April 24, 2012 by matt · Comments Off
Over the last few months we’ve seen an incredible influx of new readers and supporters, so it seemed good to put our most informative and successful video to-date back on the blog.
Whether you’re brand new or if you’ve been here a hundred times, watch it and let me know your reaction. Is it naive? Spot-on? Over-the-top? Email me!
March 23, 2012 by Behar Godani · Comments Off
For millions of immigrants in America,
a sense of belonging and successfully handling their dual cultural identity is one of the most difficult and challenging of tasks. On the one hand, your heart is tied back to a land that was once your home—as is the case with my parents—or at least a place that feels a lot like home—as is the case with my siblings and I.
Yet no matter how many times we go back there or insist that we want to spend the rest of our days here, there never seems to be a perfect fit. There moved right past my parents and the memories they could have made had they not been forced to leave thirty years ago, and here feels much more familiar.
As a result, we’re stuck between here and there, never completely belonging anywhere.
But perhaps the beauty in the limbo that so many immigrant families find themselves in is that they are able to understand and exist in both places at once.
And perhaps that’s where the secret to truly co-existing beside one another lies as well.
There are immigrants who have walked in our shoes, but there are plenty more back there—in Iraq—who, like my parents, were forced to leave and if they survived were likely to be internally displaced. And that’s where so much of the current resentment lies. It was never truly an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality in the sense that entire groups of people became alienated from one another. No matter how bad things became in Iraq, there was always a recognition that the majority of its citizens were good people.
Now, many wonder if the country and its people—in light of recent political developments—will ever live up to the potential that so many of its own politicians boast about and so many in the West had initially hoped for.
The key lies not in government policies, per se—which I yield, can at times favor one group over another and further disenfranchise other groups who already don’t feel welcome in the political system—but in all-natural and real human connections. When people can put a face on families affected by violence, when a doctor from a different faith or ethnicity saves a child’s life, when a Muslim breaks bread with a Christian who’s just as Iraqi as anyone else, the concept of “preemptive strikes” and bombings will become just as foreign and distant a concept as they were all those years ago. Then “preemptive love” and a true sense of commitment to the success and prosperity of the Iraqi state for the sake of its people will begin to emerge.
No more will bureaucrats, insurgencies, or fringe groups attempt to dominate the hearts and minds of the people as much as they have in the past because the people, like my parents, will come to learn the importance of existing in the now. They’ll learn that yes, you may have been displaced and you may have lost loved ones like so many innocent Iraqis have, but our humanity and our hopes for a better future must transcend the easy way out which often involves blaming an entire people or religious group for why things are currently the way they are.
Most immigrants face the challenge of simply reconciling their ethnic identities with their American ones, but families who hail from conflict zones—both those who had an opportunity to escape and those who were forced to stay behind—face the added difficulty of not only staying true to the identity that various groups have tried to wipe out, but also of keeping the anger and sadness in their hearts from ultimately skewing how they view “the other.” That of course can only happen with social projects and movements that focus on bringing different groups together so that individuals can begin to put a face on “that religion” or “that ethnic group.”
Eventually, they’ll come to find—as we all eventually must come to find as human beings—that religion, ethnic identity, the types of clothes a person wears, or the color they choose to dye their hair quickly falls away once that connection is made and “that” person becomes a friend.
January 30, 2012 by Jeremy · Comments Off
Note: This is the second of a three-part series on defining and achieving Vision. Click here to read the first part of this series.
I was sitting in an Iraqi hotel lobby in 2007 when one of the hotel staff who was serving me tea approached me and asked: “Can you help my cousin? His daughter was born with a hole in her heart, and no one in all of Iraq can help her. Please, can you help?”
I had just moved to Iraq with my family to work with a different NGO. I didn’t know anything about heart surgery for children or anything about taking children to other countries for treatment.
From the beginning, helping this little girl seemed impossible. And she wasn’t the first child I’d met in Iraq with a life-threatening heart defect. In fact, it seemed like almost everyone knew someone with a child who was born with a messed up heart.
My work with the organization I was with was not capturing my heart. It seemed to lack both vision and impact. And, in any case, it was not set up with an exit strategy—there was no developmental finish line.
