The city of Mosul is the kind of ancient that’s hard to describe.
It was already old when it became the capital of the Assyrian Empire in the 25th century BC.
No one knows which families first took the risk to live in Mosul, who first stopped at this junction point, pitched their tents, grazed their animals, and decided to stay rather than move on to other pastures.
We can tell you about two modern-day pioneers in Mosul, though: Waad and Sadam.
How can a person be a pioneer in an ancient city? How can someone be among the first to settle a new area in a place so old?
When these men returned to Mosul’s historic Old City after the fierce battle to defeat ISIS, it was entirely unlike the city they had known before.
Old Mosul was laid waste.
Its streets too narrow to accommodate military vehicles during the battle, it was instead pummeled from above and afar with bombs, then later secured by soldiers who fought house by house.
When Waad and Sadam came back to their neighborhood in Old Mosul, it too was in ruins. There was no electricity (and there still isn’t). There was no water (and there still isn’t). There were no services of any kind.
But if Old Mosul is ever to be rebuilt, if it is ever to be vital again, someone has to be the first pioneer to return.
When Waad returned to his shop in Old Mosul, soot-blackened his hands as he picked up items off the torched floor—items that used to be part of his business. A father of three, Waad had already lost part of his house when it was damaged in a military campaign.
But his shop… ISIS burned his shop and destroyed the contents.
Everyone in the Old City knew Waad. He was a neighborhood fixture. But what would happen next?
Directly across the narrow street from Waad’s shop was a store owned by Sadam. ISIS burned his store too, but the real damage was far more extensive than just burning.
Sadam keeps photos on his phone of his store as he found it after Mosul was liberated. They provide a sobering reminder of what war stole from his family.
Sadam had a wife and seven children to support. Now he had no means to do that. What in the world would happen next?
Well, you happened next.
More specifically, your donation to fund small business grants happened next.
Last fall, you provided the means for Waad to reopen his shop, and to offer the kind of fresh foods that make up a large part of the Iraqi diet: fresh cream and yogurt, eggs, and pastries.
You provided Sadam the means to stock the shelves of his grocery store across the street. He filled them with shelf-stable supplies, from food and snacks to cleaning supplies.
Their shops were basic when they reopened, but they were both functional—a catalyst for further neighborhood renewal.
In order for families to return to Old Mosul, they needed some kind of hub—they needed to know they wouldn’t be alone in the rubble.
Waad and Sadam give them a reason to return, without waiting for some day in the distant future when government resources finally begin repairing infrastructure here.
Waad and Sadam are lending their courage, optimism, and sheer determination—all while providing a handy spot to stock up on groceries and cleaning supplies for returning families.
A tea shop recently opened next to Waad’s shop. You can buy produce a few doors down, and kabab around the corner.
This is how it starts.
Enough families have moved back, or are coming back daily to clean and make repairs, that these businesses are thriving.
Our business grantees aren’t waiting for handouts. They aren’t waiting for the government to come in and make everything right. What they’re hoping for are visionary partnerships.
Over a year ago, we were one of the first organizations to enter Mosul, as neighborhoods were liberated one at a time. We brought emergency aid, drilled wells, delivered water, repaired municipal pipes, and reopened primary health care clinics.
With your help, we will be last to leave—helping families who survived war return home and rebuild, creating jobs and launching new businesses. Creating the kind of partnerships the people of Mosul are longing for.
The bombs are no longer falling on Mosul. ISIS while far from gone, no longer controls the city. The news cameras have all packed up and left. Many aid organizations have left or scaled back, too.
But your love doesn’t just pack up and move on. Your love stays.