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Iraqi Doctors Serve Children of All Beliefs and Tribes

July 22, 2014 by · Comments Off 

Children served in our Nasiriyah program

From the northernmost town on the Turkish border, to the southernmost port on the Persian Gulf—the doctors in our highest impact program (the one we referenced in our recent Urgent Appeal) have saved children from all over Iraq.

Now, these predominantly Shia doctors in the south are opening their hearts and operating rooms to Sunni families who’ve fled from cities like Mosul, Tikrit, and Fallujah in response to recent violence.

“No one cares if they are Sunni, or Turkish—or any race or belief—what we care about is how to relieve their condition,” said Dr. Munaf, a pediatric cardiac surgeon-in-training.

Since the beginning of 2014, this 39-week, in-country training program in Nasiriyah has provided more than 180 children with heart surgery—and we’ve scheduled 20+ more this week!

The second year of the program is wrapping up soon. In the meantime, the doctors in Nasiriyah continue to battle geographic, ethnic, tribal, and theological differences in the operating room—saving lives along the way.

Click here to help keep this program afloat, investing in these doctors’ all-inclusive, lifesaving work!

Alex Allison is an almond-butter-lovin’ writing enthusiast with a penchant for allegories, Ray Bradbury, and studying Mandarin Chinese. Originally a farm girl from Amarillo, Texas, she recently graduated with a creative writing degree from Pepperdine University, and her current adventure involves her second summer spent collecting and sharing stories as PLC’s copywriting intern.

From Our Director—The Only Urgent Appeal We’ve Ever Made

July 15, 2014 by · Comments Off 

Doctors, children affected by ISIS

In 7+ years, we have never made an urgent appeal, but we are this week.

I’m writing to ask you to stand with us, dig in your heels, and save lives inside Iraq.

The rapid advance of ISIS eliminated our ability to serve children in certain parts of the country. But there’s hope.

Our highest impact program is still saving children from all corners of Iraq.

We need your help. The violence across the country has made our work more important than ever as displaced families continue to seek lifesaving surgeries for their children. For many, our doctors are their only option.

We’ve already helped provide 180 surgeries for children in 2014 alone! But there are still 20+ children we have promised to serve in the next two weeks, and we cannot do it without you.

It only takes $250 right now for our Remedy doctors to save an Iraqi child. Your donation is an investment in children with names, families, and dreams—children like Samira, Nihad, and Zaid.

Please donate here to help us save their lives today.

If Iraq has any hope, it is in those who love their neighbors and their enemies. Your donation of any amount has never been more powerful to save lives and wage peace. Click here to give.

Jeremy Courtney lives and loves in Iraq as a co-founder and Executive Director of the Preemptive Love Coalition. He's also the father of two spectacular children, and married to the lovely Jessica Courtney. When not absorbed in PLC work he can be found writing songs and singing about hope and future. Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @JCourt.

Out for Blood—An Exchange Between Sunni and Shia

July 3, 2014 by · Comments Off 

A doctor drawing blood

A Sunni walked into a group full of Shias last month and asked for their blood.

It wasn’t ISIS, it wasn’t sectarian aggression. It was a father in a hospital whose little boy needed a blood transfusion—and quickly.

The boy, Aland (whose story we’ll share with you soon), had traveled from his hometown in the north to our Nasiriyah program in the south, desperately seeking a lifesaving heart surgery—and he got it. But during the surgery, he also lost a lot of blood.

He needed more. So his father, a Sunni Kurd, walked onto the street outside—which brimmed with Shia Arab families—and asked if they would help save his son.

Not long after, Aland had ‘enemy’ blood running through his veins.

Typically, only family members give blood to each other in Iraq. So, to Aland’s father, it was as though these people—who were thought to be enemies—raised their hands and said, “I’m family.”

You make encounters like this possible each time you donate toward a child’s lifesaving surgery—thank you. Click here to give so more little boys like Aland can discover family amongst their enemies—and what life is like with a healthy heart.

