First the war took *Mary's hearing (* not her real name). She was walking through a Baghdad market with her brother when the bomb ripped through her eardrums, leaving her deaf. Then the war came for her father. A militia took him, so they say. Mary still hopes he is alive somehow and will come find her when the war is over, but she does not know. Finally, the war took away her home. One day, without warning, her mother told her they were leaving for Turkey. Iraq was not safe for them anymore.
Piece by piece, the war tried to destroy Mary's childhood. And for nearly four years, it succeeded.
She lived in a cramped, drafty apartment with her family in southern Turkey. They lived off her brother's meager wages from a nearby bakery and the charity of their Turkish neighbors. She couldn't go to school with her younger sister; no teacher knew how to teach a child who could not hear or speak. Her mother tried to find a doctor to treat her, but nothing they tried seemed to help. Mary's world was slowly closing in on her.
Until one day-- almost one year ago to the day-- she and her family were allowed to board a plane to Northwest Arkansas. She was greeted outside her new home by her co-sponsor team carrying balloons and signs. Inside, she found toys and clothes in her closet and a warm meal on the stove. A week later, she went to enroll in school, right alongside her younger sister. Two weeks later, she came home from her first day, grinning as she showed her mother how to sign her name, ecstatic to finally be able to communicate again. Six months later, she received a hearing aid and heard her mother's voice for the first time in 6 years.
Mary has been given a new life here. These days, she gets to be a pretty normal 6th grader. She rides scooters with her neighbors up and down the sidewalk of her apartment complex. She dances to Justin Bieber songs with her sister (songs that she can now hear, at least faintly). She practices forming words with her speech therapist so that maybe one day, in addition to signing, she'll be able to talk a bit too.
Slowly, Mary's childhood is being restored.
This past year, Canopy was able to welcome and care for 23 other children just like Mary. Some of them were born and had lived their whole lives in refugee camps. Some were orphaned, having lost both their parents to war. Some had just narrowly escaped a life of gang violence and were joining parents they hadn't seen since they were toddlers.
With your help, each and every one of these children was able to receive individual attention and care from a Canopy case manager: he let them pinch his hands while they got their shots, he met with their teachers to help craft customized learning plans, he helped them get set up with counselors so that they could start to heal from the trauma they had encountered. Thanks to his careful attention and the hard work of all the volunteers, tutors, teachers, doctors and therapists who have poured into these kids, they are all slowly seeing their childhoods restored.
This coming year, we are expecting and waiting for 16 more children just like Mary-- and perhaps others we don't even know about yet. During this season of giving, we ask you to give the children who are here and the many children to come the gift of an education and a restored childhood.