Women Health Volunteers (WHVs) play a crucial role within AMAR’s work. Having received training, they conduct regular visits to families and local communities, delivering vital healthcare and information directly to where it is needed most.
AMAR has been running its WHV programme since 2004, and today we are working with over 480 WHVs across the country. This year alone, they have delivered over 105,000 visits.
We spoke to Rewaq, National Head of AMAR’s Women Health Volunteers in Iraq, to find out more about the work of WHVs.
When did you start working with AMAR?
I began working as a health volunteer for AMAR in 2008. I’d never thought about volunteering before – it’s not really something anyone I know had done. Now, seven years later, I’ve realised the incredible impact volunteers can have and the role they play in connecting you to your humanitarian side. Even small acts can make a huge difference to those in need.
Today, my role has changed a bit, and I am now the National Head of AMAR’s Women Health Volunteers (WHV) Programme. I oversee the work of the hundreds of WHVs from all faiths and backgrounds across the country, supporting them in their training and day to day work. I also regularly make visits myself, sharing health advice and providing moral support to vulnerable families. Regularly, I work with women who have lost their partners and who need help in rehabilitating psychologically, socially and economically. Often they lack the skills and confidence to find work to support their families – so I help and encourage them join AMAR’s skills training courses so that they can develop a sense of empowerment and live their lives more fully.
Iraq is facing a humanitarian crisis. How are WHVs helping?
Since 2014, when ISIL attacked the North and West of our country, the situation facing Iraq has been rapidly deteriorating. Millions have been uprooted from their homes and forced to restart their lives elsewhere in the country; thousands of women have been taken captive by ISIL; countless children have been orphaned and women have been widowed; and thousands of individuals are suffering from physical and psychological scars.
It’s unbearable witnessing this, and at AMAR, we know that there is an urgent need to intervene and help our fellow Iraqis. I have been working to ensure those in need receive medical assistance and advice. Our WHVs are also supporting as many people as they can – delivering advice, information and basic care to help them recover.
You must have worked with thousands of Iraqis. Are there any particularly memorable stories from your work with AMAR?
This summer, I helped to provide moral and psychological support to three young Yazidi girls who had recently escaped ISIL captivity. They had been held hostage for months and had suffered rape, beatings and other unspeakable horrors on a daily basis. For five months, I regularly met them, speaking to them about their experiences whilst overseeing and monitoring their psychological recuperation. In July, I even accompanied them to London so that they could share their experiences with British school students – it was amazing to see them speaking to students in London, and was something which definitely had an immensely positive impact on their recovery.