Powdered milk for children – A joint project with Caritas Poland

Jan 23, 2020 | Eaglewatch in Iraq, Urgent cases

In the 10th episode of “Z wody w piach” (Polish only) Bartek talked about a project of the purchase of powdered milk for children living in wild camps, which we implemented thanks to Caritas Poland’s support.

He emphasized that the most important task of foundations working abroad is helping people. Foundations should not be competing with each other. On the contrary. If it is possible, they should join their forces and work together.

This has been our way of operating in Iraq from the very beginning. The Great Job, the purchase of livestock, the building of houses, the occupational therapy – all these are projects that we are able to implement thanks to cooperation with local foundations. These are often small organizations that consist of refugees or people who care about their compatriots’ fate. With people such as Ramy or Shamoo, both of whom I have mentioned in many articles, we have created some kind of a team. The best advantage of such cooperation is their knowledge of the reality on the ground, language, customs, and, most of all, their understanding of the needs of terrorism victims.

The same is true when it comes to foundations from Poland, with which we are always ready to cooperate. Our joint project with Caritas – I will say more about it in a moment – is a good example.

As a matter of principle

Before I move to describe specific examples, I will tell a few words about our method of operation on the spot. At the very beginning we adopted several rules that we try to uphold for our mission to bring the best results.

All projects are implemented only after we agree on them with the needy. We try not to create solutions which already exist. It is better to ask what kind of help is needed instead of trying to make one happy in a way they do not want. What is required is to talk to people and listen to what they have to say. It seems obvious, but sometimes… Exactly.

Our second rule is to provide support only in cooperation with the locals. The foundations and people I have mentioned above are the key to our projects’ successful results. We know them, we are in touch with them all the time. We go to Iraq 3-4 times a year. Sometimes we take volunteers with us who have committed themselves to our mission or who can spread the word about our activities. Many of those people previously organized fundraisers and meetings which we were invited to. Some of them supported the foundation financially. There have not been many of them – during the Eaglewatch’s four-year existence around 20 people have gone with us to Iraq.

Usually they would cover the costs of flight tickets and stay themselves, and sometimes they would help people in Iraq out of their own pockets. We do not have our own office in Iraq and we are not continuously present there. There is no need for that and it would generate great costs which we are trying to avoid. We do not do anything with our own hands. There are professionals practically in every field there. It is better to engage them in fulfilling specific tasks. When building houses or crofts, we were hiring local workers. Obviously, we paid them for their work, but we also wanted them to know that they were building those things for themselves. Those were people who needed every cent. That way the implementation of one project could be beneficial for many families.

Rules number four and five do not need much explanation. We want at least 90% of collected funds to be spent directly on helping people (one of the episodes of “From the water to the sand” was devoted to explaining financial issues). So far, we have been very successful with that. Last year we reached 95%, and before that it was around 93%. Last but not least: we help only on the spot.

The purchase of the powdered milk

But let’s go back to the project we implemented with Caritas. In the middle of 2019, we managed to make the first step for our cooperation which, hopefully, will continue in the future. Caritas Poland had already provided powdered milk to the Iraqi Kurdistan before. This time we joined our forces to repeat that project.

The aim was to provide children from wild camps with good quality powdered milk. We picked two places – the Zawita Camp and Seje. I wrote about the former a few months ago, when we bought fire extinguishers for its inhabitants. After a wave of fires in which tens of tents in several camps were burned down, we decided that some precautions needed to be taken with regard to the families most exposed to the threat of fire. You can read about that action here.

Both of the camps mentioned are unofficial. What does that mean? It means they are not on the maps of charity organizations. They are inhabited by the people who in 2014 fled from ISIS. There was no place for them in organized camps, so with help from the local population they created temporary shelter. Well, it was meant to be temporary, but life has verified those plans. Some of those people have managed to return home. Many, however, have not got that opportunity yet. Their houses are destroyed. Having in mind small children or disabled family members they have not taken that step. They have found themselves in a hopeless situation. We may think that at least they could try. But there is no simple answer to that. I have spoken to them and they shared their concerns with me. They are simply afraid. They are afraid that ISIS will be back and a genocide will happen again. Despite terrible conditions they live in, they are not ready to go back.
They need help, as currently the only people supporting them in any way are their neighbors. The camps are spread along a curvy road in the mountains in northern Iraq. These are tent campsites located on a wide, stony lea. People live here in catastrophic conditions with no access to running water or decent toilets. These are conditions small children live in, many born shortly after their mothers were forced to leave their homes.

Together with Caritas we decided to provide the poorest families with powdered milk. The aim was to enrich the diet of the youngest ones. Every parent knows it is a very important element of a child’s overall development. At first we aimed at a small group of children, but thanks to Ramy who got a significant discount from one of the suppliers we managed to include all children up to 5 years old.

Ultimately, we gave away almost 4 thousand 400g-packages. Every parent received a three-month supply. That way we have supported more than 300 children in a difficult winter season. In October I went to Iraq with Caritas team. We oversaw one stage of distribution. The packages were collected by parents, but also older brothers and sisters (some of them not much older than children whom they collected them for).

The entire purchase, transport and storage were financed by Caritas Poland.

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