Nov 2, 2018

A Hope Bus graduation. A rescue from early marriage. And a match!

Thumbs up from this happy guy
Thumbs up from this happy guy

Dear Friends:

What a great October!  The Hope Bus had its first graduation!  Dignitaries from the Iraqi Ministries of Education, Health, Culture, and Labor and Social Affairs attended along with Iraq's Ambassador for Children, Ms. Zena Qaragholi.  The 50 kids who graduated wore graduation caps and gowns, got special certificates, and even some gifts.  A face painter made it a very special graduation indeed!   

Now a second group of 48 children climbs aboard Hope Bus 1, and 50 more are registered for the brand new "Hope Bus 2."

As 2018 comes to a close, please consider making your final year end gifts to the orphans, street kids, and displaced children of Iraq by supporting  "Baghdad Street Lawyers and Hope Buses for Iraqi Kids"  All gifts made to our project on GIVING TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 27, will get a 100%+ match!   For example, if you give $25, you will get a match for $25 + a second match that could be of any size, depending on how much our project raises that day.  So your $25 becomes $50+ for some of Iraq's most vulnerable and at-risk children.  Your high impact gifts help kids like Aseel: (name changed for her privacy)

Aseel (13), is the desperately poor daughter of a shepherd.  She had never had a chance to go to school until she discovered the Hope Bus where she showed a strong desire to learn.  Then she got the opportunity to take the next step to enroll in public school.  But all did not go as planned.  Aseel came to the Hope Bus weeping, telling the staff that her father wasn't going to let her go to public school.  He told her that instead she needed to get married.  Immediately, the social workers went to bat for Aseel, intervening on her behalf with the father.  At last, success!  The social workers convinced him that his daughter was bright, loved to learn, and should have a chance to continue her education.  The father relented and Aseel got her dream to continue her studies at public school.

You can see it is quite simple:  who would have been there to intervene on 13-year-old Aseel's behalf if you did not support the social workers, teachers, and lawyers who care for these children?  Because of you, Aseel has new hope for her future. 

For Aseel and so many children like her, we say a huge thanks! On their behalf, please help us get a big match on: GIVING TUESDAY - NOVEMBER 27!

With much gratitude from the ICF team,

She is all smiles with her certificate
She is all smiles with her certificate
Aug 30, 2018

Put on your capes! Rescuing the most vulnerable from trafficking

ICF Chairman & the managing lawyer
ICF Chairman & the managing lawyer

Put on your capes!  Your donations are flying half way around the world to rescue vulnerable Iraqi boys and girls who are being trafficked and even sold.  Who's on the case? A terrific team of 3 Iraqi staff attorneys (male and female) and 2 social workers, led by the Managing Lawyer shown above with ICF Chairman, Mo Khudairi. 

Known as the "Baghdad Street Lawyers," the team handles a wide ranging portfolio of legal cases ranging from more routine issues - such as getting orphans and displaced children the legal documents they need to enroll in school - to helping police get kids who are begging off the streets and out of danger.  They also help authorities investigate serious cases of trafficking, and then defend those children as victims of criminal activity and help them get post-trafficking care.  

With so many orphans and children displaced by recent conflict, the risks are high.  But with your support, these are the kinds of cases they take on:

  • Police arrested a woman begging on the streets with a 3-year old girl - Noor*  She said Noor was her daughter but had lost the girl's legal documents.  When the Baghdad Street Lawyers offered to help her recover them so she could get government support rather than begging, the woman refused.  That seemed odd, so the lawyers investigated and discovered that the woman was not related to the little girl.  The woman was charged with kidnapping and confessed that Noor had been sold to her by kidnappers.  Little Noor was given safe custody until police could locate her family. 
  • Rumors were circulating that a local massage business was exploiting juvenile girls for prostitution, so a social worker with the Baghdad Street Lawyers started monitoring the place. On his first visit, he found no girls but on a later visit, he discovered 4 girls (ages 16-17) working in prostitution.  They notified authorities at the Directorate for Combating Human Trafficking who raided the center, arrested the staff, and permanently closed the business.  The Street Lawyers learned the girls' parents had actually sold them to the massage business which forced them into prostitution so they sued both the parents and the owner.  They then got approval for the girls to go live at a shelter for the homeless.  

