Thanks to Michael Duffield and NEED Magazine for covering Kadeeja’s stories and lending your voice in support of the effort to help Ahmad and the others from the Great Eight whose surgeries we are funding in Turkey right now.
Shots from the recent BSSL Photo Shoot…
Aria, Juliana and Rebar all returned to their homes and families in Iraq on March 23rd after having successful heart surgeries and recoveries in Jordan!
These kids are returning home as totally new little people! The blue tinge to their skin is gone. They can run and play like all the other kids. They can breathe normally and have boundless energy! The outlook for their future is bright!
We’re all part of something huge here- bringing hope for life to kids and their families and a whole country that desperately needs it. Thanks for being on board with us! Who ever thought shoes could be part of something this amazing?
Last week I made my first visit to one of ‘our kids’ – Aras, the start of what I hope to spend much time doing here as ‘Director of Rehabilitation & Family Relations’ for BSSL.
Aras was the first kid that was mostly funded for his surgery through BSSL . When we arrived in his neighborhood we first spotted him out playing on the street with his friends – running around, laughing, having fun! It was my first time to meet him and I definitely would not have suspected that he had been through so much in the past few months!
I had a wonderful time with Aras and his family. They thanked us over and over again for all that we had done to help Aras. His mom had put together an extensive photo album telling Aras’s story during his time in Jordan. It was fun having Aras talk me through all the photos from him lying on his bed immediately following surgery through all the various stages of recovery. He’s a real sweet kid!
Thank you for making it possible for kids like Aras to have the life saving operations that they need! Arya and Rebar just returned on Saturday so I’m also hoping to be able to visit them soon. This week I’ll also be visiting Baveel so check in again soon to see an update on how he’s doing.
Buy Shoes. Save Lives., Rayalla Organization, and Kurdistan Save the Children and other local partners recently raised and distributed over $16,000 to 21 children and their families so they could travel to Amman, Jordan for heart screening.
Some of these children will likely go straight to surgery due to the severity of their case. Others will be placed in line until funds are available to fund their surgeries – whether through donations or the revenues from our online store.
March 9, 2008 by Jeremy · Comments Off
You’ve heard that bit about the Iranian border, terrorist crossings, tea smugglers, porous trails in between security checkpoints, etc? Apparently it’s all true.
We went to Hawraman in search of shoes yesterday. Hawraman is a typical border town, having been arbitrarily divided and thereby having been forced to grow up on two sides of the border. We didn’t go into Iranian Hawraman; but Iraqi Hawraman was phenomenal.
We did indeed see tea smugglers, with their mules packed down, weaving the windy roads into the Iranian mountains. Supposedly the donkeys know the trail by heart and can still deliver the tea (or whatever else they smuggle) if the Iranian officials get too close and the human guide has to abandon the cargo.
Hawraman is built into the mountains in a terraced manner. We climbed 540 “stairs” to one guy’s house just to buy 7 pairs of shoes. We trekked another kilometer to a roof top patio where we inspected some 200 shoes and walked away with 28. But the net result was money saved and more control over the product compared to buying in the larger city markets; not to mention greater economic impact.
We were there at the behest of a former regional commander of the Kurdish peshmerga, whose guests for the day included a few scraggly Americans (that would be us), business men decked out in Western suits and ties, a parliamentarian for the Regional Government, the former 20-year mayor of Halabja, and a number of armed guards. And though it was entirely unnecessary, he sent one of his guards with us to traipse through the city “just in case.”
As with all the former peshmerga with whom I’ve sat, I found it funny that a man would swear on the Qur’an while downing whisky shots and gambling over poker. Nice guy… but what does swearing on the Qur’an really amount to in that context?
Part of his agenda for the day was to connect us with the poorest klashmakers in the community. In this way, this protector of the people was acting as a conduit for foreign investment directly into the lives of the city’s poorest – without skimming anything off the top for himself.
The same could not be said for the parliamentarian. He tried to horn in on our bulk purchase and buy a pair of shoes at our significantly discounted mass-meets-mercy prices. To my astonishment, the klashmakers stood their ground and told him he could afford a full-priced pair!
