Meet Jiyan's Animal Helpers at the Healing Garden in Chamchamal

Our animal helpers work hard every day to empower survivors and give courage to children. The people who come to the healing garden are often survivors of violence and trauma. These experiences can result in many conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, uncontrollable thoughts, excessive fear, and worry which can prevent them from leading relatively normal lives.

Our animal helpers provide women and children with comfort, courage, and an outlet to practice empathy and an opportunity to take care of others.

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Gazî and Aziz

A true story

Two years ago I met a young boy named Aziz* who would not speak. Worried for him, his mother brought him to our psychotherapeutic treatment center in Chamchamal.

In our first meeting, Aziz would only sit completely still not acknowledging myself or others. He made little eye contact and was always looking away or toward the floor.

Twice a week our psychotherapists invited Aziz to our Healing Garden in Chamchamal where he could engage with the animals. Feeding them, petting them, and caring for them as he wished. It was obvious to his psychotherapists and myself that Aziz wasn’t entirely comfortable until one day, a small, newly hatched duckling crawled onto his lap.

I remember watching as he picked up the duckling in his hands, pet it, and smiled. Since then every day when Aziz would return to our Healing Garden he would look around, in search of his friend. As though it could feel his presence, this little duckling would quack and run to Aziz. Unfailing, every time.

I had never seen anything like this before. Perhaps it was because the duckling was so young when they had met, or maybe it was just fate, but as the weeks went by and the duckling grew it would quack and run toward Aziz. Every week, twice a week. In fact, the first sound I had ever heard from Aziz was his own “quack!” toward his feathered friend.

This sound was a breakthrough.

Seeing the potential of this relationship our psychotherapists invited the little duckling, who we named Gazî which means hope in Kurdish-Sorani, to join Aziz in his sessions. After six months, with the now full-grown duck on his lap, Aziz spoke his first words to our psychotherapists.

Gazî our animal helper waits patiently for his friend at the Healing Garden.

At only ten years old, we had discovered that Aziz had experienced a lifetime of violence at the hands of his father. We learned that he was sexually abused, and beaten. These experiences caused Aziz to regress into himself and developed a fear of communicating.

Many children in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq have suffered for years from extreme violence at the hands of ISIS, or at home. With the help of animals, children can feel safe and develop the confidence to communicate their experiences.

I’m happy to say that Aziz still visits the Healing Garden to engage in our therapeutic programs. He is no longer experiencing the violence or abuse he once had and his friendship with Gazî remains strong.

Thank you for taking the time to read to my story.

With much love and kindness,

Salah Ahmad

Chair Jiyan Foundation (Iraq) and President Jiyan Foundation Human Rights US

Our Animal Helpers Need Your Support

Food, veterinary appointments, medication, you name it. Our animal helpers work hard everyday to empower survivors and give courage to children, but they need help too. Any small donation can provide food and medication for our animal friends keeping them in tip-top shape so they can do their jobs for the families who benefit from their support. By joining our community, you'll be kept up-to-date on our newest animal helpers, the work they do, and be privy to exclusive insights into our Healing Garden at Chamchamal.