Amid relentless violence at the hands of ISIS in Iraq and daily updates to hateful rhetoric being spread here at home, it may seem that no matter how much we care, there is simply nothing we could do that would make any real difference.
But there is. We have seen it. And we are motivated now more than ever to continue.
Sabreen is a 9-year old girl from Ramadi, a city in Iraq’s ISIS-dominated Anbar Province. In October of last year, militants attacked her hometown. Iraqi Security Forces and local police defended Ramadi and many residents stayed…hoping for the best. But by the following spring, ISIS mounted an all-out attack, and Sabreen and her mom along with her grandparents and seven of her young cousins were forced to flee the only home they ever knew.
Our Iraq-based Soccer Salam volunteers met Sabreen’s family in a makeshift camp near Anbar’s Bzeibiz Bridge, where unlawful travel restrictions ended their hope of reaching the relative safety of Baghdad. Crowded in a canvas tent, the family of eleven was running short of food and had no access to clean water or electricity. Sabreen and her young cousins were missing the chance to experience life as children. Sabreen told us:
but ISIS stole that from us because they don’t have families who love them.
I promise myself that I will try to like this place until we go back to our home.
We can live and no one can take our smile.”
Thanks to contributions like yours, we were able to provide Sabreen and her family with food, water filtration, a first aid and hygiene kit, new clothing, and urgently needed medicine for Sabreen’s grandfather who suffers from blindness. Sabreen and her friends joyfully participated in a soccer match organized by our team. And in the coming weeks, we will be visiting Sabreen again, to learn what we can do to help support her future.
As I write this letter to you, EPIC’s Soccer Salam volunteers in Baghdad are preparing to deliver aid to hundreds more vulnerable families in central Iraq who have suffered under ISIS and are now free, yet still struggling to recover from their long ordeal. Also at this moment, Zack Bazzi is in Iraqi Kurdistan, furthering the work of our TentEd program to support the education of displaced Iraqi and Syrian children.
Altogether this year, with the help of visionary donors like you, we extended a helping hand to more than 9,600 men, women, and children fleeing ISIS in Iraq. That support came in many forms, from emergency food baskets for families under siege to psycho-social care for school children traumatized by war.
But what can we do about the ridiculous claims in the media made by those who suggest that vulnerable families forced to flee violence are somehow a threat to our security? EPIC is telling the real story of these families through our educational Iraq Matters podcasts, our weekly Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor reports, and our growing media presence in Foreign Policy, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other important outlets. We are determined to show the world what Americans really believe in.
As we all gather with friends and family this holiday season and prepare to celebrate the New Year, I hope you will remember the wish Sabreen shares with hundreds of thousands of children in Iraq – to live without fear of bullets or bombs.
Your kindness and compassion have already changed the lives of so many; we greatly need your continued contributions to further our life-saving work. Please know that 100% of your donation will go directly to helping families in need in locations unreachable by most other aid agencies.
Thank you for being an important part of our work to empower youth for peace in Iraq.
With warm wishes for a special holiday season and a very happy New Year!