ICF in Baghdad: Face to face with Orphans, Street Children, and Kids Displaced by ISIS

September 21, 2015

ICF Chairman Jonathan Webb and ICF Vice President Mohammed Khudairi led a joint delegation from the Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) and The Children’s Village of New York (CV) to Baghdad this summer, to assess donor-funded projects at the Center for orphans and street children, and at IDP (internally displaced persons) camps.

 Khudairi and Webb confer during visit to Center

Khudairi and Webb confer during visit to Center

“The visit to the Center was really special,” said Khudairi. “The staff of our Iraqi NGO partners – Human Rights Defenders – are doing great work with these desperately poor kids. They’re a wonderful resource and source of joy for orphans and Iraqi teens who have to work instead of going to school.”

 Gathering the kids, staff, ICF and CV for group picture at the Center

Gathering the kids, staff, ICF and CV for group picture at the Center

ICF is exploring expansion of the project to reach many more children affected by violence and displacement. Last year, the Center provided services – tutoring, healthy meals, health care, emotional support, and more – to over 100 full- and part-time children.

“We also learned about the importance of documents as basic as birth certificates and other legal papers,” Khudairi added. Children who are orphaned, displaced during the Iraq war or now displaced by ISIS, may not have birth certificates. Similarly, a displaced parent may not have a marriage license. Without such documents, children are refused entry to school and destitute families are denied access to benefits for food and other critical support. “This is a problem that ICF wants to tackle,” he said.

The visit to the Center included helping staff distribute new clothes to the children, listening to them sing and recite their “ABC’s,” and even joining in a time for dancing.

“These children are remarkably resilient,” Webb observed. “Consider the circumstances that led to them coming to the Center. That’s a tough life for a child. ICF is thrilled to work with our Iraqi partners at HRD to give these kids a chance to experience some of the joys of a normal childhood.”

ICF also visited two IDP (internally displaced people) camps, where children of all ages – including babies – suffered in the 120 degree F heat. ICF and its colleagues in the Soccer Salam coalition have provided sleeping bags, food, water, and other emergency humanitarian aid for children and families fleeing ISIS. The coalition includes ICF, the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC), the Karadah Project, and Goals and Dreams. All four coalition partners are led by Iraq veterans. “Our Iraq NGO partner, the Iraq Health Aid Organization (IHAO), is outstanding,” Webb said. “We could do nothing as a coalition to help these families fleeing from ISIS without their courageous, competent, and trusted staff. We will definitely be doing more with the IHAO team.”

For more details on ICF and its initiatives in Iraq, please contact ICF at cindy@sicfiraq.org.

Cindy Fogleman