Iraq Kids

This Blog's purpose is to inform and dialog about conditions facing orphan, fatherless, homeless or abandoned street children in Iraq. Another concern addressed on Iraq Kids is the condition of schools in Iraq, primarily rural schools that have been largely ignored during re-building.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Investigate the United Nations Oil-for-Food Fraud

Tuesday, July 13, 2004


Why is it the US media continues to paint a picture of the situation on the ground in Iraq as one where the Iraqi people hate Americans? Most every servicemember who has served in Iraq will tell you that the majority of the people are friendly and hospitable, talking on the streets, inviting soldiers into their homes or businesses and many times offering food. Many times we visited schools or drove through villages hearing chants "Yes Yes America" and waves of both adults and children. Of course not everyone likes the American presence and of course there are insurgents, terrorists and bad people in Iraq. Geographically, there are differences where people are more friendly or less friendly varying even from village to village. What I witnessed is that the great majority of Iraqis are just like the majority of Americans; wanting to raise their children and prepare them for their future while earning a living in a safe and secure environment. en sha'a Allah Posted by Hello

The U.N. Oil-for-Food Scam: Time for Hearings

The United Nations Oil-for-Food Scam: Time for Hearings French, Russian and other international politicians, businessmen and high-level UN officials stole billions from UN "Oil for Food" program. Those funds were intended to provide food and medicine to the children of Iraq. This international corruption contributed to the death of many thousands of Iraqi children. Those countries who opposed the war were the biggest beneficiaries of the corruption. Billions intended to provide food and medicine to the children of Iraq were stolen with the participation of powerful UN officials. Those who opposed intervention in Iraq most vehemently were the biggest beneficiaries of the corruption. Of course they opposed the war since they were making billions off the death and suffering of the Iraqi people under sanctions. Operation Iraqi Freedom ended the UN Sanctions that contributed to the death of over 200 thousand Iraqi children. Removing Saddam and ending UN Sanctions are both major steps in ending the crisis of Iraqi children where they faced an under-five mortality rate higher then either Haiti or Sudan. Now it is important to bring all of those involved to face justice for their crimes against humanity and the people and children of Iraq!

School Children and their teacher at a rural school in a village near Sinjar, Iraq Posted by Hello

UNICEF - Overview of Condition of Children and Women In Iraq

UNICEF - IRAQ: School attendance reportedly dropping - 22-Apr-04

Warning! Graphic Evidence of Why Operation Iraqi Freedom was a Humanitarian Effort


UNICEF Facts and Figures Show the devastation of Iraqi Children caused by UN Sanctions, Saddam's Evil Regime and War. Over 250,000 Children Died from the Effects of Sanctions and Misuse of "Oil for Food" Money by the Iraqi Baathist Government.  Posted by Hello

UNICEF - Press centre - Iraq - Facts and Figures

Monday, July 12, 2004


Yahia, the fatherless street child I helped return to school, meeting me at the CMOC (Civil Military Operations Center) at the Nineveh Hotel in Mosul, Iraq Jan. 2004. Helping him inspired me to start AA-CNI and www.iraqkids.org to help many other Iraqi children like him acheive a brighter future by going to school instead of working on the streets.  Posted by Hello

Giving the children of Iraq a chance

Sun, Jul. 04, 2004
A tug on heartstrings leads area reservist to help kids stay in school
By KAREN UHLENHUTH
The Kansas City Star


Dave McCorkle wanted nothing to do with the boy in the plum-colored shirt that day a year ago in Mosul, Iraq.

McCorkle and a few other guys in the Army's 318th Psychological Operations Company had stopped at a busy area known as University Street to gauge the local people's frustrations over their lack of fuel. The moment McCorkle parked in the street, the boy came out of nowhere and grabbed his hand.

“Like a vise grip,” McCorkle remembers. “I tried to shake him loose, but he wouldn't let me go.”

McCorkle did finally unfasten the boy from his arm, but he couldn't stop thinking about him. The next time he went to University Street — its profusion of peddlers selling chicken and soda pop were popular with McCorkle's unit — he searched for the boy.

“We'd go down there frequently, and I'd look for him and he'd be there,” McCorkle said, seated at a little square kitchen table in his home near Lone Jack, about 25 miles east of downtown. “He'd run up to me, and I'd give him a gift, a package of cookies or some candy.”

