Meet Othman

Meet Othman Qewas: Lemon Tree Trust’s valued team member and Gawilan camp resident

Our gardening activities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq are run for and by local displaced people – with Othman Qewas, our Garden Coordinator in Gawilan camp * – being one such person. 

Othman is a valued member of the Lemon Tree Trust team, having worked as our Garden Coordinator in Gawilan since 2018. This year, Othman’s role will expand to oversee the build and day-to-day running of the new community garden we are building in the camp.

Othman

Othman, 52, is originally from the Syrian city of Kobani. Since fleeing the war in Syria in 2015, he has lived in Gawilan with his wife, two daughters Ronak and Newroz, and son Lawan.

We chat to Othman about gardening, life in Gawilan and working with Lemon Tree Trust… 


* Gawilan is a refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and home to more than 10,000 people and 2,400 families – the majority are Kurdish and from the Syrian cities of Al Hasakah and Aleppo.


Pictured: Othman (right) with Garden Coordinator Leila (left), presenting one of our 2022 Annual Garden Competition winners with an award certificate for their beautiful garden in Gawilan camp.

Growing home in Gawilan camp

What do you most like about gardening?  

When I plant, cultivate, and work the soil, and see the results of my efforts in the form of a healthy plant, I feel happy. 

What’s your favourite flower and why? 

Damascus roses have beautiful colours and scent. They add beauty to life and their scent refreshes the soul. 

What produce do you and your family love to grow and use in home cooking?  

We enjoy cultivating parsley, radishes, cress, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cucumber, aubergine/eggplant, carrots, lettuce, rocket/arugula and pepper. 

What’s your family’s favourite meal? 

We all love Kibbeh Nayeh with hot pepper, which is famous among us in our beloved home city of Kobani. It consists of minced raw lamb mixed with fine bulgur and spices and we serve it with mint leaves, olive oil and green onions. Syrian bread is used to scoop it up. 

What is your most treasured gardening memory or memories from your childhood or home and garden before Gawilan? 

I grew up in a farming family, so I have fond memories of working out in the fields. We also had a small garden at home that brought the family together for fun evenings. 

I learned a lot from my parents regarding agriculture and gardening from a young age, the most important of which is order and not neglecting work. 

What’s the best gardening tip you’ve ever given or received?  

Two things: To work hard and not to waste water. 

If you could only grow one crop, what would it be?  

Wheat because it is the basis of food for humanity.  

Is there anything you tried growing but found it difficult and have vowed to never grow it again? 

There has been no specific thing that I planted and failed, but often a lack of space or the lack of financial capacity are the things that make it difficult for people to grow – two things that are particularly challenging in a refugee camp.  

Othman stands in front of a digger at the new Gawilan community garden site, which is levelling the ground in preparation for the fencing, raised beds and playground to be constructed.

Pictured: Othman lends a hand at the new Gawilan community garden site where a digger levels the ground in preparation for the fencing, raised beds and playground to be constructed.

Everyday living in Gawilan camp 

What does a typical day look like for you?  

I do not like routine. Often, I do something that takes me out of routine – I work on home repairs, or read and walk, or visit friends, or go out with my family to different places according to what we agree on. I would say my hobbies besides gardening are exercising, walking, and reading books.  

What do you find most challenging about living in Gawilan today?  

Being called a refugee and experiencing different customs, a new world, and many unmentionable things. 

What do you miss most about your life before coming to Gawilan?  

I miss many things, but most importantly, I miss the land where I grew up, and my family and friends. 

What job/career did you have in your life before Gawilan?  

I was an employee at an electricity corporation. 

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why? 

I would visit America because it is an entire continent; a continent that has creativity in all aspects and its language is English. 

Pictured: Gardening outreach at schools in Gawilan camp: Othman shares his gardening ‘know how’ with the children. 

Being a member of Lemon Tree Trust’s team 

How did you find out about Lemon Tree Trust? 

By applying to volunteer for the annual garden competitions in Gawilan camp. 

What is it about Lemon Tree Trust that made you want to join our team? 

Dealing with agriculture, gardening, and aesthetics of homes, plus Lemon Tree Trust’s values of honesty and sincerity being the basis for success. I thank the Lemon Tree Trust organisation for enabling me to be a part of this beautiful family, honest with its work and sincere giving. 

What aspect of being a facilitator do you most enjoy? 

I enjoy and feel comfortable being a member of the Lemon Tree Trust team. When I advise fellow Gawilan residents, I enjoy seeing quick results in terms of their engagement with our activities and gardening successes. It’s rewarding.  

What are you most looking forward to about the new Gawilan community garden? 

The new community space will be a great source of support for many poor and vulnerable families and a source of comfort for residents. It also means that Lemon Tree Trust can increase its activities, which can only be a good thing in terms of helping many more people in Gawilan.

Support our Gawilan camp community garden appeal

We’re thrilled to be expanding our gardening activities in Gawilan by building a new community garden in the camp. 

But we need your help to fund the build and daily running activities of the garden.  

Please help today and any donation you make will be matched 

Learn more about the appeal

 

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Meet Othman Qewas: Lemon Tree Trust’s valued team member and Gawilan camp resident Our gardening activities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq are run for and by local displaced people – with Othman Qewas, our Garden Coordinator in Gawilan camp * – being one such person.  Othman is a valued member of the Lemon Tree … Continued