My first visit outside of the International Zone in Baghdad as head of our civil affairs programme was to be an interesting one. My aim was to take stock of what we had done so far, what we can do in the future and how the environment has changed. Every civil affairs project we undertake is tailored to the community and low cost but researched well enough to make a large impact. As soon as you leave the city a marked change in landscape introduces you to the country. Long straight roads, endless desert horizon, dotted by electricity pylons or small Bedouin camps. Camels and goatherds seem to join the flow of traffic down this main highway and after a while we arrive at the first location, Kalsu, to join up with some teams and reconstruction clients to get a brief picture on what their area is like. Normality is returning to Iraq, this can be seen by the fish and meat markets being built, schools that have been refurbished and utilities being restored. Amongst these successes, there is a still a basic need for clean water, school supplies, sport equipment – the normal things that are so easily taken for granted can really make a school function, or a village free from water-borne diseases. There is still plenty of work to do, so ideas are flowing from people that work and care about the area they work in. Hopefully with more donations and help from outside we can help these ideas become reality.
Kalsu wasn’t my only stop on this visit. We moved further South to Tallil – the home of the Ziggurat, Ur and biblical birth place of Abraham. Tallil is the southern Headquarters for the US Army Corps of Engineers who have a huge programme of reconstruction projects. We focus our civil affairs projects in line with these larger reconstruction projects. By putting a clean water unit in a school in a couple of weeks we can help demonstrate the larger intention of getting this country back on its feet again. So again there are lots of ideas and I need to get my skates on fundraising to help these smaller communities where it counts. But first I will send out some donations we have received of school stationery, clothing and footballs to our teams who can hand them out when they are visiting these areas.
I ended my visit in Basrah, and was kindly invited by the US Army Corps of Engineers to visit the Basrah Children’s Hospital that is being built. This reconstruction project is extremely significant. The Basrah population are looking forward to its opening and it is a very impressive project helping fill a gap in health care with the Government of Iraq will sustain in the future. These projects are all chipping away at the belief that Iraq is still a disabled country; it isn’t. It has the potential to be a country with a wide array of utilities and services and with even the smallest community project making a difference at every level of Iraqi society.
The enthusiasm of the Aegis teams in supporting the greater reconstruction effort is unquestionable. Ideas are flowing, innovative ways of making these projects a reality are being thought through constantly. Their enthusiasm and honesty on what is needed, and their liaison with community leaders to find out what is missing, has spurred me on to get more support.
We have been distributing boxes of toys, clothes, stationery, toothbrushes and tooth paste whenever we can. We have proposals currently for sports centre equipment, generators for schools and health clinics, and football strips. I have learnt fast that football is the hard currency amongst the youth of this country. We have already been promised some support from a couple of UK teams in sending out football strips and we need more. So the next step is …. fundraising.