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Dec 2, 2019

My visit to North Macedonia

STEP business training in N-Macedonia
STEP business training in N-Macedonia

I have been the international director of Operation Mercy for 3 months now. One of my highlights during those 12 weeks were two field visits one to Jordan and a recent one to North Macedonia.

North Macedonia is a little different from most of our project countries, it is in Europe it is a tiny country not even recognised by all its neighbours and predominant Christian. It is also better off than most of the other countries we work in, ranked 80 on the Human development index.

What such statistics and info sheets don’t tell very well is the story of minorities, the pain still in the hearts of many even two decades after the Kosovar war. North Macedonia is home to a large number of what we often call Kosovar Albanians who are Muslim of faith and spread over Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania, in North Macedonia this group is living in a sub culture that surprised me beyond anything I could have imagined. Skopje is a divided city – it feels like crossing major culture lines just walking through the old town.

Our team works on building bridges in this divided society – some of our Macedonian staff are learning Albanian and are getting push back from their own community for it. Our health and hope drop in centre in the middle of the Albanian part of town, gives women from very conservative backgrounds a place to come and get advice, do exercises for their backs and have a cup of coffee among friends.

Recently we started the STEP project, a vocational skills development programme for Albanian women. Currently they are learning about business, marketing, clients – as well as ethics and growing their own self confidence as entrepreneurs. In the new year they will start their apprenticeship in hair dressing, tailoring and baking.

Equipped with new skills and new confidence these women from a minority group are stepping out into society – making their way, creating family income, opportunities for their daughters and sons.

Our team in North Macedonia creates hope, capacity and community – for those forgotten after years of conflict and mistrust.


Oct 22, 2019

Life-changing Surgery

For the second time this year, Operation Mercy Iraq has partnered with a medical organization and facilitated orthopedic surgeries for many of our clients in our community-based rehabilitation program. This orthopedic team first came in January and performed 24 surgeries, and we have been the primary providers of physical therapy and wound care for these clients since that time. The same team was recently here and performed 20 more surgeries on some of our previous clients and on new ones we will begin to follow. Below is the result of one of our clients, a 7-year-old Syrian refugee, who fled the war with her family when she was a 1 year old. She was born with six fingers on both her hands and genu valgum or knock-knee in both legs. Both hands and legs were operated upon in January. She now can walk and run with no inhibition. Also, her quality of life as she grows up is and will be greatly improved in a culture where having six fingers may cause barriers to marriage or job opportunities.

Oct 22, 2019

"How do you feel about your physical health?"

Home to our beneficiaries - a Syrian Refugee Camp
Home to our beneficiaries - a Syrian Refugee Camp

“How do you feel about your physical health right now?”

To follow up on our beneficiaries and improve our services, our project coordinator has been going around to visit people in their homes asking questions such as this one. In the past three months, around 100 ladies were able to benefit from our regular classes in two camps for Syrian refugees.

It has been exciting to hear how individuals have been encouraged and challenged by their time together exercising as a group. While some have experienced major changes in their bodies and increased energy during their daily activities, others commented that they stopped hitting their children and have a bigger margin for the difficulties they experience.

“How do you feel about your emotional health right now? “

Everyone in the camps is affected by recent developments increasing the conflict in their home region of Northeastern Syria. Most of the ladies that attend our classes have relatives or friends in Northeastern Syria and for whose lives they fear and as returning to their homes is cast into doubt once again. Though coming to exercise does not remove their worries and grief, it does provide a much needed opportunity to let out stress and receive encouragement.

Thank you for your contributions towards helping refugee women stay in shape and be encouraged!

Refugee women getting into shape.
Refugee women getting into shape.
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