It didn't seem right that an 8-year-old boy was not in school, walking the streets nearly every day, selling cigarettes or whatever. McCorkle learned that the boy's name was Yahia and that the boy's father had died of cancer when Yahia was 3 months old. Arabic cultural practice forbade the boy's widowed mother from leaving home to support the family. So it fell to Yahia (YA hya) and an older brother to support the family of nine as best they could.

A boy without a father. A father without his two boys and his wife. Something clicked in McCorkle's head.

“I wanted to help this boy,” he said.

He sent the unit's interpreter to seek out the boy's mother and make her an offer. When the interpreter told her that the American soldier would pay her $50 a month — comparable to many salaries in Iraq — if she would enroll Yahia in school, “she broke into tears,” McCorkle said. “I think she realized it would give her son a chance.”

After some hard negotiations with the school, which resisted re-enrolling Yahia because he'd been gone for a couple of years, the boy traded in cigarette sales for studies. McCorkle sent checks to Yahia's mother. And his idea has mushroomed into a locally based effort to help more Iraqi school children.

“I got such a good feeling helping this boy,” he said. “I thought, ‘What if I'd help 100, or 200?' ”

Something precious wasted

That's the idea behind American Aid to the Children of Nineveh. With the help of a couple of other soldiers who were stationed with him in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh, McCorkle founded the organization last October.

For $60 a month, a sponsor can provide for a family's necessities, making it possible for a child to get off the street and into school. Only children who are fatherless or orphaned are matched with sponsors.

McCorkle raised the monthly donation by $10 to pay the costs of the money transfers and three Iraqi staffers.

“Our organization is, at base, about education and improving access,” he said.

So far, about 25 people, many of them members of the military currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, are sponsoring Iraqi children through McCorkle's initiative.

“I fell in love with all the kids is what happened,” McCorkle said as he pulled favorite photos from a stack of snapshots a couple of inches thick. During 14 months in Iraq, he clicked his way through one disposable camera after another, unable to stop photographing the children of Iraq.

McCorkle held up a picture of a couple dozen children, lined up like a row of books — squirming books — behind a low stone wall. Their faces reflected nothing of the warfare or chaos nearby.

“How could you not be affected by that?”

He flashed a picture of Yahia in the prominently stained plum-colored knit shirt that he wore nearly every day. Iraqi children generally have only one outfit, McCorkle said.

“Isn't he cute? Everybody tells me he's a typical … child. But he's cute to me.”

He pulled out an index card and recited the facts culled from a UNICEF Web site. Thirty-nine percent of children in the Iraqi countryside do not attend elementary school. Ditto for 16 percent of children in the cities. Fifty percent of Iraqi boys and 60 percent of girls don't attend high school.

“Something precious is being wasted,” McCorkle said. “They're smarter than a lot of the soldiers I was with. It seems such a waste for these children not to have a future.”

A war zone transformation

McCorkle had no particular interest in ensuring Iraq's future when he went there in February of 2003. Quite the opposite, in fact. Sept. 11, 2001, was the day he decided to rejoin the U.S. Army Reserve, 23 years after he completed three years at a base in Germany. They were followed by three years as a reservist.

In a hotel in Dallas, where he happened to be on a sales trip for IBM the day the terrorists attacked, he watched the awful pictures broadcast from New York City, Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania.

It was a pivotal moment.

“I felt so angry and powerless. There was nothing I could do but watch.”

But McCorkle had a plan. He would lose enough of his 350 pounds to qualify for the Reserve, and he'd go to the Middle East and hurt those people who had hurt us. Iraq has never been implicated in the 9/11 attack, but McCorkle didn't bother with such distinctions at the time.

“To me, it was just Muslims and Arabs. It was all interrelated,” he said. “The whole idea was payback. I was full of anger.”

He arrived in northern Iraq 17 months later and 125 pounds lighter, as part of the 318th Psychological Operations Unit. It's charged with, among other things, gathering and disseminating information.

Once there, McCorkle found that hating those people wasn't quite as easy as he'd imagined. The northern region where he was stationed is a stew of Muslims and Christians, Kurds, Arabs and Turks.

“They'd invite us into their homes and gather food from their neighbors,” McCorkle recalled. “They were tremendously hospitable. Most of them are people of peace.” McCorkle's image of Iraqis firing rocket-propelled grenades and burning American Humvees disintegrated.

“When I got there, I learned to think of those people as individuals, not as a group. I came back a different person. I came back a humanitarian.”

Since he returned in March to his 20 acres outside Lone Jack, McCorkle, 46, has resumed his responsibilities as a salesman for IBM and as a family man. A crew of men with backhoes and trucks were delivering a load of gravel to his back yard one afternoon in early June. McCorkle had decided to give his sons, 10-year-old Joseph and 6-year-old Kevin, a little gift — an in-ground swimming pool.

