June 3, 2010 by Lydia · Comments Off
Three members of PLC’s staff meet with KakAram to design a more modern, feminine pair of Klash. KakAram is a local shoemaker here in Kurdistan working with us to sell shoes and save lives!
Meet Kelly Nowels and the Adventursaurus Collective.
Ironically, I’m introducing to you to the very one who introduced me to the Preemptive Love Coalition. Kelly and I both went to Cedarville University where, given the small nature of the campus, we eventually met. I remember him one day wearing a shirt that caught my eye. It read very simply: Buy Shoes. Save Lives.
I was intrigued. I asked him what it was about and it was then I first heard about the work of the organization I find myself working with today.
Kelly and two friends – Sammy Starr and Michael Beight – are preparing to bike through Europe to raise money to save the life of Mohammad Fwad. It’s a pretty big undertaking, so we were eager to name them our ADVOCATES OF THE WEEK. Here is my interview with Kelly:
PLC: Who is Kelly Nowels?
Kelly Nowels: I’m an ordinary man but I have an extraordinary maker.
PLC: What is the Adventuresaurus Collective?
Kelly Nowels: The Adventuresaurus Collective formed in the spring of 2009 when Sammy, Michael, and myself started brainstorming our next big adventure. We would ride our bikes down to the town bakery every week and eat doughnuts and muffins while we dreamed of the possibilities. We joined together because we couldn’t stand the thought of living an ordinary life. We wanted to squeeze all the energy out of youth and smear today on our faces until the stories run down to our feet and the setting sun is extinguished by the distant mountains.
The cool thing was, as soon as we decided we were going to ride bikes across Europe, that was it. There was no uncertainty about our commitment. Nobody said “well that sounds fun let me check my schedule.” It was more like, “Yes we’re going, done. I’ll build my schedule around this.”
This journey will be our first official project, but we’ve had plenty of adventures together before. Sammy and I have camped at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in a thunderstorm and driven across the country in a car with a broken window. For New Years eve the three of us ventured to the eastern-most point in Maine, shot fireworks over the ocean, slept in a collapsed tent under six inches of snow and woke up for the sunrise.
Michael Beight is [the] thoughtful and resourceful member of the group. I love his easygoing nature about things. Sleeping on park benches doesn’t faze him and I think I’ve never heard him complain about the circumstances, even when they might be pretty crummy. Mike worked 12 hour graveyard shifts at a factory last summer to save up for this trip. A picture of the Alps taped up at his work station was sometimes the only thing keeping him going. I can’t get enough of Mike’s enthusiasm.
Sammy Starr is our wonderful engineer friend. He’s the kind of guy who makes you mad because he’s good at everything he picks up. Sammy might come off as shy but don’t let the quietness fool you. His wit is razor sharp and his subtle humor has had the whole room laughing more than a few times. I love Sammy because he’s always up for a scenic detour. Take the long way round to see Devil’s Tower? [Y]es. Stop at an overlook to see an epic view of the Grand Tetons? Absolutely. Of the 43 states I’ve been to, I’ve been to 35 of them with Sammy.
PLC: Why choose the Preemptive Love Coalition?
Kelly Nowels: It’s an investment in the future. To me it’s like a man who plants a tree. An Oak tree takes 50 years to reach full size. The man who plants it won’t get to enjoy it, even his kids won’t be able to climb it, it will be too small. But his grandchildren will see the benefit. They’ll hang a swing from its branch and climb to the top. That Oak tree might live 500 years and generations of kids will enjoy its shade but the man who planted it never lived to see the fruition of his work.
With every kid the PLC saves, they’re planting little trees. Who knows how those trees are going to grow up or if any of us are even going to live to see their fulfillment? Each kid who lives grows up with a story of peace and love. It would be great to see those stories outlive us.
PLC: How did you first learn about the Preemptive Love Coalition?
