Today is the last day of our Remedy Mission here in Najaf!
We still have a full day’s work before we head home tomorrow, but here are some highlights as we wrap up Remedy Mission XVI.
—Getting to meet Hama, Kadeeja, Musa, Ali, Diya, Shakir, Mohammed, Noor, Zainab, Zahara, Mahdi, and Yousef. All twelve of those children received lifesaving operations this trip!
—Watching one of our local heart surgeons completely correct a heart defect – without any help!
—Witnessing our cardiologists screen close to 200 more children.
—Sitting down with the local medical team to talk about longterm development and the training they want to receive this next year.
—Being overwhelmed by the gratitude and joy expressed by all the families of those we served this mission.
Thank you so much for making this mission possible.
I’ve said this before, but we haven’t provided a single heart surgery in Iraq apart from the support and generosity of others.
You give; a child is saved; peace is waged. It’s a cycle we can’t continue without you, so thank you!
As soon as I leave here, we’ll start preparing for two more Remedy Missions this month in the cities of Fallujah and Tikrit.
You can be a part of the community that makes those operations possible by donating a few dollars below.
Peace from Najaf.
|Give now to bring hope to families in Tikrit!|
This month marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Can you believe that much time has already passed?
After living six of those ten years in the country, I’m keenly aware how negative a lot of the headlines will be. News stories reminding us of debt and death tolls are already floating around the internet, and that’s why my team and I are so excited to deliver you this news:
As we remember the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Preemptive Love Coalition is about to launch our first Remedy Mission in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown and a former insurgency hotspot.
What does this mean?
We’re about to begin saving the lives of Saddam’s former neighbors, tribe-members, and relatives. This is where the rubber of enemy-love meets the road, and this is your chance to join other like-minded heartmenders in making this simple but profound declaration:
“Ten years ago something happened in Iraq, but we haven’t forgotten. We remember the families, the children, and this country that is still in need.”
Will you join us in remembering by acting? We continue to say “yes” to these amazing opportunities because of your help. Please give today to ensure that we can say “yes” to every opportunity in front of us.
Donate below to help us save lives!
|Give now to bring hope to families in Tikrit!|
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!
April 17, 2012 by matt · Comments Off
A couple weeks ago we had you listen in on a phone conversation with Hussain’s dad. He shared about their family’s long search for a surgery and how eager Hussain is to get a new heart.
I spent several afternoons playing with Hussain while he was waiting to have his diagnostic tests run, and let me tell you, this kid loves to play. Hussain was easily the most fun person to be around at the hospital, and all the time we spent together made me even more excited to stay in touch with him and his family while they wait for surgery. Here are some of the recent questions we asked Hussain’s dad:
Dad—“It’s a big tragedy to have a child with Down Syndrome and to watch them suffer everyday while you can’d do anything to mitigate their pain, but we still thank God for everything and hope for the best for our child.”
PLC—”Our partner doctors said it was illegal to provide medical treatment to children with Down Syndrome under Saddam Hussein’s regime. Is that true?”
Dad—“Yes, but that was not the biggest problem. The biggest problem was that we lived under the embargo which didn’t allow any medicines or vaccines to be imported to Iraq unless it was under the memorandum of understanding between Iraq and the United Nations. The meds were very costly and we couldn’t afford to purchase any for our sick child. “
PLC—”We know Hussain loves to play, but what is his favorite thing to play? Does he have any hobbies?”
Dad—“He loves playing soccer with the neighbor kids, and he really likes to ride his bicycle.”
We’re just a few weeks away from Remedy Mission X, and we’re hoping to provide Hussain with a long-awaited surgery—check out his page HERE to learn how you can help. We’ll also be sharing his progress on our recently-updated Facebook page.
Stick with us…more to come.
March 16, 2012 by Cody · Comments Off
On this day in 1988 the war between Iraq and Iran had just entered its eighth deadly year. In the middle of the fight stood Halabja, a Kurdish city of 50,000 just eight miles from the Iranian border.