“I'm paying my kids for not being home for 14 months. What I did was very hard on my family. I'm kind of sad I put them through that. I'm trying to make up.”

Indeed, they didn't think much of his decision to go to war.

Maureen McCorkle wasn't sure why her husband would volunteer to rip a hole in his family's life by leaving for a war zone, but she knew it would be pointless to object.

“He decides he's going to do something, and he doesn't let go easily,” she said. “I didn't want to be resented for saying, ‘No, you can't go,' so he went.”

She was most concerned about how her sons would interpret their father's absence.

“I didn't want them to feel they'd been abandoned. It was hard for them to understand, especially my little one. He was 5 when Dave left. It was hard for them to grasp: ‘Why'd he go, and why was it so important?' ”

Maureen has a better understanding of what drew her husband to the little boy in the plum-colored shirt and why he channeled his energies into establishing a structure to help the children of Iraq.

“Early on he felt he was making a difference. They were on missions and so forth,” Maureen said.

But then there came a lull when he wasn't doing anything that felt purposeful. Her husband was pained at being away from his family and may have felt it even more acutely as he wondered, “What am I doing over here?” Maureen said.

McCorkle says there was something therapeutic in his budding relationship with Yahia and in his decision to create an avenue for other Americans to become similarly involved.

“Maybe I needed some love,” he said. “Some of that emptiness I probably filled by helping this boy. It was a very emotional thing to me. The more I helped, the more bonding there was. I loved my family, but they were a world away.”

In his home office, McCorkle spends a lot of time developing his organization. His employer, IBM, has agreed to add American Aid to the Children of Nineveh to the approximately 3,000 nonprofits that are part of the company's employee charitable contribution campaign. It's a payroll deduction option that works very much like United Way, except that employees propose the charities to be listed.

“What Dave did is really unique,” said Bill Macnamara, who runs the company's charitable campaign. “He's an incredible guy. We're happy to help.”

So far, McCorkle's sponsors have come largely from the military community. Considering the small salaries paid to many of them, McCorkle said, $60 a month “is a lot of money. These people are my heroes. You hear about the prison thing, and it's just that I see the opposite side of the coin.”

Kurt Hoffman, who lives near Gardner, read about the project on a Web site and was attracted by McCorkle establishing the organization while serving in the military. He signed right up.

“Being ex-military myself in the Vietnam era, it struck me as a really nifty thing,” he said. Then, too, he wanted to make a point to the 11-year-old boy with whom he volunteers as a Big Brother. The boy has fewer opportunities than many children, and Hoffman wanted him to see “someone even lower in the food chain than he is.”

McCorkle also is trying to expand his initiative. He and a couple of partners in the U.S., along with three Iraqi paid representatives, are working with Concern for Kids to establish a safehouse/orphanage near Mosul. Concern for Kids is an organization that tries to improve the lives of children in northern Iraq and neighboring countries.

In addition, the partners want to create a relationship between U.S. schools and those in Iraq, which tend to be severely under-resourced. McCorkle was struck by the elation of an Iraqi school principal when McCorkle handed him three soccer balls one day. “He was like, ‘You've given us our sports program!' ”

Several interested Iraqi schools have been identified, said James Harrelson of St. Joseph, who served in Iraq with McCorkle and is a partner in the aid organization. “All we need are schools in the U.S.”

For $125 a month, a sponsoring school can provide an Iraqi school with paper and pens, textbooks and other classroom fundamentals. One school in Austin, Texas, just sent McCorkle a check to cover about a year's obligation.

“When the coalition repairs schools, they're talking about actual walls and blackboards,” Harrelson said. “Right now most of the schools are empty shells.”

And too many kids don't see the inside of a classroom, he noted.

“In the smaller villages, as young as 5 years old, they were out in the field. No education. No chance at a future... I talked to many of these kids, asked them what their goals were, and 95 percent of the time their dream was just to go to school.”

It doesn't take all that much to turn around the life of an Iraqi child, McCorkle said. And as he discovered first-hand, turning around a child's life can turn around one's own life.

To reach Karen Uhlenhuth, call (816) 234-4783 or e-mail kuhlenhuth@kcstar.com.


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American Aid for Children of Nineveh

Mission: To ensure Iraqi children stay in school

Based in: Lone Jack

How to help: Sponsor a child or convince your school to become partners with an Iraqi school.

