We are here to help
Our second this year trip to Iraq is taking place during the exceptionally hot summer. But as usual, we have too many things to do and no time left to complain.
One of the goals of this trip, although not the only one, is to launch the board games project. But I will write a separate text about it. In this article, I will talk about the people and places that we have visited since arriving in Iraq.
We landed in Iraq at midnight. And although there were stars instead of the sun in the sky, it was still very hot. Before the trip we were trying to prepare for extreme temperatures using the hot weather in Poland, hiking in the mountains or at the seaside, but it was like preparing for war by watching a movie. Once here, we decided not to waste our time. We got into two cars belonging to our friends who came to pick us up from the airport and we set off to the north, to Dahouk. We reached it at three in the morning, dead tired.
Intense right away
In the morning we went to Teleskoff. The heat was unbearable, the thermometer was showing 45 degrees Celsius. We spent the entire day there. We visited a dozen of workplaces which we opened this and last year. Shops, workshops and a variety of service points show that life is coming back here. When speaking to a smiling craftsman or a shop owner, I realized that we’ve contributed to this rebirth, to the fact that more and more families are winning. This time we handed over some funds to a local coffee shop (although it is more of a tea shop) that is run by a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war. A former sergeant-sapper, he is trying to keep this place that allows him to provide for his seven-member family. His coffee shop needs a significant subsidy. Cracked walls, the lack of fridge and destroyed floor carpet are not very inviting, but the place enjoys regular customers. It is a meeting point of the entire community. When the temperature allows, the owner’s son takes the tables out, and quickly around thirty residents gather around them. Domino, trik trak and old decks of cards appear on the tables. The owner will not make much money running this business, not even with our support. This will never happen. The most important, however, is that normal life returns here for several hours. Perhaps new customers will start showing up after the refurbishment. We will see the results after another trip. This time I was able to give him only 4,000 euros, a fraction of the required amount. We will send him another thousand as soon as we manage to raise the funds.
Small towns and their ususal problems
The second day was also very intense. Early morning we set off to Karnook village. The heat was excruciating. The Iraqi sun can give a really hard time, especially that the flora is very poor here offering very little shadow. Karnjook is a quiet settlement where time seems to have stopped a while ago. In 2019, we supported the community by providing it with livestock. The crofts that were built at the time are mainly filled with hens today. Two families are successfully breeding goats. Another one has asked for help. It’s a widower who carried out the project with much success until his wife fell seriously ill. He had a flock of eight goats but was forced to sell them trying to save his wife’s life. The woman died at the end of last year. He has asked if he could get the second chance despite already receiving help two and a half years ago. Not for himself, but for his children that he looks after. He’s asked for several animals. It would cost around 900 USD (around 3,500 Polish zlotys) to purchase them. We don’t have this much at the moment but we will try to fulfill his request. The mayor has asked for help for the entire village. The generator that provides electricity for the entire village when the government cuts its deliveries (namely roughly every three hours) has been repaired many times and is on its last legs. The new one, including transport and installation, would cost around 6,500 USD, or roughly 25,000 Polish zlotys.
I would like to be able to help these people right away because I can see the conditions they are living in. They are very honest and open. They ask me for support because they have no one else to turn to. There is not even the slightest chance that they will receive any support from abroad or from their government. Unfortunately, the funds I was able to take with me are very limited. After coming back we will try with the guys to get more money and to help the residents of Karnjook.
A longer chat with the mayor and his wife revealed another problem that they are facing. This time it was more personal. Their oldest son has been diagnosed as terminally ill. After an online consultation with a befriended doctor in Poland it turned out that… perhaps he is not. We will try to arrange more check-ups and consultations. This is not the first time that we face a situation like this. Doctors in Iraq do not always have enough knowledge and means to diagnose people properly. That’s especially the case with public health care since it is of very low quality.
On our way back we visited Alqosh where we met with a family that in 2014 fled from ISIS to Turkey. They are young Christians. For many years they lived there as refugees trying to get legally to Europe. They didn’t succeed. During that time, their children reached school age. It was impossible to provide them with access to education, so they decided to go back to Iraq. The terrorists burned down their house. Now they need money to finish the refurbishment. Installing new doors and windows, painting, buying basic furniture are their priorities. When we arrived, the father was working with his friend. Soon we were joined by his wife and children. We gave them a small amount so they could finish off the most important works. Before leaving, we gave each other a tight handshake. I know how difficult their decision to come back was and we need to make sure it will not go to waste.
I will write a separate article about the board games project. It is one of the main goals of our trip. I will only mention that we brought with us games that will serve as an element of education and development of children from educational centers that we support. There are young instructors in our team who train future games and fun entertainers. The board games have been selected to be as universal as possible and to fulfill their role. We have translated instructions and prepared questionnaires that will allow assessing which games the kids will enjoy most.
Author: Bartosz Rutkowski ; Photo: Michał Bożek