arranged in a circle, waiting for the men that will fill them.
CRP’s Men’s Club resembles any other ordinary counseling session you might come across in the U.S. However, what isn’t ordinary, are the stories these men come to get off their chest.
Susan Baghdadi and Samer Kurdi, both volunteers at CRP, started Men’s Club more than two years ago. Men’s Club meets every Wednesday, and helps provide an often-overlooked service to refugees fleeing violence and homes. “I was in Sweden and had so much to talk about, but no one to talk to,” said a beneficiary at a recent meeting.
When refugees flee, they are often followed by the memories of leaving behind homes, possessions, and even sometimes loved ones. They move to new, expensive cities like Amman, where everything is unfamiliar. Thus, they have no one to listen, and those memories often get bottled up, only to resurface time and time again.
Apart from providing an outlet, Men’s Club also serves as a bonding experience for the men in the community. “We call it in Arabic, sitting, it’s where everybody comes in and they can put down what reason or the things they are struggling with,” said Saleem. “Everybody can benefit so you can take what’s positive from what everybody is saying and you can gain a lot by listening.”
Saleem used to live in a small village near Mosul. He and his family fled to the Kurdish region of Iraq when they heard Daesh, (ISIS) was coming. “When I left, I didn’t have time to pack, we left with the clothes on our bodies,” he said. “My wife was sick and had cancer, and I needed to take her to a specialist. I went to a specialist and that’s when I got the visa to go to Amman.”
The theme last week was letting go. The others sat quietly, everyone waiting their turn, and occasionally nodding their heads in agreement, only there to listen and not interrupt or give advice. Saleem’s story sounded like many others as the circle went around. Each man confessing to what they were suppressing or thought needed to be let go.
Saleem said CRP’s program helped him overcome many things he’d been holding onto since fleeing Iraq. And it has brought him new friends. “It’s almost like we’ve become family,” he said, mentioning the volunteers and the other men in the Club. Most of the men at the meeting were returning members.
Saleem has attended Men’s Club since its inception. And it is just one of the programs offered at CRP to men and women trying to deal with the harsh realities of becoming refugees. “It’s not just me but all refugees, they need counseling for support. It would be nice if you met with others,” he said. “But also, refugees don’t just need food or assistance they really need to talk, they need to be heard.”