Alex Allison is an almond-butter-lovin’ writing enthusiast with a penchant for allegories, Ray Bradbury, and studying Mandarin Chinese. Originally a farm girl from Amarillo, Texas, she recently graduated with a creative writing degree from Pepperdine University, and her current adventure involves her second summer spent collecting and sharing stories as PLC’s copywriting intern.

Saving Lives In Nasiriyah—Doctors Help Children From Across Iraq

July 1, 2014 by · Comments Off 

Nasiriyah Doctors

While ISIS works to establish a caliphate in the north, Iraqi doctors work to save children in the south.

They’re in Nasiriyah living, learning, and operating alongside some of the best doctors and nurses in the world—and they’re not going anywhere.

In fact, as more and more Iraqis flee southward from cities like Mosul and Tikrit, these doctors have been able to help more children get the lifesaving heart surgeries they need—regardless of religion or tribe.

“Somehow our job is not only to provide health, but also other dimensions like love, hope, and peace,” one of the Iraqi surgeons-in-training, Dr. Munaf, told us this week. “[Here] there is no difference between Sunni or Christian or Kurd—all of us belong to one country.”

As a year-long, in-country, training program, the work in Nasiriyah is our most robust method for medical development to date.

Dr. Munaf also shared that, through the work of our partners Living Light International, the International Children’s Heart Foundation, and local doctors like Dr. Akeel, the program has performed nearly 180 surgeries just this year!

Even in the midst of these troubled times, lives are still being saved. Our doctors aren’t giving up—and we hope you don’t, either.

Click here to donate toward lifesaving heart surgeries in Nasiriyah—creating a safe haven for kids from all over Iraq.

Alex Allison is an almond-butter-lovin’ writing enthusiast with a penchant for allegories, Ray Bradbury, and studying Mandarin Chinese. Originally a farm girl from Amarillo, Texas, she recently graduated with a creative writing degree from Pepperdine University, and her current adventure involves her second summer spent collecting and sharing stories as PLC’s copywriting intern.

What’s Really Happening in Iraq—Our Take

June 18, 2014 by · Comments Off 

Iraq Road Signs

The truth is, nobody perfectly understands what’s really happening.

We’ve watched along with the rest of the world as shocking events unfolded in Iraq over the past few weeks. We’ve been slow to respond publicly for multiple reasons, including a calculated decision to allow the fog to clear and facts to emerge so our response will, at least, do no harm.

Furthermore, some of our dearest friends and Iraqi colleagues whom we’ve been training are on the front lines of this week’s developments, and we chose to prioritize our current work and relationships.

Meanwhile, everyone is making pronouncements and predictions. ISIS spokesmen say they will march to Karbala and overtake Baghdad. The Iraqi government claims to have retaken (at least parts) of Tikrit, Mosul, and smaller towns largely unmentioned in most Western media. But evidence to confirm these claims has been (at the time of this writing) shaky at best. Suggestive headlines about the “end of Iraq” get more clicks than their more nuanced, long-winded counterparts, but again—nobody knows.

Here are a few things we’d like you to consider:

1. We condemn radical ideologies and sectarian subjugation

This requires a much longer conversation, but suffice it to say that the “ISIS Crisis” is actually a mishmash of (at least) tribal elements, Islamic extremists, recently released criminals, and secular, exiled Ba’athists ranging from war criminals to mere party members who were branded by the de-Ba’athification policy after the fall of Saddam.

They have temporarily found a common cause in the destabilization of Iraq and the desire to overthrow the current Shia-led government for policies that many Sunnis, ranging from secular liberal to religious conservatives, believe to be purposefully sectarian.

Too many pundits have tried to force us to take sides in the blame game. For many, this must be (1) all President Obama’s fault; (2) all President Bush’s fault; (3) all [radical] Islam’s fault; or (4) all Maliki’s fault.

We have many friends across Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, and Christian communities in Iraq nationwide. And just as there were systemic realities in place under Saddam Hussein to suppress Kurds and Shia Arabs, there are systemic realities—created and maintained by Western, Iranian, and domestic Iraqi forces—that have contributed to the plight of Sunnis for years.

