August 25, 2012 by matt · Comments Off
Each month, PLC receives generous donations from a variety of sponsors, and we love to highlight these people because they are an important part of the Coalition. Their donations are used to provide kids with heart surgeries and to launch programs like our upcoming Remedy Fellowship program!
Angela Ferrara is one of these incredible donors, and she was gracious enough to share a little about herself in an interview:
1) Would you tell us a little about yourself. Occupation? Interests? Passions? Aspirations?
I’m an adventurer and a dreamer who loves traveling, living in different cities in the U.S., and experiencing other cultures abroad. I also enjoy music, poetry, nature, contemplation, and a good cup of coffee. I currently live in Seattle where I work as a nanny and volunteer with the refugee community. For almost a decade I’ve had a passion to help those who cannot help themselves, and I’m working toward being able to focus on this goal vocationally.
2) And how did you hear about the Preemptive Love Coalition?
I heard about PLC through an acquaintance, Josh Gigliotti, who I met at Cedarville University. I saw his Facebook posts while he was in Iraq and became extremely interested in the work PLC was doing there.
3) What motivates you toward compassion for Iraqi children?
Learning about what PLC does for children in Iraq has made me realize how vital their work is. It’s heartbreaking thinking about the condition these kids are in, but I am filled with hope when I read PLC’s blog and see the photos of the children post-surgery.
4) Is there anything you would like to tell the rest of the Coalition? Any rally cries, encouragements, or challenges?
PLC’s love and dedication for the children and people of Iraq is such a beautiful and tangible expression of the heart of God, providing hope for the hopeless. Let’s love with them!
We’re so thankful to Angela for her commitment to saving the children of Iraq! Stick with us for this next week of blogging goodness; we’ve got our eleventh Remedy Mission and our second mission to the holy city of Najaf coming up—great things are ahead!
A wise man once told me if I ever wanted to kill a giant, I needed to hang out with a giant killer.
His point was that if I wanted to do something that made a difference in the world then my first task was to find someone that was already making a difference and then spend as much time with them as I could.
A week doesn’t go by where I don’t remember that advice. It’s something that shapes my best days and holds me accountable on my worst days.
Even today, it continues to shape my work with PLC. The “giant” we’re out to bring down is infamously known in our office and our writing as “The Backlog”. It’s a list with thousands of names of children on it, all who are waiting in line for lifesaving heart surgery. We know children who have been on that list for their entire lives – but we’ve also had the great privilege of watching children’s names be taken off that list after they’ve received a lifesaving operation during one our Remedy Missions. But The Backlog still has claim to thousands more.
We hate The Backlog.
We hate everything it stands for in Iraq and we strive for its demise. It’s an enormous and ugly foe. It truly is a “giant” and that’s why from day one, we’ve been looking for other “giant killers”. We’ve been on the search for other organizations that have the tools, resources, and downright grit to to make The Backlog a thing of the past.
That’s what led us to our partners at Living Light International (LLI).
LLI started taking on giants back in 2007. Currently, they lead one of the largest efforts to date in helping care for the orphans in Iraq. They embody love to orphanages overflowing with children by providing essential medical care, education, and support groups.
Simultaneously, they are on the front-lines of supporting women’s rights in Iraq. They tirelessly advocate on behalf of women, finding them jobs, providing them with necessary training, and empowering them in their local communities.
As if these “giants” aren’t enough for one organization, they are continually on the look out for the next one, which is what ultimately led them to The Backlog.
Since partnering with PLC in the fall of 2010, they have helped us take hundreds of names off the waiting list by helping us provide children with surgery. They have forged partnerships with doctors and hospitals all across Iraq, even to the point where we have had to tell them to stop because we couldn’t keep up with that kind of growth!
And they do it all of this pro-bono. LLI is completely volunteer led and they don’t have any intention of changing that. They continue to give and give without asking for anything in return.
And that’s why we love LLI.
They are indispensable in our fight against The Backlog and when this “giant” falls, it will be because the Coalition has these kinds of partners.
So join us in giving some of that love back to LLI. Click over to their Facebook page and thank them for all they’re doing to save kids like Hussain. (If they don’t respond to you right away then that probably means that they’re out on the front lines again, looking for the next thing to take on.)
Beating The Backlog takes a Coalition, and we’re grateful that LLI is a part of it!