Kelly Nowels: A couple years ago I found myself at Cody Fisher’s first gathering for PLC in California after he returned from Iraq. I was struck by the way PLC was showing love on a personal scale to these children and their families while spreading the message of peace on a global scale. Cody was fresh from his trip to Iraq and really fired up. I was inspired to see a recent graduate engage his world and dream big. I knew I wanted to be that fired up about something after college too.
I love the way PLC encourages people to think outside the box and get creative. It’s all about doing what you love and doing it for the kingdom [of God]. You want to ride bicycles across Europe? Sail around the world? Climb Everest? Good. Go do it to save a kid’s life.
PLC: How has your news to bike across Europe for the children of Iraq been received by friends, family, local news, etc?
Kelly Nowels: It’s been great for the most part. I love seeing people come out of the woodwork finding ways to get involved. It’s so encouraging. Our families are behind us, churches, and dear friends… with that, we can do anything.
The other thing is we get a lot of people saying “I wish I could do that” or “I’m so jealous.” And I always want to say “then do it!” Seriously, I don’t think there’s as much holding us back as we think there is. Trade a little of that comfort for experience, trade some of that security for a risk, trade that new TV for a plane ticket, and see what you end up with. I doubt it will be regret.
PLC: What would you say to Mohammad if he asked why you were helping him?
Kelly Nowels: “You are loved. There is so much bad in this world but your creator is good. He saved my life and I want him to save yours. You are living in the middle of a spectacular story. I want you to have a shot at living long enough to share that story with everybody you meet. Together we’ll create a story that will change hearts and minds and bring peace and love to a broken world.”
|Donate the amount of your choice by entering it in the field below. All donations will help send Mohammad (and any others in his group) to life-saving heart surgery.
We did not choose this picture to make you sad… it’s just the only picture we could capture of Mohammad during his recent trip to our office in Iraq and he wasn’t very happy that day. We hope to post more pictures soon!
Dr. Aso Faeq is a visionary and one of my personal heroes. He is certainly one of the foremost long term, local solutions to runaway congenital heart disease as it faces the children and families of Iraq today. A shoemaker named, Aram, is another; as is a radio station director named Rawand; an information technologies guru at the Ministry of Councils who recently moved back from Dubai; a local television host and newspaper editor back from London; and a local women’s basketball coach.
Foreigners like us can be especially susceptible to thinking of ourselves as heroes. We are not heroes. We are part-time servants; we’re itinerate and our expiration date may be fast approaching. We will always be foreigners. Our kids have foreign names, and the pajamas we wear inside our house when no one else is looking bely the fact that – whatever we may look like on the street – we come from outside.
Luckily, the kids of Iraq are not left to outsiders to solve their problems. There are a slew of long term, local solutions to these local problems developing throughout Iraq every day. Many of these solutions are taking place tangential to us and we are riding along in their stream. But we do our best to ensure that all of our programs are geared toward empowerment so that Arab, Kurdish, and other minority Iraqis truly begin to own the vision for a better, more giving, more unified and agile response community.
Our flagship program is called Buy Shoes. Save Lives. – based on a commerce model of selling fabulously produced local footwear to foreign markets. Through this program we consistently accomplish a number of things:
- * invest foreign and domestic capital into the local economy and provide jobs
- * use profit to fund heart surgeries for Iraqi kids
- * upgrade local production and management skills through emphasis on quality controls, inventory management, and by reducing supply chain inefficiencies
It sounds a little boring until you start looking at it through the eyes of a guy like Aram Majid, who puts food on his family’s table every night and hopes to one day send his daughters abroad for education because of the shoes he makes and the management skills he’s learning. Or look at it through the eyes of Kadeeja Mahdi, whose family paid for their portion of her surgery because of the shoes they’ve sold locally and through our Buy Shoes. Save Lives. program.