Believing they were out of options for peaceful protest, too many Sunnis have thrown caution to the wind and allied themselves with ideologically driven, radical militants who say they will stop at nothing until they achieve their campaign of religious cleansing.

We condemn the radical ideologies that have contributed to decades of conflict in and around Iraq. We condemn the sectarian subjugation of the Shia, Kurdish, and Christian peoples under Saddam Hussein that sowed the seeds of conflict decades ago. We condemn the extreme application of de-Ba’athification and anti-terror policies that implicated so many innocent Sunni men, women, and children since 2003. And we condemn the morally depraved radical Islamists who take the name of GOD in vain and smear the reputation of 1.5 billion peaceful Muslims around the world in their pursuit of power and control.

2. Our Iraqi partners and the children we serve are at risk

We have had the great joy and privilege of working in some of the cities and hospitals that have been most affected by the recent violence. You have helped us save the lives of Christian and Muslim; Kurdish, Arab, Yazidi, Chaldean, and Assyrian children from Tal Affar, Mosul, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Samarra, Fallujah, and beyond.

All of the doctors and nurses with whom we work are safe to the best of our knowledge, as many of them fled to nearby towns or large cities. Some report staying in schools, living for weeks at a time in hotels, or living in tiny apartments with multiple families.

Even so, many are still caught in no-man’s-land between the advancing militants and the Iraqi Security Forces.

3. PLC staff, volunteers, & interns are safe

Thank you for your concern, your prayers, your encouragement, calls, and messages—much of this newsletter is written in response to a flood of communications from you, and we are glad that you are worked up and concerned. We continue to discuss and assess the situation with our board, our team, and with various friends and mentors, both within Iraq and without. Please take your concern and outrage and use it on behalf of our friends here who have fewer resources and fewer options for retreat than we have.

If you can pray, pray. Pray for wisdom and renewed imagination for world leaders, and for people just like you who are fleeing their homes toward so much uncertainty. If you can give, give. We’ll keep using your generosity to provide lifesaving heart surgery—and to create space for people from these disparate groups to come together in the process. And if you can learn more about these places and events, we ask you to read diversely to better understand the many voices in this story.

4. Our work is carrying on

The headlines make it hard to see how this is possible, but Iraq is a large, diverse country. This conflict does not define everything that is going on everywhere.

Dr. Novick from the International Children’s Heart Foundation is back on the ground in Nasiriyah deep into year two of year-round training. Dr. Novick and his team have been tireless and courageous in their passion to see all Iraqi children have access to the lifesaving heart surgeries they need.

With your help, ICHF, LLI, and PLC hope to safely provide 300+ heart surgeries for children this year while graduating the Iraqi team in Nasiriyah closer to complete surgical independence.

Click here to help send a child to her lifesaving heart surgery.

5. We still believe in preemptive love

You’ve heard the news: 30,000 Iraqi troops allegedly fled Mosul in the face of a mere 800 militants, shedding their uniforms in a forced renunciation of the Iraqi government, hiding their identity and relinquishing weapons to the enemy. And so the militant attacks advanced, largely unchecked, through Kirkuk, Tikrit, Baiji, Diyala, and so forth.

When we started the Preemptive Love Coalition, it was about being a certain kind of people; about unmaking violence and remaking the world around us; about planning for peace while so many prepared for perpetual war.

For seven years we have stood our posts and given ourselves away—Christians and Muslims—to love our neighbors and enemies alike. We have seen the ground in front of us quake like this before. We have contemplated taking off our uniforms, denying our allegiance, and running away.

But as followers of Jesus, there is no denying that love is our job. And love is our joy.

We have the “weapons” to unmake violence—we call it preemptive love. It is, at times, risky. And it doesn’t seem to work 100% of the time. But it is as powerful as anything else out there, and we will not relinquish it and run away (not yet at least).

The 2,100+ families here who have had their children seen—or even saved—by our partner doctors and nurses have seen the light drive the dark away before. And it is still happening all around Iraq today.

Don’t give up on Iraq. Don’t give up on preemptive love. There is still only one love big enough to change a nation—a love that strikes first.

