It’s cold now. It’s time for everyone living in Iraq, including internally displaced persons (IDP) to be dressed for the cold, rainy winter. Most IDPs don’t have the resources to do it on their own though. We had the chance to go along with our partners recently, as they delivered winter gear to families who desperately need it. Our partners are buying boots for IDPs, yes. But they’ve also been building relationships with these folks. They make choices as if they are buying boots for beloved cousins, nieces, and nephews. These IDPs are loved. It shows in everything our partners do.
We asked our partners to describe their process for acquiring the boots we saw delivered. Below is a look into the steps they take to transform funds into tangible warmth.
1. Visit each community. Spend a little time talking about their current needs. Compile lists of shoe sizes needed for each family.
2. Get the best quality boots possible. It’s not easy to get good quality boots here. Inexpensive shoes are poor quality imports from China. They look cute, but just don’t hold up. The best quality boots are purchased second-hand, from Europe and North America.
3. Go to second-hand section of the bazaar. Meet a variety of stall owners. Negotiate with each; see who will give the best prices for quantity purchases of boots to be given to refugees. Stall owners are kind, and a few are willing to give a steep discount to help those in need.
4. Look through thousands of pairs of boots and shoes to choose the best pairs: warm and waterproof. Examine each pair carefully. Check brand and quality. Bend each pair to check the treads. Look for holes or splits that would make the boots leak in rain. Give a shout of joy when you find brand-new boots amongst the used. Discard boots that look too old or have issues. If you wouldn’t buy it for your family, you won’t buy it for these precious ones.
5. Bring home hundreds of pounds of boots. Clean each pair. Each boot was cleaned once by shop owners, but details are often missed. Pick gravel out of treads. Use a tiny crochet hook to pick hair and grass out of velcro. Trim threads. Each pair look new now. Give another shout of joy!
6. Prepare bags for each family, according to the sizes gathered earlier. Tuck a new pair of socks into each boot, so each person gets two pairs.
7. Load up bags of boots, and deliver to the site where the IDP families live.
8. Arrive on a morning that is wet, and cold enough to see your breath. Smile when the kids come to greet you. Feel your smile vanish as the kids get closer. You see many kids are in bare feet, toes blue with cold (like the little guy pictured at the bottom of the post). Many wear cheap plastic sandals. You’re reminded that this is why you spent the last week how you did.
9. Hand out boots.
10. Smile again. Catch our breath. Start again for the next community of IDP friends.