The “long termness” of this solution does not lie primarily in the fact that these shoes have been produced by hand for the last 3,000 years. In fact, that trade is dying off in spades as the country modernizes. The take away from our commercial efforts in Iraq has more to do with shaping a culture of compassion; of teaching the benefit of doing business to do good for others outside of one’s immediate family network, even a stranger. And because we believe that a “compassion” that seeks to keep the peace but fails to work for the good of the other is no compassion at all, those who participate in our program learn the value of strict quality control measures, standardization, waste reduction, and innovation – and those are take-aways that they can readily apply to any industry, family discussion, or government office.
And because we’ve sought to make this shoe the centerpiece for our grassroots action throughout the world, it seems we’ve made it a little bit easier for many to see more clearly the simplicity of a single act to change the neighborhood or world around them. So we increasingly meet Kurds in London running for a child in Iraq; or a radio station putting on a campaign to save a life; or college students deciding that they’ve had enough waiting on the government for more handouts. Grassroots action in on the rise, and that is one of the most long-term, local solutions of all!
But all the money and good intentions in the world will mean nothing for the thousands of children in Iraq waiting in line for life-saving heart surgery without the local skill to cut into a child in hopes of patching a hole, fixing a valve, decreasing dangerous pressure, or “rearranging the pipes.” Thankfully, due to the similar vision of groups in Italy, Jordan, and the Anadolu Medical Center in Istanbul, Turkey, there are men like Dr. Aso Faek who are increasingly ready to intervene on behalf of a child and be the local solution to their problem for years and years to come.
And one of the most exciting things about Dr. Aso is that nearly every time we go into his office he is training someone else, passing on the knowledge, preparing the next generation. When we walk through the halls mothers surround him for a chance to have their baby seen. If Bono himself were to walk the halls beside us he would be invisible. Dr. Aso is the hero here.
People like us just serve in the shadows.
Spread some preemptive love on behalf of the children of Iraq by posting these banners on your blog, MySpace, websites, and email signatures. Simply copy the code below the image, paste it into your post, sidebar, header, or template, change the width parameter to suit your needs, and you’re saving lives by spreading love!
Our Friends over at Rosa Loves are in the final stages of work with designer Tim Belonax on a shirt whose profits will go to fund a urgent heart surgery for a child named Hussein we’re working with right now.
We’re not sure if we’re supposed to do this, but we received some typographic mock ups of their brainstorming sessions and we’re giddy to see the final results. We thought we’d whet your appetite for some love to come…
A group of Baylor University students have started an initiative to raise awareness for 3,000 Arab and Kurdish children waiting in line for life-saving heart surgery outside the country.
By attempting to sell a couple hundred tshirts on campus and by using a display of PLC pinwheels in the park they hope to raise the necessary funds for these children while educating their classmates about the social injustices faced by Iraqi families in the wake of Saddam’s regime and the current conflict.
The traction at Baylor University comes on the heels of two summer interns returning to their campus and sharing their excitement and concern for the things they saw in Iraq this summer.
Want to intern with PLC in Iraq or the US this summer? Send us an email here.
Are you up to something special at your university or high school or place of work? Let us know about it here.
In all of the recent excitement over the last couple of months about our internship program, expanding partnerships in the US, and, most of all, even more kids who are returning home with healed hearts, we’ve barely mentioned an exciting new product that will help the Preemptive Love Coalition fulfill its mission to fund heart surgeries for the no less than 3,000 children in Iraq who are dying on a waiting list.
Kids Klash are a great way to help younger kids connect with the lives of their global peers. Many of the kids on the surgery waiting list are between the ages of 1 and 6—the same age range that will be able to enjoy wearing Kids Klash. When a child has the chance to wear a great handmade shoe, it provides an opportunity to teach them about the wider world and the challenges of poverty and conflict faced by kids like them around the world. It’s not quite walking a kilometer in someone else’s shoes, but it’s at least a start.