Whenever someone hears about our kids or reads about our work they almost always arrive at the same question: “How did Iraq get this way?” “What caused this?” “Who’s to blame?”
Well, after 4 years of working throughout this country we believe we can provide you with a concise answer to that incredibly complex question. This isn’t about guilting anyone or pointing the finger (there’s already too much of that going around), but it is a hard look at the answer to your question.
Based on Iraq’s history, here are 5 ways to destroy a nation’s healthcare system:
1. Limit a country’s ability to operate politically and economically
In 1990 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 661, which imposed broad, restrictive regulations upon Iraq. In a nutshell, these regulations stipulated that no country in the UN could import or receive any goods from the country.
Unfortunately, the sanctions did more than impede the political and military action of the Iraqi aggressors. The Iraqi economy, that had been so dependent upon oil exports and foreign trade, crashed as a direct result of the Resolution 661.
In 1989 Iraq’s gross domestic profit was over $66 billion. Just seven years later it was estimated as being $10.8 billion. In 1989, annual income per household was $3,510, and by 1996 had fallen to less than $500. Before the sanctions, 93% of the population had ready access to healthcare institutions, which were staffed primarily by physicians who had been trained in Europe or the United States.
This economic collapse primed the country for the health crisis it is in today, a health crisis that has lead to the death of inestimable millions over the last two decades.
2. Slash governmental healthcare funding
In the 1990′s Saddam Hussein cut spending on healthcare by 90%. Continued education, supplies of necessary equipment, and valuable public health programs all suffered without adequate funding research.
Without funding and governmental support, the healthcare system deteriorated.
3. Reduce the number of medical professionals in the country
In some areas, insurgents made it a practice of targeting medical professionals. Although many doctors were not individually targeted, they were still in danger. Ambulances were frequently robbed of their medical supplies, and it was not uncommon for gunmen to enter hospitals and force doctors to care for their injured family members or comrades.
Another blow was dealt to the stability of Iraq’s healthcare when many doctors and nurses, who were lucky enough to escape death, fled the country in a mass exodus, further damaging the quality of the Iraqi healthcare system.
The murder and exodus of Iraqi healthcare professionals is tragic. It has left many families broken and many patients without the care that they need. But the negative effects extend beyond their families and the patients they left behind. Without their mentor-ship, expertise, and knowledge, generations of students from universities and teaching hospitals will continue to have insubstantial educations.
4. Destroy physical healthcare infrastructure
In 2003 American and Coalition forces destroyed two primary public health laboratories and an estimated 12% of hospitals. While speaking about the state of the nation’s healthcare infrastructure, former Minister of Health of Iraq, Khudair Abbas, explained that of the remaining primary care centers, “15% have been looted. Even though 80% remain intact, 40% need extensive repairs…13% do not have clean water and one third are staffed primarily by paramedics rather than physicians”.
During the Gulf War, American and coalition forces destroyed key elements of Iraq’s infrastructure. “Bridges, communications, electricity supplies, water and sewage systems, weapons factories, healthcare facilities, administrative centers, warehouses” and homes were destroyed. While this may have been a strategy aimed at ceasing Iraq’s ability to make war, this strategy did far more than defeat the Iraqi military.
5. Overburden the healthcare system by creating too many patients
The above contributing factors deal primarily with political, structural, organizational, or educational deficits. Ultimately, however, it is the population of patients that compose the largest component of any healthcare system. And, regrettably, there is a vast population of patients in Iraq.
The demolition of water and sewage treatment plants lead to outbreaks of typhoid and cholera. In 1989, there were no cases of cholera per 100,000 people; just 5 years later there were 1,344 cases per 100,000 people.
According to studies, by 1996 31% of children under five were chronically malnourished. Just a year later, there were a million children under the age of five who were malnourished, and a year after that 70% of women were suffering from anemia. Another study, consistent with the information on malnutrition, found widespread, chronic stunting in school children as an indication of long-term malnutrition.
Poverty’s wide-spread negatively affects the livelihood of the Iraqi people. Low socioeconomic status is associated with lower levels of education, poorer nutritional intake, and higher risk of congenital heart defects.
