Beginning Conversations with Iraqi Women Refugees in Springfield, MA

Written by Sara Jackson, Prosperity Candle PR Intern

In September, I joined Prosperity Candle as the Public Relations and Media intern. My name is Sara Jackson and I am a senior at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. I am currently working on my senior project which is analyzing United States media coverage of the Iraq conflict since 2003 and am thrilled to be a part of the Prosperity Candle team and working with women in Baghdad.

When attempting to understand the situation in Iraq there is always a degree of separation between this conflicted nation and me. Despite technologies like Skype and two-day shipping by Fed-Ex, which place me in quick contact, it is halfway around the world and therefore hard to understand the devastation and rebuilding efforts in Iraq. Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting three ambitious women from Baghdad who not only brought a real sense of Iraq with them and shared that with me but also an idea of the opportunity Prosperity Candle offers women just like Manal, Hind and Ibtesam. Their ambition to make the most of their new lives in Springfield, MA was obvious from the moment I met them and so was their strength.

As we watched the video of Wafa’a, who works in Baghdad with Prosperity Candle, discussing how her life had changed after starting up her candle business, I noticed Manal began to cry. I couldn’t know, and I won’t try to guess why this was, but for a moment the issue of separation I had been feeling about Iraq and the women who work in the country with Prosperity Candle felt non-existent. There is no separation, I realized – just strong, resilient women who want to rebuild their lives.

I have had the privilege of being surrounded by strong women; women who don’t take no for an answer when it comes to their dreams and goals, or the dreams and goals of their children. Sitting with these women who had spent time in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon after leaving Iraq, it was apparent to me that they too are feisty women. They too will need opportunity in order to make the most of their resilience.

As the Springfield initiative to work with refugees begins, I wish all of the women who participate the best. It’s a great idea to have Iraqi women who are beginning new lives in Springfield, MA to be a part of the Prosperity Candle team. They have currently resettled here in the Pioneer Valley with the support of local nonprofit organizations, which Prosperity Candle is partnering with to launch the Springfield, MA program. The women who participate will have the opportunity to become candle entrepreneurs and launch their own businesses. At the heart of Prosperity Candle is the global connection; linking women to women half way around the world. I’m so happy that women like Manal, Hind and Ibtesam will be providing more links to the global Prosperity Candle endeavor.

~ Sara

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