Junder with her son, Alber
An emotional moment between Junbud and her son Alber. Photo Credit: Diana Azad Hasan, © World Vision 2023.

One mother’s story of unconditional love

Junbud gave birth to Alber ten years ago in Qaraqosh, a town 31.6 km away from Mosul. She had an instinct feeling that Alber was going to be a special child, different from others. 

Junbud understood that the son had health issues and started taking him to different doctors. Her family was blaming her for spending large amount of money on doctor's visits when all the visits were useless.

But Junbud is stubborn and decided to go to Mosul believing that there were better medical services and diagnostic centers. During their first visit, it was immediately revealed that Alber was not able to see. Several medical test results confirmed that Alber was suffering from brain damage, quadriplegia and blindness. Junbud and her husband were devastated by this news.

But Junbud stayed strong throughout the years; she made sure that Alber, despite his disabilities, wouldn’t feel alone and isolated. She would spend most of her time with Alber. She would care for him, help him with taking a shower, feeding him and talking to him.

Junbud was feeling despair seeing her son in pain. She was often crying when Alber was struggling, but Alber was telling her, “Mom, I am exhausting you. God bless you. You are taking care of me, helping me with washing myself, and feeding me.”

“He can’t see but when he thanks me, I feel the whole world is laughing with me.  All my weariness goes away when I hear him saying that,” told Junbud.

Junbud used to go out with Alber for a stroll in the neighborhood. Once her sister asked Junbud not to take the son out of the home anymore because she and her parents were feeling ashamed of Alber. Junbud was very upset; she didn’t talk to her sister and parents for a while.

“I wouldn't trade my son for the world. Alber shouldn’t be isolated, and he needs to go out,” said Junbud.   

Junbud is 47 years of age. She was born in Mosul but after three years of marriage her family moved to Qaraqosh where she gave birth to her three children. 

When the conflict of 2014 started, Junbud and her family were renting a room on the top floor of a house in Qaraqosh. The house was located on the main street leading to Qaraqosh’s downtown.  During the early days of the conflict, they would often see and hear bombardments from a distance. But one day they heard the sound of bombing nearby and started to panic. In haste, Junbud packed up some clothes and they drove for an hour and a half to reach Akre, a town within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, 107.4 km away from Qaraqosh.

The family stayed in an animal barn during the first six months of displacement. They caught allergies from the barn, and could no longer bear it as their medical expenses to cure allergies increased. 

They finally moved to an unfinished building, fixed some windows and used fabric to cover some holes. In those days, Junbud returned to her childhood passion of tailoring as a way to support his family.  

When Junbud was young, she was often watching her mother sew simple pieces for the family on a modest sewing machine. When she was in the second grade of the school, her mother told her father that her daughters did not need to go to school because they would eventually get married. So the girl left school. Then Junbud got addicted to sewing and she started making patterns of clothes on papers, slowly learned to sew and started sewing for the women of her neighborhood.

Junbud thought she could support her family with sewing during those difficult days of displacement. She had two major duties during the day - to take care of Alber and meet new clients to discuss sewing projects to tailor clothes during the evenings.

As the conflict ended in 2017, Junbud and her family returned to Qaraqosh. On her way back to her hometown, Junbud felt happy. But sadly, as they arrived, they found out that all their belongings were damaged. 

“When I returned, I was crying. My in-laws’ house was absolutely burnt. Alber's carriage was broken into pieces. When we were fleeing we couldn't take our documents, my son’s medical, or photos. All was lost. Now I don’t have any photos and memories left,” shared Junbud.

“When we returned, we didn’t have anything. We rebuilt our lives step by step. The biggest challenge we had was to take my son to the doctor because medical treatments are very expensive,” continues Junbud.

Recently Junbud heard about the Safe Returns Project of Australian Aid Initiative that World Vision Iraq implements on behalf of the Australian Government from women in her neighborhood who use her tailoring skills. The Safe Returns Project provides vulnerable individuals with small business training skills, financial grants, and encourages the participants to form savings group among each other.  The Savings group support community members to save cash together in a safe, convenient and flexible way. It aims at building financial resilience and literacy. This activity also orients and teaches participants on managing their life expenses, practicing savings and using these savings on essential needs. The groups are owned, managed, and operated by the members.  World Vision Iraq facilitates establishment of those groups and conducts several bi-weekly orientation sessions for the participants.  Twice every month, the participants meet to save cash in a box (each according to their financial capacity) and, by the end of a twelve month cycle, they divide of the savings among each other.

Her determination and words of support from her husband helped her make a decision to apply to the project. World Vision Iraq team chose Junbud as a participant in the project to help her reduce her vulnerable situation. “It was very nice. They took us to Mosul for a fifteen-day training. I benefitted a lot from the savings group. I always put money aside for my Alber. Sometimes they tell me that I am cheapskate but I answer this is not being cheapskate. I know my situation and I am obliged to act like this. How could I take Alber to the doctor otherwise?”

Junbud appreciates that she has an opportunity to participate in the project. Now she has a new sewing machine, which helps her work faster than before. “The old machine sometimes wouldn’t work. The new scissors are very good too. Now I have two scissors. When the women see that I have these nice tools, they are more willing that I tailor for them. Almost all my fabrics have gone into making clothes. I have a table, a machine, a drawer and a mirror. I have everything now. It is a little bit better.”

Today Junbud is able to spend on her children’s education. Her eldest daughter, Sarah, has difficulties with English classes at school. She decided to hire a teacher to help her improve her language skills. She has also been able to spend on Alber's treatment. She realises that as Alber is getting older, his treatment is also getting more expensive than before.

Junbud feels happy seeing her children happy. “My happiest moment is when I see my children. My children are the most important thing in my life.  My dream is that my children do better than I did and have better life experiences.”

Through the Safe Returns Project, 35 women and 5 men were trained in business development. 500 beneficiaries participated in savings group and 40 beneficiaries received grants to develop small projects.

Many families like Junbud’s, lost their belongings and source of income. Through projects like this World Vision Iraq aims to help people strengthen their business development skills and be able to initiate income generating activities, which will help families restore their lives and support their children. The project will reach 1,260 households (7,560 individuals) in post conflict affected areas in Hamdaniyah and Mosul.