  • Hasan,* a teenage orphan, was looking for work to support his widowed mother.  A man offered him a job but when he went to work, he learned the man wanted to buy his kidney instead.  Hasan refused but the man persisted, tempting him with clothes and alcohol.  One evening, after succumbing to the man's offers, Hasan was arrested for underage drinking.  Again, the man offered to bail Hasan out in exchange for his kidney but Hasan refused.  In retaliation, the man filed charges against Hasan, accusing him of fraud and stealing.  The Street Lawyers were called in and helped investigate with recorded phone calls and video.  When the facts were exposed,  Hasan was released and the man charged with the crime of trafficking in human organs.

  • Zainab* (16) was arrested for prostitution but when the Street Lawyers took her case, they learned she and other girls had been lured to Baghdad with promises of jobs in a beauty salon. When they arrived, they were instead locked in an apartment and exploited for prostitution.  The Street Lawyers defended the girls in court under Iraq's Anti-Trafficking Law, securing their release as victims of a crime.  Because of the risk of honor killings if they went home, the judge sent the girls to a government homeless shelter.  

  • Ali* and Ahmed*, 6 and 7 year old orphaned boys, were living with a poor uncle after their parents died. Another relative asked the uncle if Ali and Ahmed could come live with him, promising to take good care of them.  Unfortunately, the relative trafficked the boys by forcing them to work by begging on the streets.  Police picked up the boys for begging and the Street Lawyers and social workers took the case, got the boys released, and returned them to the poor uncle who cares for them and keeps them off the streets. 

If you ever wonder if you are making a difference, think of these kids and the path they were on.  Unpack your cape and stay the course.  They need you!  And so do we. 

All in,
Cindy

PS  The names (*) above are not their real names for their privacy and protection.  We are not allowed to show the children who are subject to court cases so pictures in this report are used to illustrate the street kids, orphans, and displaced children who are so at risk of trafficking.  

Boys working on the streets
Boys working on the streets
Street Lawyers warn boys of dangers from criminals
Street Lawyers warn boys of dangers from criminals
Street Lawyers talk to kids on the streets
Street Lawyers talk to kids on the streets
Female lawyer with young girls in displaced camp
Female lawyer with young girls in displaced camp
Jun 4, 2018

Make a "Back to School" dream come true: Launch Hope Bus 2!

More kids in the neighborhood the Hope Bus serves
More kids in the neighborhood the Hope Bus serves

Thanks to YOU, our first "Hope Bus" in Iraq has been a smashing success! 

The first year of operations just ended and the Hope Bus is busting at the seams.  Although it was designed for 40 children, as many as 50-55 climb aboard each day for tutoring and a nutritious lunch in one of Baghdad's poorest neighborhoods. They also get hygiene lessons and health care, and staff work with families to end child labor. To top it off, kids get to enjoy the normal delights of childhood with games and gifts.  

The impact of the Hope Bus is revealed in the heartwarming stories of Hope Bus kids helping other children, of kids who graduate from the Hope Bus to enter public school, and of kids who are finally liberated from child labor. The story of "Mona" (12) makes us smile:  (name changed for privacy)

Mona was one of the smartest kids on the Hope Bus. She had been forced to drop out of school because she had to work selling tissues on Baghdad’s streets.  Now that she was able to attend the Hope Bus, staff noticed that Mona always asked for extra notebooks and pens to take home. After she repeated her request several times, staff asked her why. That's when they learned that Mona was leading daily classes for a group of six children near her home, sharing with them what she learned on the Hope Bus!     

How sweet that Mona was sharing the gift of learning she received with other children.  We want to do more too!  ICF is pleased to announce that we have received a gift of $20,000 to purchase and retrofit a second bus. To fill the seats on Hope Bus with precious children, we need approximately $4,000 per month to hire two teachers and a social worker, buy nutritious food, and purchase educational and recreation supplies.  

That means about $20 per week - or $80 a month - for a scholarship for an orphan or other at-risk, street kid.  What if ICF could open the doors of a new Hope Bus 2 this September for an exciting "Back to School" experience for 50 more children?   Can we make it happen?  Yes....with your help....

All in,
Cindy

Little boys, left out, watch Hope Bus kids playing
Little boys, left out, watch Hope Bus kids playing
Give them a chance to learn to write Arabic
Give them a chance to learn to write Arabic
Give them a nutritious lunch
Give them a nutritious lunch
Give them the childhood joy of a party
Give them the childhood joy of a party
Fulla dolls and soccer balls - gifts for all!
Fulla dolls and soccer balls - gifts for all!
 
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