Kids Klash don’t just help build perspective—they make a real difference, too. These shoes are handmade over the course of 20 hours per pair by village cooperatives, by prisoners seeking to rehabilitate their lives, and by victims of landmines seeking a living wage. Each purchase invests money in their economy. And, even more, each purchase helps to fund a heart surgery for one of the 3,000 Iraqi children waiting for the chance to live.
With a lower price (only $25!) and a more kid-friendly rubber sole (water and washing are no problem now), Kids Klash are a perfect way to change lives and save lives.
On July 7th, 2007 an amazing thing happened… a guy named Chad was the first of hundreds and hundreds of compassionate people to purchase the as-yet-unknown shoe called Klash. Chad and hundreds like him have given us the encouragement and confidence we’ve needed to keep selling Klash and using the proceeds to fund heart surgeries for Iraqi kids.
And as cliche as this is about to sound, lots of people thought we were crazy. Most thought it was a three week project that we would outgrow. Some thought it was a silly failure to comprehend the real needs of Iraqis. Indeed, at times we probably thought so ourselves. But as one month has turned to twelve, there is no denying the magnetic force behind the simplicity of our message.
The Preemptive Love Coalition, via the “Buy Shoes. Save Lives.” program, has now sent 13 kids to surgery, funding them at various stages along the way to the tune of $36,500. What a pretty tune! We raised and gave away an additional $16,000 for pre-op heart screenings and have money waiting for 6-7 kids that we plan on sending later this month.In 12 months we’ve invested nearly $22,000 into local klash-making economies, plus tens of thousands more into the broader economy as a by-product of operating our business. We’ve sold $33,000 of Klash across the US, UK, Europe, Africa and Australia, and have seen such a range of creativity exercised in helping these children that we sometimes just sit astounded at all you do!
One of the major developments of the past year is the way in which we’ve reorganized under the banner of The Preemptive Love Coalition. After 4 months of selling shoes to save lives we started realizing that we had more to say than “buy shoes. save lives.” We wanted to say “Love your enemies. Do good to those who do bad to you.” In a region where “tit for tat” is the predominant peacemaking method, we wanted to lead out with another option.
Our “this for that” model is as simple as encouraging those who would be with us to find something in their current environment and use it (“this”) in the service of the thousands and thousands of Iraqi who are waiting in a line for life-saving heart surgeries outside the country (“that”).”This for that” is also about giving back love for hate; kindness for oppression; truth for perceptions.
As we look forward to the coming year we envision moving deeper into the hurt of Iraq and working among the more oppressed and excluded groups of people. We want them to know that there is an entire movement of people in America and around the world who will not abide the ongoing retaliatory methods of “peacemaking” in the region. We are those who use all manner of “this” for that – for peace; for kindness; for truth.
We are The Preemptive Love Coalition. Thanks for being with us!
Jeremy, Cody, Michelle, Ruth, Scott, Bobby
Audrey, Angel, Chris, Colby, Jesse, Peter (THE INTERNS)
July 3, 2008 by Jeremy · Comments Off
Wonder of wonders, six collegiate interns have just arrived in Iraq to work with all of us at The Preemptive Love Coalition this summer.
They have been an amazing, eager, sharp group of students and we are thrilled to see the ways in which they help us increase the success of the Buy Shoes. Save Lives. program as well as the infrastructural things we are addressing here in the country.
Interested in a Winter 2008/09 Internship or the Summer 2009 Internship? Click here!
Today marked the official wrap up of the Preemptive Love exhibition at Zamwa Gallery. We met with a representative from the US State Department, gave an update on our work, and spoke briefly about a few opportunities on the horizon for future networking together.
Many thanks from all of us at PLC (formerly BSSL) to the US State Department and their incredibly capable staff here in Iraq. We are very grateful to Rostam Aghala at Zamwa Gallery for his partnership on this project. Thanks also to the First Lady of Iraq, Hero Talabani, for her kind endorsement of the exhibition and the tour she gave to her foreign guests from the RAND Corporation while they were in country a few weeks ago.