Research shows that poor diet contributes to far more negative effects than weight loss, anemia, nutritional deficiency, and compromised immune system. Without the funds to afford healthier food, mothers with higher intake of saturated fats and lower intake of nicotinamide (vitamin B3) have increased risk of giving birth to children with congenital heart defects. 5, 8 Furthermore, low dietary intake levels of folic acid (vitamin B9) around the time of conception have been linked to higher risk of neural tube disorders.
But nutrition and education are not the sole arbiters of death and ill health. Many parts of the country still suffer from the chemical and biological attacks perpetrated by Saddam Hussein. Not only are individuals suffering from primary exposure, but research supports that children of those who were exposed suffer secondary effects in the form of birth defects.
The list of health problems and their contributing factors continues ad nauseam, and the patient-load continues to overwhelm doctors.
The evidence shows that the state of Iraq’s healthcare system has been nearly two decades in the making. The downward spiral began with sanctions in the 1990’s by making the nation more susceptible to economic collapse. It continued with a multitude of factors including military action by the US and Coalition forces, violence wrought by religious extremists, and a vast backlog of patients.
The question remains, is it too late for Iraqis to rebuild their healthcare system?
Is Iraq too far gone?
Of course not! The restoration of Iraq’s medical infrastructure is happening now!
This November 5th will be our biggest surgical mission yet–lives will be saved, doctors will be trained and Iraq will be one big step closer to restoring what was broken!
Remember Jenga? That crazy game where you pull blocks out of the wooden tower, hoping it doesn’t tumble over? Making plans often feels like a game of Jenga. You build a tower of ideas piece-by-piece, then life pulls at pieces of your plan, and sometimes our tower of plans comes crumbling down…
About a month ago, we received some disappointing news, and the PLC staff had to make a difficult decision. The Remedy Mission we all hoped to experience in our city, was canceled. For many of the interns, this Remedy Mission was the biggest reason we fought so hard to get the PLC internship. From the start of our internship process, we wanted to meet the families and kids who would be on the receiving end of lifesaving surgeries. Some of the intern’s assigned work even revolved around there being a Remedy Mission.
To make a complicated situation simple, the hospital and a local nonprofit partner didn’t prepare enough for the impending surgical mission. The hospital wasn’t as equipped to handle these complex surgeries as it should have been and funding was withheld. Surgical missions always have some risk involved, but PLC won’t dive into a Remedy Mission with unnecessary risks that could cost children their lives.
PLC could have provided more funds to make the surgical mission happen and just hoped the hospital’s current equipment was sufficient, but this is about long term solutions over short term gain. The problem could have been temporarily fixed with a handout, but we would much rather empower local organizations and hospitals to take ownership and responsibility for their community–for saving the lives of their children.
We don’t ram solutions down people’s throats. We’re here to aid local desires and local initiatives. So when local preparations fall or local enthusiasm wanes, we don’t force it. Part of creating long term solutions lies in ensuring that this is something local doctors, government officials and parents of sick babies really want–without our patronage.
Thankfully, PLC was still able to host a Remedy Mission, but it was relocated to a partnering city which was better-prepared, in a place most interns were unable to go.
When the rug is pulled out from under us, we can’t help but feel disappointment. However, we must come to the realization that GOD will reconcile our plans. Even when our Jenga tower crumbles to the floor, GOD is still in control.
Now Remedy VI is finished in southern Iraq, and we can praise GOD for each of the 18 kids who received a successful heart surgery and for zero fatalities!
The internship is now over and–Remedy Mission or not–each of us experienced so many valuable events and lessons. Our plans never really work out quite how we anticipate, but we’ve seen that GOD is trustworthy and will work everything out for the best.
Mohammed – quite possibly one of the cutest kids in southern Iraq – is currently resting after his successful surgery!
On our last day at the hospital we found out that Mohammed has suffered through much more than a failing heart; just before he was born his father left their family, and his mother was left to raise him alone.
That’s a big deal in a region like southern Iraq. It’s not easy for a woman to take on that kind of responsibility alone, which is why I feel such respect for Mohammed’s mother.
Like so many single mothers, she worked hard to raise an amazing kid, and she helped get him to the place where his life could be saved.
So, as we near the end of Remedy Mission VI, we’re celebrating Mohammed’s successful surgery, but we can’t really celebrate his life without acknowledging the hero who has always stood behind him.
We’re excited that Mohammed’s heart is healing, and he can now grow into a man capable of caring for the woman who sacrificed so much for him.
