Erica was guest speaker at the Rotary 2021 District Conference, conducted on-line due to COVID-19 restrictions. Erica talked about her journey as a humanitarian volunteer and her experiences in Greece and Kurdistan, Northern Iraq.
Operation Hope received 2,200 women’s health kits, from some of the NSW & Qld chapters of the International organisation “Days for Girls”, and included these kits in our first shipping container project to Iraq. The kits arrived in March 2019 and following a fund-raising event during refugee week in June 2019, $3777.00 was sent to the Lotus Flower to help support the start of the workshops.
These kits are distributed in Women’s & Girls Health Workshops run by NGO “The Lotus Flower”. The participants in the 3 – 4 hour workshops are the traumatised women and girls who are either refugees or internally displaced women living in the massive tent camps in Kurdistan. A local Coordinator will oversee and train local women from the camps, who will present the workshops in their native language.
The presenters will each receive a salary which will bring financial stability and independence for them. Long term the workshops will continue using women’s health kits made by the women (often widows and/or recently released by ISIS) who work in “The Lotus Flower” sewing groups in the camps. These workshops and distribution of the kits provide a sustainable long term employment program for many women and give education, dignity and independence to many women and girls. Operation Hope is financially supporting the workshops. Thank you to those who have donated to this wonderful project.
The team from Joint Help for Kurdistan has started distributing the humanitarian aid from the shipping container. The arrival of the container and its release for distribution coincided with the Kurdish New Year celebration of Newroz. Packages of toys, clothes and gifts were distributed to the most needy families so the parents would be able to give them to their children at Newroz.
Distribution to the needy at Baged Kandal Camps 1 & 2 continued today as more packs prepared by the Joint Help for Kurdistan crew were distributed. Thanks to Salih, Amina H Juno, Ahmed, Hamo, Aido, Saado, Heat Sdfa, Dr. Ahmed, Majid and Jalal.
It has been a huge job in preparing, cataloging, packing, weighing, shipping, getting it though the border, then customs clearance, but now to see the hard work going to those it was intended to help makes all the stress worthwhile.
And yes – the shipping did go over budget due to the delays at the border and at customs, so if you can help us cover some of the US$3,000 in extra costs, our projects for 2019 can start immediately.
It has taken a long 13 months. Starting with a generous donation of money, then the offer of a steriliser and neo-natal resuscitation unit from Narribri hospital, in New South Wales, which fitted into a 6×4 trailer, the project has grown to encompass over 9 tonnes of medical equipment and humanitarian aid, and a 40 ft shipping container.
The last month has been the longest. Shipping began with transfer of the container to Port Botany in Sydney from the warehouse in Newcastle, then the generous donation of the shipping cost took it to Mersin, in Turkey. Overland transport to the Kurdish Iraq border where it stopped for 3 weeks waiting for clearance to enter Iraq. Then to a customs warehouse for inspection of the contents, so the container was emptied, and more paperwork was prepared for customs clearance. Several errors meant this had to be repeated twice, with delays each time. And still, the container was not released.
We arrived here 3 days ago to be told there were not 6 Infant Incubators, but 9 of them, so three were not listed. On the second visit to the customs centre we found this was NOT the case, but the problem was with 3 incorrect serial numbers on the incubators … then the first one we inspected had the correct serial number !! The next 2 were wrong – my mistake: I remember writing them down one night when they were in the garage without my glasses. Lesson: wear you glasses!
We have had immense assistance from a range of people to help solve the import problems. Majeed Shukrey and Alan Diyar has been totally committed to getting the container through. Alan has shuttled us around Duhok, translated at customs and took us to Erbil to have a 5 minute meeting with the head of the Kurdistan Medical Control Agency to fix the problem with the serial numbers. The Turkish truck driver has been away from his family for nearly 5 weeks.
It was released from customs on Sunday 3 March at 5pm and an hour later it arrived at Bajed Kandala Camp 2 and we could finally record it arriving as night fell.
A big thank you to all our wonderful financial supporters. Because of your generous donations we were able to help support new and existing projects at Baged Kandala 2 camp under the leadership of NGO “Joint Help for Kurdistan”….
- purchase educational resources for the students
- choose colourful fabric, wool, sewing tables, sewing cupboard, a floor mat and build shelves and a shoe box for the sewing group
- purchase chairs for the english class students
- buy bedding and floor mat for a volunteer bedroom
- build shelves and replace lino in the pharmacy
- buy a ladder for the medical centre
- replace a shower, install new taps in kitchen and bathroom areas
- buy pots and pans, meat cleaver etc for kitchen
- buy a new office chair for the Laboratory technician
- send money for a new printer for the medical centre (US$250)
- send money for final payment on medical centre generator ($US920)
- send money to buy 1 months supply of medicines for the residents at Bajed Kandala 2 camp ($US2000)
Our humanitarian volunteer, Simon Turner, worked wonders using his building and carpentry skills. He overcame the language barrier and created some very useful items in the camp.
Each day we start off knowing that the day will hold new experiences, meet new friends and are amazed by the beautiful resilient Ezidi people.
Barbara Bluett is an absolute magnet for Yazidi’s of all ages…….she lives in Toowoomba, Australia’s largest Yazidi community. Barbara has been leading and assisting in English classes. Barbara and Wafaa Tanious, went to a little village for a women’s health workshop yesterday and is making connections between her Toowoomba friends and their relatives in the camps here. She has met numerous Yazidi’s here who are heading to Toowoomba so has been able to welcome them to Australia and promise to meet them once they arrive in Toowoomba. She managed to find and meet up with an elderly Yazidi lady who is heading out to Toowoomba…the beginning of a long term friendship. No task is too big for petite Barbara and she is an absolute ball of energy and enthusiasm.