From Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra). Re-published with permission by Iraq Business News.
Global 5K run aims to help Iraq's most vulnerable children
Liz McRae is the Executive Director of the Iraqi Children Foundation and in this interview, Hussein Al-alak speaks with Liz McRae about the work of the ICF, along with finding out more about their upcoming 'In Their Shoes' global 5K run, on May 21st, 2022.
Who are 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"; 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"; a team of lawyers who 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.
You were recently in Iraq for the ICF, can you tell us more about this?
It was a privilege to travel to Iraq this past month, to visit our programs and meet with our partners. It is so important to experience our programs first hand. During this trip, I visited our Hope Buses and Street Lawyers in Baghdad, and our Center for Girls in Mosul.
Something that stood out to me when visiting our projects was how happy and comfortable the children are when they are at the Hope Bus or our Girls Center. The staff are so kind and caring, and the children are all looking healthy and content. The hardest thing to see was the number of children waiting outside the Hope Buses and peering inside, wishing that they could join in the fun and learning.
Will you tell us more about the In Their Shoes 5K?
Our "In Their Shoes" 5K is a fun run which we hold in Washington D.C. each year. It is an opportunity for people from all walks of life to get together and stand in solidarity with the children of Iraq. This year is our 10th Anniversary event, so we hope that many people can join us. It's a fun family event with face painting, juggling, and snacks. During COVID, we started providing a virtual option for our race as well, so folks can join us from anywhere in the world.
How can people across the United Kingdom get involved?
We hope lots of people from the UK can join us this year - we want to send a message to the world that Iraqi children matter, and that we stand in solidarity with them. Signing up for the race is the best way you can help ICF and these kids - we need help to provide support to so many at-risk children in Iraq.
You can sign up and register as a virtual participant, and we will send you a finishers medal.