Sponsors receive a letter and a photo every three months.

Cost: $60 a month to sponsor a child, $125 a month to partner with a school. Donations are tax-deductible.

For more information: Call (816) 566-0128 or check out the Web site at www.iraqkids.org.


A typical classroom in a rural school located in the Nineveh Province of Iraq. Posted by Hello

Iraq's children: Turmoil, poverty cripple chances for education

By Neela Banerjee
The New York Times





KHANFARA, Iraq — The brick factory that the British built here 80 years ago runs like a vein of hell on the smooth earth. Villagers have worked in this furnace for generations, and they begin, like Azhar Nahi, when they are children.

Azhar is 14 but looks more like he is 11, which, considering his duties, is a good thing. One morning he crawled out from under the outside wall of the factory, after scraping out soot with his hands from a clogged flue.

He left school after the fifth grade, and he has forgotten how to read and write. He needed to work, he said, to help support the 11 people in his family.

"I'm not worried about finding better work someday," Azhar said, walking next to the factory, his body caked with mud and earth. "I'll work here all my life."

He turned to 2-year-old Hussein Ali, who was trotting along next to him. "Even this little one," Azhar said, grabbing Hussein by his shoulders, "will work here someday."

All over Iraq, in the countryside and in cities, the poverty and upheaval sown by Saddam Hussein's rule pushed large numbers of children out of school and into work.

A study conducted by UNICEF after major combat ended in last year's war indicated that even more children have left school to support their families. Many take on back-breaking jobs at fish markets and factories, mechanics shops and construction sites. Like Azhar, who earns about $1.25 a day, they make very little money.

In major cities through the south like Basra and Karbala, 70 percent to 80 percent of children interviewed by UNICEF after the war were working, and in Najaf, 50 percent of children were not in school.

The American-led occupation has started a pilot program in six cities to draw children back to school, but it serves only 650 children among the millions who have dropped out.

Iraq once had a distinguished education system that produced graduates who studied all over the world and returned home to run industry and government. But below this largely urban elite, most of the population was illiterate, and continues to be.

In 1979, Iraq had about 15 million people, only 3 million of whom could read and write, said Kamal Jaraah, undersecretary of education. Literacy reached its highest levels in the late 1990s, at a little bit more than 40 percent of the population, Jaraah said — 55 percent of men and only 23 percent of women.

Wars and sanctions have crippled Iraqi education, Jaraah said. No new schools have been built since 1991, and there are often 50 students to a teeming classroom. The Education Ministry hopes to get much more financing this year, mainly from donors like the United Nations and the World Bank, to rebuild the system, including constructing 3,000 new schools.

Poor families need kids' help



But the major deterrent to education during the last quarter-century of the Saddam era has been the impoverishment of Iraqi families, requiring children to leave school to make money. Many Iraqi families are large. Boys drop out to work, and girls leave to take care of their younger siblings.

In many of these families, the fathers are absent or too ill to work or look after their children. Some died in war. Sukna Abdul-Zahra's husband simply left one day. She took her 10-year-old son, Barak, out of school in central Baghdad after second grade so he could help support their family of seven. She and Barak push a cart through Baghdad, selling whatever they can: cans of kerosene, used clothing, cigarettes, junk.

Abdul-Zahra herself is illiterate. She still sends two of her children to school. But 13-year-old Zaineb recently had to leave school to stay home with two younger children while her mother worked. Asked if she missed school, Zaineb turned away to busy herself with her baby sister and cried quietly.

"She's very smart," said Abdul-Zahra, wiping the tears from her own eyes. "I didn't want her to leave school."

Barak has no such qualms. He said his uncle would find him a good job as a mechanic when he got older. "School wasn't doing us any good," he said. Though he has already forgotten how to read and write, he said he knew enough. "I know how to write my name and my father's name," he said.

Conditions at school have forced many children to leave, according to a survey of 4,500 young dropouts in Baghdad conducted by Creative Associates, the firm that runs the new program in six cities to get children back to school. School costs money, from paying for books and uniforms to the bribes students were often forced to pay to get a passing grade.

Children also told those who conducted the survey that teachers used corporal punishment and that they had left school to escape beatings. Still, 85 percent of boys and 80 percent of girls interviewed in the survey in August said they wanted to go back to class.

Here in Khanfara, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, attending school beyond the first few years has long been seen as a luxury, with the more basic demands poverty places on families. Children say carrying the bricks to load into piles or on the patient donkeys is the hardest part, especially in the heat of the kiln in the summer. They see that the work stoops men before old age and fills their lungs with soot.