With you,

Jeremy Courtney
Co-Founder, Executive Director

Jeremy Courtney lives and loves in Iraq as a co-founder and Executive Director of the Preemptive Love Coalition. He's also the father of two spectacular children, and married to the lovely Jessica Courtney. When not absorbed in PLC work he can be found writing songs and singing about hope and future. Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @JCourt.

“My Heart Defect Doesn’t Define Or Defeat Me, It Compels Me To Serve”

February 27, 2014 by · Comments Off 

A photo of Roslyn with the famous Maddy, our 300th child served.

CHD Awareness Month is almost over, and I thought we should close out with a story from an amazing nurse and friend, Roslyn Rivera. I first met Roslyn in an ICU in Iraq, where she was showing the scar on her chest to an Iraqi child. It was obvious that the child got what she was saying: “I’m like you, and I’m here for you.” So when Roslyn volunteered to share more about life with a heart defect, and how it has changed her life—and the lives of countless children—for the better, we said “Yes!”

###

I knew at the age of ten that I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this life decision at such a young age would lead me to one day serve children all around the world.

My story begins the day I was born. I was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, having two holes in my heart. I had two heart surgeries—at age three and ten. It was during that hospitalization at age ten that I decided I wanted to become a nurse. I noticed the faint scar on the chest of one of my nurses, and learned that she also had heart surgery. Hearing her story made me think how amazing it was that she had heart surgery and now she was my nurse!

While I’ve never let my heart condition hold me back in any way, it does influence how I live my life. My personal interest in all things heart-related led me to a nursing career in pediatric cardiac intensive care.

From a fellow nurse, I heard about an organization, the International Children’s Heart Foundation (ICHF), that did medical mission trips to provide heart surgery to children in developing countries. After my first volunteer trip to the Dominican Republic, I knew I found my calling. Knowing the degree that congenital heart defects occur around the world, I consider myself extremely lucky to have been born in America.

To think, I may not have had the opportunity to receive adequate medical care had I been born elsewhere. This is why I travel to developing countries with medical teams providing heart surgery to children who would otherwise not receive care.

I was that child in the hospital bed attached to wires and tubes, and now—as a nurse—I can truly relate to the children I care for. I remember my pacing wires being pulled out of my chest. I remember the expressions of worry and fear on my parents faces and the kind nurses who comforted them.

Roslyn smiling at the bedside of a patient.

Sometimes I share my heart story with my patients and their parents. If I don’t speak the language, I simply show them my scar in an attempt to convey the message that my scar is proof I survived. Sharing my story calms their anxiety and gives them a hope that their child will grow up to be a healthy adult.

In December 2012, I had the opportunity to go to Iraq with ICHF. Joining together with Preemptive Love, we initiated pediatric cardiac care in Basra. Traveling to Iraq was a distressing idea to much of my family and friends, but I knew my nursing skills would help save the lives of Iraqi children.

This trip was truly eye-opening. I found myself immersed in a culture I knew little about and I didn’t speak a word of Arabic, but I embraced all these differences.

Here in Iraq I learned that the expression of joy and gratitude on a mother’s face as she sees her child given a new chance at life is undeniably universal, and this only increased my desire to continue to help mend the hearts of children across the globe.

As Communication Director, Matt Willingham spends most of his time trying to get the word out on PLC's work in Iraq. On the side, he likes reading stories, devouring the great food his wife cooks up, and DSLR camera work. He's also mildly obsessed with Twitter: @mehtin.

Al Jazeera America’s Coverage of Our Surgical Work in Iraq

December 17, 2013 by · Comments Off 

On our recent Remedy Mission XX, we partnered again with Living Light International and the International Children’s Heart Foundation to bring surgical training to Iraq’s southernmost port city of Basra.

For this trip we were privileged to host a team from Al Jazeera America—one of whom was the previously mentioned Yasser Al Joumaili—to create a piece that aired on America Tonight.

Click above to watch!