Halabja shook under the relentless air and artillery bombardment by the Iraqi military. Then when the night fell, Iraqi helicopters and bombers dropped chemical bombs from the sky. The survivors’ stories tell the rest:
A father named Kherwan remembers, “Artillery rounds began to explode…and planes began dropping bombs on the town…so we ran and hid in our basement. Then it started with a strange noise that sounded like bombs exploding, and a man came running into our house shouting, ‘Gas! Gas!’ Later, I smelled an aroma that reminded me of apples and I lost consciousness. Sometime later, I discovered that the Iraqi air force had bombed Halabja with chemical weapons.”
Nouri Hama Ali recalled, “Many of the women and children began to die. The chemical clouds were on the ground. They were heavy. Many children were left on the ground, by the side of the road. Old people as well. They were running, then they would stop breathing and die.”
At the end of the day, some 5,000 Iraqi Kurdish men, women, and children were dead. Another 10,000 were maimed and blinded. Halabja’s soil, food, and water supplies were contaminated and the survivors began to witness an enormous increase in cancers, respiratory disease, miscarriages, infertility and congenital heart defects.
This attack took its place in Saddam Hussein’s deadly Anfal Campaign which aimed at killing and displacing the Kurds in Northern Iraq. Human Rights Watch concluded in 1994 that this campaign resulted in as many as 100,000 deaths.
Every year, on this day, there are hundreds of articles, posts, and statuses drawing our attention to Halabja.
Some use it as a time to draw attention to the fact that Hablabja’s infrastructure is still in shambles—24 years later. Others still call for justice to be served to all those involved in the genocide. Some condemn the countries that supplied Saddam with the chemicals he needed to create these weapons. Others call us simply to pause and remember.
All of these are right and we honor Halabja by advocating in these ways.
But working toward a Halabja with paved streets, running water, and constant electricity is not the best we can do. We can turn Halabja into a Dubai or a Manhattan, but if we still haven’t addressed why the bombing of Halabja happened in the first place, we continue to dishonor those who died there.
That’s why we believe in remaking the world through healing—not just through bricks and mortar.
We believe that where forgiveness is freely given, reconciliation can happen and where reconciliation happens, there is freedom; freedom from the past; freedom from always being labeled the “victim” or the “aggressor;” freedom to live life the way it was meant to be lived—in restored relationship.
So I’m taking time today to stop and remember Halabja and to encourage those I know who were affected by it. And I’m also taking time to stop and remember that reconciliation is the way forward.
Photo by Julie Adnan
March 13, 2012 by Cody · Comments Off
On our last Remedy Mission inside Iraq, we were able to save the lives of seventeen Iraqi children! We also gave thousands of hours of training to Iraqi heart surgeons and nurses. But we ran out of time to save Hussain.
According to Iraqi doctors, it was illegal to help children with Down Syndrome under Saddam Hussein’s regime. Saddam viewed children like Hussain as a “waste of resources.”
But Downs children are God’s children, and they are important members of society. Today Iraqi doctors are ready to help save Hussain and so many more beautiful children with Down Syndrome. And we’re ready to help give them the training they need to do exactly that.
By giving Hussain his shot at lifesaving heart surgery, you will be telling him and so many others that they matter; telling them that we value them and that we’re in this together; telling them we care.
So, in honor of World Down Syndrome Day on March 21st, will you help us save Hussain and his friends by giving to our next Remedy Mission today?
Hussain is waiting! Give today to show that he and other Downs children aren’t a “waste of resources.”
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!
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.
It’s interesting how my perspectives on people who are different than me have changed since the run-up to the Iraq war in 2002. I remember sitting rapt in front of the television watching Hans Blix look for weapons of mass destruction. I remember skipping class one Tuesday afternoon and watching coverage of the war, the fall of Baghdad, and the subsequent “Mission Accomplished” speech. I distinctly remember the Sunday night that news of Saddam Hussein’s capture interrupted my weekly viewing of Alias – a spy show that no doubt fed my ambivalence toward the very real people of Iraq.
