RETURN FROM "Mission of Hope" Iraqi Orphans
Updated: Nov 27, 2018
Mark and I have returned from our mission to help the helpless, those left in ruins by ISIS' devastating occupation of Mosul, Iraq from 2014-2017. Our expectations fell far short of the reality of the utter devastation that exists. The destruction of buildings to the point of rubble is but one part of this. The annihilation of the human spirit, and of the ability to live in peace is the most heart-breaking aspect of it all. For background, read our previous blog.
Our trip began on our second wedding anniversary. We couldn’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate our marriage than to share the greatest love of all with those who were in such dire need. Our goal was to meet immediate needs of those widowed and orphaned due to the three-year occupation of Mosul by ISIS, and from the nine-month military campaign to oust ISIS from Mosul.
Mosul is divided in half by the Tigris river. The west side of Mosul is where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate and himself calipha. ISIS occupied all of Mosul and much of the surrounding territory, but when the Iraqi military, aided by Shia militias, Kurdish peshmerga, and U.S. special forces, finally launched a counter-attack, ISIS was forced to retreat further and further, until they concentrated their forces in West Mosul. Eventually they were beaten back into an area of about 20 square blocks of West Mosul abutting the banks of the Tigris. That area was bombarded mercilessly and was almost completely turned to rubble. Thousands of people are still missing and thought to be buried under the rubble. There are also literally tons of unexploded ordnance throughout the area. Still, children go through the rubble to find anything they can use or sell. Many have subsequently died.
So many of the surviving widows and orphans suffer extreme mental and emotional trauma, having seen their fathers and husbands murdered in front of their eyes, their mothers raped and murdered, having lost multiple family members due to errant air strikes. The government is stretched so thin trying to rebuild the infrastructure that there is no aid available for the common people trying to get their lives back together. Hundreds of thousands of Mosul residents who fled ISIS are living in refugee camps with nowhere to return to, nowhere to go, and no hope for the future. It is a very bleak and depressing situation. Together with those citizens killed, and those internally displaced, the population of Mosul has shrunk from 2.5 million before ISIS to 1.5 million now.
Given this dire situation, we were blessed to distribute 100 food boxes to some of these very needy people. Our local partner had learned after experiencing the danger of the prior wider distribution. They narrowed down the recipient list to the neediest and those with whom they had developed personal relationships and decided to provide more food per box, so each would last longer. This strategy also allowed for personal visits with the recipients in their homes rather than delivery of the boxes in the streets.
We spent three days in Mosul visiting widows and orphans. We also visited a government-run orphanage, the only orphanage operating in Mosul, to assess its needs and to bless the children. We were able to provide them with toys and activities. One child, with a hole in his heart, is being followed up on with a nearby doctor for treatment. We also visited an abandoned special needs orphanage to determine what it would require to refurbish it and make it operational, and how we might be able to meet needs on a long-term, sustainable basis. We met with the governor of Mosul to obtain his assistance on a number of fronts, and he was surprisingly generous with both his time and his assistance. We also met various officials at Mosul University, including the president, about the damage done to their campus by ISIS, what their needs are, and how we might be able to help. They had a need for some of the classes we teach and we are considering the possibility of returning and teaching for them. Finally, we took a trip to Soran, Iraq where we visited a local training center for Kurdish war widows. The center trains these widows to sew. The products of their labor provide a means of support for themselves and their children.
With all the craziness going on locally the dire needs of so many who are suffering seem to put things into perspective. Thank you to all of you who provided support in so many ways. We appreciate each and every one of you.
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