Around the same time, Cody Fisher began telling me of his NGO work with many of these children in need whose files were piling up on his friend’s desk as she sought to find them heart surgeries outside the country. The more I inquired, the more intrigued I became.
I learned that there were seven hundred children within a two hour drive of our city who were waiting in line for lifesaving heart surgery. You would never find a backlog that large anywhere in America!
Over the course of this journey, my wife, Cody Fisher, Michelle (then Bailey) Fisher and I chaffed under the tyranny of life as we knew it in Iraq.
After all, it seemed that many of these heart defects were not simply occurring naturally but were probably directly attributable to acts of war—both martial and economic. This was an issue of justice. As Americans, we felt directly responsible for some of this. But it was primarily as Christians that we decided to jump into the unknown and commit ourselves indefinitely to the cause.
Defining the cause itself could have taken us a number of different directions. I am grateful to God that we got this one right amidst all the unknowns: we defined the what before the how.
Would we create an organization primarily because Jeremy had met a little girl in a hotel lobby? No. Would we create an organization primarily because Cody had a few connections to get us off the ground quickly? No.
From the very beginning we established a vision that was far more grand than anything else in cardiac care nationwide.
“… to eradicate the backlog of Iraqi children waiting in line for lifesaving heart surgeries.”
Looking back, it was ludicrous. It was naive. But it was never a mere “dream.” It was a vision. (See my last post on my differentiation between a dream and a vision). There was a moral conviction behind it. It would never be enough for us to simply help the children who crossed our path. It would never be enough to clear the files or the “backlog” on our desk. We had to exist for all the children of Iraq who were waiting in line for lifesaving heart surgery.
Months after articulating our vision for a Backlog-free Iraq, I learned that the leading expert in the region had actually dumbed down the number of children waiting for surgery because he did not want to scare us off. The number was actually 5X greater—closer to four thousand children. We were still waiting on estimates from the rest of the country.
We started to suspect ten thousand children or more were waiting for surgery. And we were not smart enough at that time to really question how many new children were born into the country each year in need of heart surgery.
We were almost immediately faced with a crisis. Our 20-child per year pace was never going to “eradicate the backlog.” Our methodology—the how—could never see our vision realized.
Do we change our vision to meet our methods, or must we change our methods to meet our vision?
Nothing had changed in our desire to see Iraq free of a burdensome backlog. We had established our vision—our what—before we had a clear idea how we were going to bring it about. So we stuck with our vision and forced our methods to catch up.
We redoubled our commitment to eradicate the backlog. We personified “The Backlog”—for he was a devilish foe who needed to be vanquished by all the heroes like you who would partner with us in the coming years. The Backlog only existed because of injustice—both local and internationally imposed. To defeat The Backlog would be more than a triumph of our organization; it would be a victory for every family across Iraq, because every family across Iraq is susceptible to congenital heart disease, the number one birth defect in Iraq and in the world.
Our vision was still maturing, to be sure, but we got this one thing right: we established the what before the how.
There are other organizations that work into Iraq in an effort to help children with heart disease. But sometimes I wonder if the how has taken precedence over the what. Candid conversations often reveal a complete absence of vision; a settling for the methodology of today for lack of a compelling picture of the future.
Since our inception in 2007, we have made four major programatic (methodological) changes in an effort to stay the course and eradicate The Backlog. Every one of them was scary. Every one of them could have been a colossal failure. But vision demands innovation and risk.
Do you have a hard time accepting the world as it is? Do you feel morally compelled to work for a different future? Do you have a vision that you are currently nurturing or pursuing? If so, do yourself a favor: define the what before the how. Methods change with technology, culture and economics. Don’t focus on the how. Get your sweeping vision right by defining the destination point at which you want to arrive. Let the how work itself out one step at a time and don’t sacrifice your “what” for a method that leads you astray.
Can I be a helpful ear as as you try to work out your vision? Don’t hesitate to send me an email by clicking this link!
January 27, 2012 by Jeremy · Comments Off
I have a hard time accepting things as they are. I’m more of a “how they should be” kind of guy. I’d rather vacation in Iraq, Yemen or Libya than Paris, London or Tokyo. I see discrepancies and obsess over them. My team says I’m “persnickety”—I prefer to think of myself as “particular” or “exacting.” To-may-to, to-mah-to.