But when I visited Iraq for the first time three years into the war, at the height of the sectarian violence, I was entirely unprepared for how much I would actually care about the people of Iraq; how much I would be moved and changed by their story.
The single greatest change in my life between that night when we saw Saddam groveling in a hole and the night that I wept bitterly in Kirkuk over nemesis neighbors bent on killing one another was the birth of my little girl, Emma.
I wasn’t ready to be a dad. I loved my young-married life with my wife. She was all I had dreamed about and I loved our freedom. We traveled the world together, listened to music that was actually cool, read books with big words, and enjoyed many long walks and talks without interruption each week. All of that was severely threatened when we found out we were pregnant.
I was excited, but certainly scared – mostly about what bearing this new child would have on our marriage. I wasn’t ready to give up freedom and travel for monosyllabic books like See Spot Run.
But that first day in Dr. Hidayet’s office when we heard Emma’s heartbeat… that was a life-changing moment! And as they wheeled my wife away a few months later on a gurney beyond those double doors in Istanbul, Turkey I was terrified that something would go wrong in this foreign country. I was actually in the room for my daughter’s birth. I held her within seconds of her first breath. And one of the most amazing moments of my life was the first minutes we had alone together in a Turkish corridor as all the chaos of the hospital disappeared and I watched my daughter look at me for the first time.
I guess my point is this: becoming a father changed me.
So when I arrived in Iraq with my daughter and my wife in 2007, I was not the same person who had watched the news on Iraq with disconnected interested years prior. I was a father now. And with that came a special code of conduct – a code that transcends culture.
I didn’t see “Iraqis” or even “Muslims”. Arabs weren’t “rag heads” like some of my friends and family had suggested. Kurds were not these disempowered mountain Turks that I had grown up seeing with Klashnikovs on CBS News in 1990.
I mostly just saw fathers. Most of the media coverage of our work in Iraq suggests that we are caring for the children of Iraq, healing their hearts, and creating a better future for them. I certainly agree. But I have a slightly broader agenda: I see myself as caring for the fathers of Iraq.
I’ve sat by too many dads as they’ve tried to choke back tears in hopes of remaining strong and faithful to the belief that God is in control. I hate that sound – the sound of grief chokin
g.So I work each day to care – not only for the children in Iraq – but for the fathers in Iraq, as well. Because I am one. And my caring has actually made me a better father for my own children. As I consider each day how many of my father-friends have lost their little boys and girls, it helps me value every minute I have with my children more deeply. Caring for the fathers of Iraq helps me remember what a blessing my children are to me. I came home from work a little late last Thursday night and spent an extra hour laying in bed with my son telling stories, tickling, and dreaming up imaginary exploits that Batman and Superman together would be afraid to touch – but not us! I spent this extra time with my son because I had a need that only he could fill for me. I didn’t think I was doing him a favor. I was keenly aware that he was making me whole, filling up what was lacking in me after a long day of working for other fathers and their little boys.
The bio sketches of our organization and my role in it will probably continue to talk about the way we’ve changed Iraq by establishing lifesaving heart hospitals across the country through our Remedy Missions. But the truth is even more profound. I am now connected to the people of Iraq as a father and a friend; as a big brother and an uncle that works joyfully in hopes that other people from around the world will come to love them as I do.
I’m not sure yet what my legacy in Iraq will be – if anything. But Iraq’s legacy in the life of my family is clear. This Father’s Day we celebrate how the dads of Iraq have shaped our family and how loving them has brought us closer.
Dad, I love all the great memories we’ve made together. This year, I wanted to add, “saving a child’s life in Iraq” to the list, so that another child and his father can make great memories together too.
|We want to make it easy for you to honor your dad this Father's Day and help save the life of baby Ghazel. A simple $10 donation will help us save her life and cover the cost of two hours of hands-on training with local Iraqi surgeons! A $25 donation will accomplish that and add hours of training in Iraq for an additional three Iraqi doctors and nurses! If you like, we'll even provide you with a free downloadable card that you can print and give to your dad this Father's Day!|
Behar Godani is the kind of person non-profits dream of having in their corner. In fact, if you search “ultimate supporter” in Wikipedia… well, you mostly get a bunch of gibberish, but you should see her photo.