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalInternational Children's Heart Foundation

As Communication Director, Matt Willingham spends most of his time trying to get the word out on PLC's work in Iraq. On the side, he likes reading stories, devouring the great food his wife cooks up, and DSLR camera work. He's also mildly obsessed with Twitter: @mehtin.

Ridha Update—Still In The ICU, But Not Alone

November 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A photo of Ridha in the ICU.

Several of you have asked about Ridha, requesting updates.

We are checking in on him, and as of today he is still stable in the ICU. The local nurses there are committed to caring for him until he is well enough to leave—he isn’t alone.



Thank you for being so committed to these children. Your compassion sometimes sneaks up on us—I love getting emails asking for more updates, and we’re grateful that you care enough to ask!

Keep caring, asking, and expecting updates. We’ll let you know when we learn more on Ridha.

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalInternational Children's Heart Foundation

As Communication Director, Matt Willingham spends most of his time trying to get the word out on PLC's work in Iraq. On the side, he likes reading stories, devouring the great food his wife cooks up, and DSLR camera work. He's also mildly obsessed with Twitter: @mehtin.

20 Missions Later—You’re Still Saving Lives

November 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Iraqi woman holding a child after surgery

Three and a half years ago you helped launch the very first Remedy Mission inside Iraq.

Today, twenty missions later, you have helped save the lives of more than 315 children through Remedy Missions alone. This doesn’t include the hundreds who have been saved through Remedy Fellowship. Beyond the immediate impact on these lives, you helped provide tens of thousands of hours of hands-on training for locals like Dr. Akeel, Dr. Zainab, and hundreds of medical professionals across the country.

We see your impact on a daily basis.

Your donations have ensured that hundreds each year can have access to the lifesaving surgery they need.

Remedy Mission XX continues your impact. These past two weeks we witnessed Zainab, Hussein, Fatima, and twelve others receive lifesaving surgeries. We witnessed thousands of hours of training given around the clock to local doctors and nurses. We witnessed two surgical operations that had never been performed before in this local heart center, bringing inspiration and hope to an entire local community who thought these kind of lifesaving operations were only available outside of Iraq.

This is your impact!

We have two more Remedy Missions just around the corner, but we need your help. Will you donate today and continue your lifesaving impact inside Iraq?

Your donations will help launch two more Remedy Missions in central and southern Iraq before the year ends.

Click here to donate now!

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalInternational Children's Heart Foundation

Cody Fisher is the co-founder and Development Director of the Preemptive Love Coalition. He moved to Iraq in 2007 where he met his wife and since then they've been waging peace and mending hearts across Iraq. His passions are photography, peacemaking, and food that doesn't come out of a can. You can follow him on Twitter: @candmfisher.

Ridha Slowly Gains Momentum In the ICU

November 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Heart defects don’t go without a fight—especially Ridha’s heart defects.

Each child we operate on has a ranking of how difficult their operation and recovery will be. It’s a way for us to discern the risk of an operation before we move forward. Each Remedy Mission has a combination of low-risk and high-risk operations.

The low-risk operations are better for teaching and long-term development, and the high-risk operations happen because that child may die at any moment. If we were not in the hospital, those high-risk children have no hope for getting the lifesaving surgery they need. So each mission we make room for those cases, for the underdogs. 

Ridha’s operation carried the highest level of risk there is to have. He is the definition of an underdog—that’s why we’re fighting for him. 

The good news is that Ridha’s recovery is slowly gaining momentum in the ICU. The victories are small but significant. He will be sick for a while. But with each new day the victories are adding up.  

Ridha may have a long road ahead of him, and that’s why I want to rally you around him. He needs our support. So we are going to keep giving it to him, as long as he needs it. 

Thanks for sticking with us. Children like Ridha give hope to all the other underdogs we meet on these Remedy Missions, and people like you make this hope possible.

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalInternational Children's Heart Foundation

Cody Fisher is the co-founder and Development Director of the Preemptive Love Coalition. He moved to Iraq in 2007 where he met his wife and since then they've been waging peace and mending hearts across Iraq. His passions are photography, peacemaking, and food that doesn't come out of a can. You can follow him on Twitter: @candmfisher.

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