In any case, I operate daily according to a vision of the future that is not yet reality.
I prefer the word “vision” to the word “dream” because dreams are so often associated with “dreaming”, “dreamy” and “dreamers.” “Dream” has connotations of other-worldliness. Apart from Martin Luther King’s wonderful speech, most “I have a dream” talk that I’ve encountered reeks of non-action, an assumption that dreaming alone is enough to spark the desired change.
Think of the spate of status updates and tweets on New Year’s Eve in which people dreamed (and invoked Dreaming’s close cousins, “Hope” and “Wish”) for world peace, an eradication of poverty, and global sing-alongs. At the risk of sounding cynical, much of our dreaming is just socially conscious enough to sound engaged and just vague enough to require zero effort of our own.
Therefore, I prefer to have vision over dreams. In the way I use the word, vision requires much of me. I work on vision. I plan for vision. I submit my vision to the critique of others so that it will be refined and strengthened. I seek partnerships to bring the vision into reality. And I pray while waiting for the correct timing to pursue vision.
This post marks the launch of a series on vision – how to define it, nurture it, pursue it and succeed in it. Ultimately I want to encourage others out there who have a hard time accepting things as they are. I want to ignite more passion in the hearts of those of you who insist on returning things to how they should be.
In the process, you will get a clearer picture of what it has required for us to get to this point as an organization. I will be honest about our failures and I will paint a picture of a future Iraq—and a future world—that I hope you will find compelling and inspiring.
We are not just out here in Iraq cranking out heart surgeries. There is a much more sweeping vision, and I feel I’ve failed to bring that to the fore regularly enough.
As you read, if there is anything you feel you’d like to ask or any way in which I might spur you on in your vision, don’t hesitate to send me an email by clicking this link.
January 10, 2012 by Cody · Comments Off
Today, after an hour delay (which isn’t bad at all for Iraq) I boarded the plane for the south to launch Remedy Mission VIII!
I stepped off the plane and as my passport was getting stamped with a visa, a man approached me, curious that I was the only American on the plane, and asked, “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to help save lives!”
His eyes lit up as I told him about the medical training team that was on its way to Iraq to save 20 little lives. They’re still boarding planes around the world, but in just 24 more hours we can start doing what we came here to do: train doctors and save lives.
Thanks for sticking with us! More to come…
January 4, 2012 by matt · Comments Off
Did you know that in 2011 you helped save 96 lives?
Take a second to think about that. Ignore all the other open tabs and digital noise on your screen, and consider that fact: you helped keep nearly one hundred children from death.
These are kids who, at some point, would have been rushed to the emergency room of some dilapidated hospital by terrified parents who would have had to sit and watch as their child slipped away, knowing that the problem was totally correctable, but now it’s too late—can you even imagine it?
Thankfully, you don’t have to. And neither do the families of those 96 children.
But don’t forget training!
Along with all the lives saved, 2011 also held an incredible amount of training for Iraqis! Local doctors, nurses and technicians took part in five in-country surgical missions during which they got their hands dirty and gained invaluable experience. And our hospitals are now performing operations that they were incapable of just a year ago.
We’ve identified several factors that led to Iraq’s current healthcare conundrum, but the most valuable solution is training. By conservative estimates, each Remedy Mission provides hospital staff with a combined total of 5,000 hours of hands-on learning, which means in 2011 you helped provide 25,000 hours of training!
In a country where most charities are giving fish away, you supported our transition to giving fishing lessons instead—thank you! It’s this kind of long-term development that’s going to eradicate the backlog!
Transitions like this are difficult, though. Where equipment and experience are lacking, the mortality risk is always greater. We lost some incredible children in 2011, and we will never forget them.
And there’s so much more to tell! Our director spoke at TEDxBagdad (click the link and skip to minute 58), we launched several new video projects, and, after various trips to new cities in Iraq, we’ve been asked by eight different hospitals to return with teams in 2012.
You’ve also changed Iraq’s story this past year.
In the midst of thousands of headlines about troop withdrawal, the erosion of Iraq’s government, and the continued violence across the country, you’ve provided a different story. One of hope. One of cooperation for the common good. These are the stories that prove things in Iraq can get better, and we’ll continue to tell them throughout 2012.