She started spearheading support for PLC way back in the day; fund-raisers, spreadin’ the word, Facebook “likes”, bake sales—she’s done it all! And that’s great for an overseas staff like ours because we don’t spend much time Stateside. She’s a lifeline across the Atlantic, and today (which also happens to be her birthday!) she agreed to an interview:
PLC: Let’s start by hearing a little about you. Tell us about yourself.
Behar: My name is Behar, and I’m now a 25 year-old student program analyst for the US Department of State. I recently graduated with my MA in Political Science and my Graduate Certificate in Bio-defense for Critical Analysis and Strategic Responses to Terrorism. I’m interested in anything and everything relating to politics in the Middle East, although, being Kurdish, I’ve always had a bias for the politics surrounding Iraqi Kurdistan.
Over the past year I’ve been a co-partner in two projects that resulted in the production of a documentary and short film on the Kurdish Diaspora in the US, and I did some work with the US Institute of Peace where I was featured in a documentary about issues in diaspora communities.
Non profit work through various organizations has also always been a profound interest of mine. The use of media to promote issues within my own diaspora community and my Kurdish community back home has been a way for me to feel like I’m contributing in some positive way—however small—to a homeland that I’ve always felt connected to but have never quite had complete access to.
My ultimate aspiration, on a more general level, would be to finally see peace in Iraq as a whole, but, more specifically, I yearn for the day when my particular country—Kurdistan—is finally independent and when its children have the educational and healthcare initiatives in place that ensures a long term, brighter future for generations to come.
PLC: So how did you hear about the Preemptive Love Coalition?
Behar: Maureen Mcluckie from “Kurdistan: Save the Children” first referred me to Jeremy and Cody via email after I expressed my desire to become directly involved with an NPO helping Kurds and Arabs in Iraq from the states.
When I first saw the initial BuyShoesSaveLives website, I remember getting goosebumps as I couldn’t believe the amount of dedication and love PLC put into helping Iraqi children and how easy it was for anyone to simply donate. They even had ideas about how we as students could get involved at our universities, and that’s when I think I knew I’d found the right organization.
Seeing teenagers wear klash with jeans was perhaps another indicator. Who knew Kurdish shoes could look so cool with jeans?!
PLC: You’ve obviously got a big heart for your homeland and these children. Where does your motivation for them come from?
Behar: I think my greatest motivation has been a sincere desire to move beyond the politics and crippling bureaucracy that’s done such a huge disservice to all Iraqis and to simply start at the grassroots level by helping people.
As a child of two Kurdish parents who first came to the US as refugees about thirty years ago, I’ve seen the power of grassroots movements first hand in terms of keeping culture and language alive, but also by bringing people together in the name of a greater cause that we can all believe in.
Helping sick children, many of whom continue to suffer from the diseases contracted by their parents after exposure to Saddam Hussein’s chemical agents, is a cause that is—or at least should be—an easy way to unite people of all backgrounds, be they Kurdish, Iraqi, Turcomen, Assyrian, or your average American with an incredibly big heart. It’s something we can all agree on as human beings, and I couldn’t find an organization that communicated that better than PLC.
PLC: Thanks! Is there anything you’d like to tell the rest of the Coalition? Any rally cries, encouragements, or challenges?
Behar: I’d like to encourage continued commitment despite all the opposition, obstacles and incredibly vocal naysayers that you may encounter along your way. Where there are pure hearts, strong wills, a love of God and a refusal to accept ‘no’ for an answer, there will always be a way, God-willing.
Our thanks to Behar and the entire Kurdish Student Organization at George Mason University for being such awesome partners for kids in Iraq! We’re wishing you a happy birthday today from Iraqi Kurdistan!