So from Mohammed, his mother, and all of us – thanks for saving his life!
June 27, 2011 by Cody · Comments Off
Today was our first day in the hospital, but it felt more like the first day of school. The hallways were filled with families and their children, deliveries were made, rooms were assigned, tours were given, and in the midst of all that we were looking for little four-year-old Noor.
While we were on the hunt for Noor, her family was looking for the lost and found in search of all their belongings that they left behind from the last Remedy Mission.
Noor was scheduled to receive surgery last Remedy, but on the last day her family received news that there wasn’t any more time left to operate on their child. It would have to happen the next mission. Heartbroken that their daughter wouldn’t be given a chance this time around, they held Noor close and returned home – forgetting all of their belongings on the hospital floor.
Today, they returned for all that was theirs to claim: their belongings and a second chance.
Noor’s on the schedule again for what we all hope will be a lifesaving surgery. Until then, we’re enjoying another opportunity to love on Noor!
Join us this week as we follow her second chance.
June 7, 2011 by Ted · Comments Off
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When I met Haydar he was kicking a soccer ball around the hospital hallway. We played there in the hallway for quite some time, kicking and throwing the ball back and forth between the three of us. I made my arms like a hoop in front of me and Haydar would shoot the ball through them—he’s a pretty good shot for a 6 year old!
Because there are so many children here in need of heart surgery, and because cuteness and playfulness are not criteria we get to use in determining the order for surgeries (unfortunately), Haydar ended up being further down on the surgery list.
But thankfully, after patiently waiting in the hospital and always trying to show us how brave and prepared he was, Haydar is finally getting his surgery! We couldn’t think of a better way to wind down as we near the end of our trip—thank you for helping us bring the Remedy to Haydar!
May 24, 2011 by Jeremy · Comments Off
One of my favorite things about working for the Preemptive Love Coalition is the chance to stand before you every few weeks and give a transparent account as to how we are putting your hard-earned money to work in Iraq to benefit the thousands of children who are counting on us to help develop cardiac care on their behalf.
Today I’m back in southern Iraq, a few hours outside of Basra, for Remedy Mission V and it is such a joy! (Because we blog and Tweet in real-time we are withholding the name of the city to minimize any risk to our local and volunteer staff). In the last 8 months we have given more than 95 children a shot at lifesaving operations and invested more than 20,000 cumulative hours in both didactic and hands-on training for Iraqi doctors and nurses.
One of the most exciting things about Remedy V is the slower pace of surgeries and training. In a world where bigger and faster is usually better, I am really excited to slow things down this trip for the sake of greater learning and better results.
In past missions we took a faster pace, kicked the wheels of the system a little bit, stretched it to its limits and obtained a very clear sense for what was possible and what was not possible at this developmental juncture. With two full missions at this particular hospital under our belt we have more clarity than ever about how we should be proceeding. So the pace of surgeries on this mission, while slower than previous trips here, seems to be yielding exciting opportunities. Local Iraqis are working hard yet are also less stressed than previous trips because the pace and complexity of surgeries is more in line with their current developmental needs. Our volunteers from America, the United Kingdom and Europe are finding they have more time to teach in the down times between critical care.
And all of this amounts to more lives saved and better education for Iraqi doctors and nurses who are giving so fully of themselves to learn to care for children facing life-threatening heart defects.
Stay tuned this week for amazing stories of your life-changing donations hard at work!
May 13, 2011 by Cody · Comments Off
PLC is honored to be featured in the new book Act Here. Love Now.
We love that we get to share pages with eleven of the most passionate and talented photographers we’ve come across!
Read their story and see just how contagious their passion is:
Act Here. Love Now. is a book that follows the journey of 11 student photographers who had a vision to change the world. They traveled through 36 countries documenting the lives of those they met. As they took photos and heard stories, they were overwhelmed with the needs that confronted them along the way. But as the days wore on, the girls realized they could make a difference, every day, with simple acts of genuine love. This book is a culmination of their stories, photos, and practical ways to impact your own community, city, and world.
We believe that whether we are in our hometowns or across the continents, if we impact our neighborhoods, we will transform our cities. And if we transform our cities, we will change the world.
Through their photography and gripping stories, they’re accomplishing everything they set out to do.
We can’t wait until we get some of their books out in Iraq!
Get yours by clicking HERE!