The Iraqi Children Foundation's "Hope Bus" project is an initiative to fight child labor, early marriage, lack of education, malnutrition, and physical and emotional wounds after years of war and poverty. These colorful, child-friendly buses provide academic tutoring, healthy lunches, psycho-social services, and childhood fun to some of Iraq's poorest orphans and street kids. A scholarship for one boy or girl at the Hope Bus is $100 per month.
Years of war, displacement, and poverty have left thousands of children at risk of child labor, lack of education, and exploitation by human traffickers and criminals. According to the World Bank (Oct 2021), "" Learning levels in Iraq are among the lowest in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region..." The US Department of Labor's recent report on child labor in Iraq notes that children beg on the streets, work at dumps and factories, and are trafficked for sex and labor.
The Hope Buses are located in poor neighborhoods where orphans and street children live. Social workers help children get off the streets and stop working. Teachers offer reading, writing, math, and science, with the goal of helping kids return to public school. Hygiene supplies are provided along with occasional visits with a doctor or dentist. Children recapture the joys of childhood with games, crafts, and parties. As one girl said, the Hope Bus taught her that nothing was impossible!
As ICF Chairman Grant Felgenhauer put it during a visit to a Hope Bus, "The work that is done here goes directly into the bloodstream of the Iraqi people and the neediest sections of the Iraqi economy." Already, 500 vulnerable orphans and street children have participated in the Hope Bus programs, including, importantly, girls who face even greater challenges in getting an education and are at risk of early marriage, sex trafficking, and other dangers.