By Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra). Re-published with permission by Iraq Business News.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and around the world, people are taking those first steps in support of Iraq's children.
Throughout October, the Iraqi Children Foundation are taking the Road to Baghdad on a virtual journey of 6,202 miles - the distance between Washington DC and Baghdad.
In this conversation, Hussein Al-alak speaks with Liz McRae about this month long journey and to also encourage you, to go on the road for the children of Iraq.
What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Liz McRae, and I am the Executive Director of Iraqi Children Foundation.
Can you tell us more about the Iraqi Children Foundation?
The Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) intervenes in the lives of orphans and street children who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation by criminals, traffickers and extremists.
The organization was set up ten years ago by Americans who saw the need to help rebuild Iraq after so many years of conflict. More than 800,000 children were orphaned as a result of the Iraq War, and the ISIS occupation displaced another 1.3 million.
Our vision is that all children in Iraq have a voice, and are empowered to reach their full potential. All our programs have this goal in mind. We help vulnerable children through programs like "The Hope Buses"; where we convert used city buses into colorful, child friendly classrooms.
Each bus has two teachers and a social worker, and serves around 50 children with tutoring, nutrition, health care, social services, practical life lessons, community, and fun.
Another program is called "The Street Lawyers"; where a team of lawyers provide legal protection for children who are targeted by criminals and traffickers, abused by employers, or are facing other risks. They also assist children to get their papers so that they can go to school.
Can you explain how the COVID-19 Pandemic is impacting Iraqi children?
Many children in Iraq face incredible hardship every single day, often without access to proper nutrition, education, healthcare, and safety. COVID-19 adds new challenges for these children, and also exacerbates other existing issues.
For children living in poor communities, social distancing is difficult (if not impossible) due to large numbers of people living in close confines, and there may be little or no access to hygiene supplies or PPE, food, work, school, and community members. The bottom line is: COVID-19 makes vulnerable children more vulnerable.
What is the Road to Baghdad and why is ICF doing it?
During the entire month of October, we're forming one big team of supporters from all over the world, to help us achieve our collective goal of traveling the distance between Washington D.C. and Baghdad.
Everyone can participate in any way you wish to "travel" with us - everything from running, walking, cycling, swimming, all the way through to dancing or housework.
Just log your daily activity and you'll help us reach our goal! We're doing this event because it's more important than ever to support Iraqi children - with COVID and other concerns, they are facing extreme vulnerability.
How do people get involved in the Road to Baghdad?
Here's how to join our virtual mission:
- Click this link here and create your profile on My Virtual Mission!
- Join the mission for Road to Baghdad - there's a $25 registration fee, which goes to help Iraqi Children Foundation, and everyone will receive a digital certificate at the end of the race.
- Anyone who travels more than 10 miles during the month of October will also receive an ICF custom running buff (gaiter).
- Signing up only takes a few minutes, and once you're done, you're ready to go! You can manually enter miles via the My Virtual Mission website, or you can download the app and pair it with your phone, smart watch, Fitbit, or other devices.
Road to Baghdad is a great way to enhance your usual fitness routine, to set yourself a personal challenge, or even to contribute to a great cause while doing nothing differently! Remember, all your normal movement counts! You can go one mile or you can go one thousand miles... everything helps!
Sign up now and get involved - you'll be helping Iraq's most vulnerable children while also completing a personal challenge. Remember you can sign up ANY time throughout the month of October.