Families like Seham Mahdi's send some children to the brick factory so that others may study. Her face covered with a blue scarf against the dust, Mahdi, 18, said she must work to support the six other girls in her family, two of whom go to elementary school. "I left school," she said, "so I don't want my sisters to leave school."

As she returned to sorting and carrying bricks, a young man said of Mahdi: "Don't believe her. Her family is very poor. In a year or two, her sisters will be here, too."

Trying to help dropouts



At the Marifa School in northern Baghdad, nearly all the boys work. The school is part of the Accelerated Learning Program set up by Creative Associates especially for dropouts who want to return to school, through a contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Often regular Iraqi schools refuse to accept the children who want to return because they have been out of school too long. Here, and in schools in five other Iraqi cities, 15-year-old students sit with 8-year-olds, based on their level of literacy, spelling out the alphabet or helping each other with an English assignment.

The Americans and the Education Ministry are talking about expanding the program, which condenses the curriculums for two school years into one.

Muhammad Khadhem Judee, 15, sat in the first- and second-grade class one morning as 8-year-old pupils wrote the Arabic alphabet on the blackboard. He got up at 7 a.m. to go to work with his brothers at a construction site and came here at noon.

"After all this, of course I'm tired," Muhammad said. "But I remember I used to turn on the TV and then turn it off because I was frustrated that I couldn't read anything. It is better to do all this than to stay a blind man — someone who can't read or write."

Dave McCorkle holding Iraqi boy in village near Sinjar, Iraq. Posted by Hello

Children Working Streets In Mosul

Check out this report from the UN OCHA and Center for International Disaster Information and World Vision International at:

http://www.cidi.org/humanitarian/hsr/iraq/03b/ixl22.html

IRAQ: Four-year-olds working on the streets - 13-Aug-03
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U N I T E D N A T I O N S
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)
13 August 2003


IRAQ: Four-year-olds working on the streets, says World Vision

BAGHDAD, 13 August (IRIN) - Children as young as four go out into the
streets of Iraqi towns to beg and sell goods, before returning to their
parents' homes at night, according to findings by the international relief
and development organisation World Vision.

In northern Iraq, children work on the street for up to 12 hours a day, a
recent assessment said. Some have been victims of violence. Others are
school dropouts. Yet others have never have been to school at all. In many
cases, members of their families are sick or disabled and unable to work.
World Vision found that the daily earnings of such children ranged between
500 and 3,000 Iraqi dinars (16 US cents to $2).

According to findings, there were only 12 social workers for the whole of
the city of Mosul, which has a population of 1.3 million, and concluded
that they faced a mammoth task in protecting children and vulnerable
groups.

"A lot of children are forced to work as vendors, but also they need a new
perspective, after growing up in a world of distress and fear," World
Vision's Thomas von der Osten-Sacken told IRIN. "Children witnessed the
cruelty of Saddam Husayn's regime, their families were either displaced or
killed, and so many are still internally displaced. A lot of psychological
treatment and other programmes are needed to assist these children."

World Vision, conjointly with the United Nations Children's Fund, is
carrying out assessments in Mosul as part of a nationwide survey of the
situation of children in Iraq.


Welcome To The Our Blog!

I am Dave, a founder of American Aid for Children of Nineveh Iraq (AA-CNI). We have a website www.iraqkids.org. I'm new to Blogging. I hope this Blog will help us fulfill part of our mission which is to educate others about the conditions facing orphan and fatherless children in Iraq and in our case particularlly the Nineveh Province. We are also concerned with the schools in Nineveh, in particular the rural schools that are generally ignored by the efforts of Coalition forces and the Iraqi Ministry of Education.

AA-CNI was founded by US Army Soldiers who served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. We arrived in Iraq on about the third day of the invasion. Our element moved from Camp New Jersey, Kuwait to Al Hilla, then to Baghdad. After securing Baghdad the 101st moved to Mosul and the Nineveh Province. we spent the remainder of our 1 year tour in the Nineveh Province. The 101st presence was most evident in Mosul and the towns of Tall'Afar, Sinjar and Rabiah. Our founding group included some dependants and civilians back home.

AA-CNI was incorporated in October 2003 as a non-profit in the State of Missouri. We applied for IRS 501(c)(3) status in November 2003. AA-CNI received our IRS Determination letter of our 501(c)(3) status in June 2004. Our legal and financial doicuments are posted on our website www.iraqkids.org.