We left Hawraman about 5:30 p.m., feeling completely at home, but having been previously warned that “it is not a safe place at night.” I’m guessing it’s not because of the tea smugglers.
We arrived back in our city a couple hours later, completely worn out from the “up-hill-both-ways” drive. For the first time in my life, I can actually conceive of my father’s “when I was a child” stories.
We’ve made some preliminary arrangements for the klashmakers to visit our office next week to make a delivery according to our specifications. We’ll be eager to see how that goes, and excited to continue on partnership with them in the event that all goes well.
Thanks for reading… over and out.
The BSSL Peeps
Today we had a meeting with US Embassy brass working in the North. We initiated the contact a few weeks ago while seeking out funding for an art exhibition we are hosting here in April through Buy Shoes. Save Lives.
Since we’re committed to keeping all our profits for heart surgeries, we needed to seek outside funding for the art gallery – the primary purpose of which is to raise awareness of Kurdish art and mobilize civil society to play a helping role in the reconstruction process.
We were very encouraged by the response of the Embassy’s team to Buy Shoes. Save Lives. in general, and the proposal for the art exhibition in particular. The only two criticisms they had was that our budget was too small and that our venue was too small.
We are specifically asking for the Embassy to send a delegation to the installation, so I think the security concerns surrounding a high profile diplomat entering a crowded bazar for a photo op was on their minds.
The best hint of their approval for the project came when they requested a second meeting with us a few hours later to reformat the proposal into beuarocrat-speak and further discuss the implications of USAID funding for a for-profit business.
In our off hours between meetings we beefed up our marketing budget and will likely be pursuing an even higher profile for the event as a result.
Among the most exciting things was their eagerness to lend their name to the event and their insistence that they help us deliver invitations to all the appropriate ministers and diplomats on our list.
On a personal level, one of the suits was interested to hear more due to the fact that his son suffered from a hole in his heart as a child and was adversely affected by the limited healthcare available in East Asia where they were living at the time.
In other BSSL news, the Relevant Magazine interview we did is finishing its run on stands this week and has single-handedly produced almost $10,000 in sales!
Thanks for tracking with us!
The month of February has been a month of love for Buy Shoes. Save Lives. Thanks to Relevant Magazine and the journalism of Jason Boyett, February is likely to be our first $5,000 month in online sales! We’ve been hovering in the $4,000/month range for a while, but this month we’re trying to push it over the top. We currently lack $43.00 to reach our (completely arbitrary!) goal.We just thought we’d let you know in case you had been pining for two shirts before the end of the month!
For the Kids of Iraq,
Cody and Jeremy
A shy Tarza and her mother began the admissions process today for her heart surgery. Even though she is beginning to warm up to those of us on staff, she is still very quiet and shy. Because of this, I rather expected her to be fearful of the tests which had to be done today prior to her admission. What a surprise that she was such a trooper when it came her turn for the dreaded blood test! She only made a small whimper when the needle was inserted, and was very brave the rest of the time for every test.
The doctor found in the echo that Tarza has an ASD, which can be repaired by a simple and short heart surgery (relatively speaking of course!) It is hoped that her surgery can be scheduled soon, and after the surgical team meets on Sunday we should have a better idea about just how soon. Naturally all of us hope they do not have to endure a long wait to get the treatment they came for.
On Sunday Tarza and her mother will return to the hospital to be checked after the standard test for tuberculosis. One father was a great help to them and us at the hospital by translating and explaining what to expect, and another father has been a great help here at the house.
December 13, 2007 by Jeremy · Comments Off
Austin Monthly’s coverage of BSSL as some sort of “philanthropic superhero” doing “cool” things to change the world is on news stands now in the Austin area. We think we are outshone by the other 4 coverstory profiles ($100 laptops for kids in Africa!?!?!?!), but we are so grateful to have been included!
Thanks to Melissa, Robyn, and Lynn at Austin Monthly for all of your hard work.