It’s my pleasure to be back again writing pieces for the Voice of the Child campaign! If you’ve read our previous pieces you may know that Friends of ZT was away on our volunteer trip to Iraq from the end of August until mid-September. Since our return, we’ve been very busy catching up on everything in Toronto and as a result have not been able to return to VOC until now. I would like to apologize for the delay and I hope that it is not too late to share our experience.
On August 22, 2017 our group departed from Toronto, Canada to Cairo, Egypt to begin our journey to Iraq. Our layover in Cairo was just over 24 hours giving us the opportunity to explore the city. We visited the pyramids and other sites leaving us amazed at how much history was held in this city. Unfortunately, that was not the only thing we noticed. What stuck out to us more than the beautiful sites was the extreme poverty. Everywhere we went we could not help but notice how many beggars and homeless individuals we saw, and unfortunately how many of them were children. Seeing the state of the countless impoverished children came as a great shock to me, since from what I had known Cairo was a great tourist attraction.
Upon arrival in Iraq, we travelled to the city of Karbala as our first stop on the journey. This part of the journey mostly consisted of visitation of holy sites. But, one day, in order to prepare for our holiday celebration for the orphans which was coming up, we went to purchase presents for children. It was a reminder that although back home we can more or less easily purchase gifts for the children in our families, there are others around the world who do not have this luxury. The children who would be receiving these gifts are unfortunately in situations where their mother or caregiver simply cannot afford to buy them such things. Spending on gifts would mean cutting back on necessities including food and clothing.
When travelling to Najaf, the city in which the Zahra Trust office is, we visited some of the new homes being built by the Zahra Trust for these families. Currently, many of the families supported by the trust are living in shack-like homes which are not very safe or hygienic. The homes being built are going to provide the families the chance to raise their children in a safe, clean environment where they can spend less time worrying and more time investing in their future. Next to these homes a large lot of land is being prepared for the building of a Skills and Development Center which will serve as a school for children, a skills learning centre for widows and women, a medical center and more. By providing these services the center will be meeting the majority of the current needs of the families supported by the trust. Importantly, it will also provide these vulnerable children with a safe space they can go to without fear.
During the holiday celebration we got the opportunity to meet with some of the children supported by the trust. Most children were quite shy so we asked them to tell us about themselves so that they could open up. We asked them to tell us their age, grade and favourite colour. One key thing that stuck out was that many children were in grades much younger than their age. This was usually do to the fact that many had been moved around after the death of a parent or had to withdraw from school for some years due to lack of financial support. But, thankfully, most children were now enrolled and had aspirations to continue their education and become great contributors to society.
Many children had unique heart breaking stories which I hope to share through VOC in the future. Next time, I hope to share the story of one particular family who was in great need of support after they had been through several unfortunate events. Please stay tuned and if you would like more information feel free to contact us!
To see some photos from our trip visit our Facebook page at facebook.com/friendsofzt