And the bottom line is that we’re thankful; thankful for you, for our partners, and for everyone who made 2011 such a success. I can’t wait to see what we’re able to do together in 2012!
Allow me to introduce PLC’s newest video!
If you’re unfamiliar with our work, we consider this our manifesto. Everything we do boils down to this belief: reconciliation happens through healing.
With your help, that which has been destroyed and ‘unmade’ can be rebuilt. It can be healed.
For all you video connoisseurs, what did you think? Give us some feedback in the comments section below, or connect with us on Vimeo.
July 1, 2011 by Cody · Comments Off
We all remember our firsts, don’t we? Our first time going to school. Our first time riding a bike. But do you remember what it was like right before those moments?
Whether it was waiting to unwrap your new bike or try on your new shoes for the first day of school, the moments leading up to those firsts are just as memorable.
Imagine what it would be like to be waiting for your remedy, though. Imagine being able to think about all the things that would soon be possible once your heart was made strong…for the very first time!
There’s a lot of that imagining going on here in the hospital. Today, I sat on the bed of Abbas, one of the first children to be saved this Remedy Mission, and I can honestly say that I’ve never heard anyone laugh that hard while in a hospital bed! He kept smiling and kissing my hand and in between smiles and kisses I asked him about the very first thing he was going to do with his new heart once he left the hospital.
Abbas said, “I’m going to run everywhere I go!”
Abbas’s one day closer to being able to run – for the first time!
Right now little Noor is counting down the hours until her heart is the one that’s made strong. I love this picture because it shows three children, with Noor in the middle, all patiently awaiting their firsts.
If you haven’t caught how all of this is possible – it’s because of YOU! It’s because so many of you chose to donate for the first time, become a monthly sponsor for the first time or tell the stories of these children for the first time.
Without those firsts – Noor wouldn’t be awaiting hers.
To keep creating firsts across Iraq, donate today by clicking HERE!
We had to say goodbye to baby Hamma and his mother.
We didn’t want to.
We didn’t want to say goodbye because his big brown eyes and his mother’s smile drew us in from the moment we met them.
Another reason we didn’t want to say goodbye is because Hamma never received the surgery he needed to patch the hole in his heart.
He was scheduled to receive surgery but was delayed three different times.On the fourth time, the Intensive Care Unit had no more beds open for children and by the time a bed opened up, there wasn’t enough time to operate on Hamma.
Remedy was already coming to a close.
So after waiting ten days in the hospital for surgery, Hamma and his mother had to go home without a remedy.
It’s eerie to walk through the hospital ward now and see entire rooms that were packed with families, now empty and vacant because once we leave, the Remedy Mission comes to an end.
That breaks our hearts.
As long as there are children with heart disease, they should be in the hospital getting treated. In southern Iraq, it doesn’t work that way because the doctors and nurses don’t have the skills they need to take care of all the children with heart disease.
One day they will. That’s what Remedy Missions are all about.
We told Hamma’s mother that we would be back in May and that Hamma is one of the first babies that the doctors want to operate on.
So we’re standing up for Hamma!
When you order our new tank, 100% of the profit goes toward bringing Remedy back to Hamma! All we have to do is sell 59 to give Hamma his life-saving surgery and to take one step closer toward not just bringing Remedy back to southern Iraq, but to LEAVING it there!
Some tanks blow holes in stuff. This tank patches the hole in a heart. Stand up for Hamma!
Order NOW by clicking HERE!
If you’re on Twitter this week be sure to use the #RemedyMission hashtag to describe all the good news coming out of Iraq this week via @preemptivelove.
February 16, 2011 by Jeremy · Comments Off
It’s been a long journey from our home in northern to southern Iraq but we just can’t stay away – the doctors, nurses, and people here want their own fully functioning heart surgery center so badly!
Today marks the end of Remedy Mission Day #1 with the International Children’s Heart Foundation and Living Light International.
Push play above for a quick overview of day one and a setup of what’s to come this week from southern Iraq….
If you’re on Twitter this week be sure to use the #RemedyMission hashtag to describe all the good news coming out of Iraq this week via @preemptivelove.