The truck was conspicuous when it rolled into a Kirkuk neighbourhood—already tall, it was piled even higher with colourful sleeping mats. Heaters, blankets, food, and rugs were stacked inside for families displaced by the war with ISIS. Once parked, a crowd gathered. For the kids, the delivery meant a little excitement. For their parents, the delivery meant a lot of relief.
This week the truck rolled into Kirkuk, but on a different day it might have been a neighbourhood in Baghdad, Anbar, or Diyala. If those cities sound familiar, it’s because they’ve been in the news. They are the cities where much of the violence in Iraq is centred. They are the same cities where our partners at Iraqi Health Aid Organization choose to serve.
Iraqi Health Aid Organization (IHAO) are our local partners behind the Saqr Quraish School Project, Madeeha’s business start-up, and the delivery of aid to families in the besieged city of Haditha. We’re able to help those others won’t, in places other’s won’t, largely because of IHAO.
Their mandate is tied to the long-term health and stability of the people of Iraq. Their concern is the physical and emotional health of those impacted by war. They look at whole persons and whole families, and know that health is very often connected to feeling secure and financially independent.
IHAO’s history is filled with the kind of help which empowers. They have delivered literacy, vocational and business training to rural women and girls. They work with groups of widows—providing funds to start small businesses. There have been projects focused on those with disabilities. And now they are helping families displaced by the violence of ISIS to start new lives.
It isn’t easy to serve here. The personal safety of their staff and volunteers is never guaranteed. They are sometimes discouraged, as they see the destruction around them. But they continue to invest in the human capital here, working with people who are re-building their lives, often in very difficult circumstances.
Hala Sarraf (above, center) stands with two displaced women who are recipients of small business start-up funds. They hold signs which say “Tamkeen”, the Arabic word for empowerment. It was a very deliberate choice of name for these projects.
Hala has been the director of IHAO for more than 7 years. She is a powerful change agent, with a potent combination of skills, determination and vision.
Hala earned a Masters degree from Columbia in Public Health, Health Policy, and Management, and previously worked for the World Health Organization. With her education, skills and talent, Hala could work anywhere in the world. But she chooses to stay here in Iraq. She chooses to work in the most dangerous places. She chooses to effect change where it is needed the most.
To paraphrase something they posted recently, ‘…when we share the little bread that we have, then the worries of the less-abled become ours. When we never stop teaching (even with the smallest amount of resources available), when doctors visit and allow skeptical eyes to relax—only then we feel that we are one nation, that has the chance to heal. Preemptive Love is a path of life we choose to support.’
We are grateful for the work of Iraq Heath Aid Organization. We’re thrilled to partner with them in making change in difficult places.