A peek through a fuzzy operating room window, at a life-saving heart surgery in process in Nasiriyah, Iraq.

This isn’t a post about the political gridlock in Iraq. It’s not a post about the intense fighting taking place in central and northern Iraq against ISIS. And it’s not a post about the Iraqi Prime Minister’s meeting with President Obama, pleading for more weapons and support. 

It’s a post about you. 

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Young Mohammad and his fellow heart patient Ali ride in taxi to the airport.

It's early morning. We speed through the city streets in our friend’s taxi, Arabic music blaring from the speakers. Mohammad and his fellow heart patient Ali are chatting with their dads in the back seat. The city passes by the windows in a blur on the way to the airport—last-minute tickets for their flights fresh in our hands.

The odds have been stacked against both boys since birth. They were born with significant heart defects, serious enough to cut their lives very short. Both boys are from poor families. They know their only hope to live is to go to another country for treatment, but they have absolutely no means to do that.

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Mohammed smiles a gap-toothed grin. Waiting for heart surgery hasn't taken his smile!

Every child we serve has a story. It’s a tale of the despair that comes with knowing your life is in danger and the longing for a solution that is worlds away. Mohammad's story is no different. His parents felt the pain of every parent who learns that their child has a life-threatening illness and carried the hope of help for their son for 10 years.

Listening to Mohammad's story over the last few months, it seems so improbable that he made it to the operating table. These factors complicate his story—

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Mohammad strikes a serious pose for the camera, even though he's usually smiling.

After fleeing for their lives, now homeless, penniless, and alone, we asked the family "What do you need most?" and their answer was unexpected:

"Our son has a bad heart."

We stood together in the overgrown courtyard of an abandoned house, behind an abandoned shop, in an abandoned bazaar. Mazhar and his family arrived from Fallujah the night before. They fled for their lives from the fighting, their Sunni family made unwelcome in a Shia area. They had to leave with no notice, no time to pack up their lives. They left with the clothes on their backs and a thin sheaf of papers–nothing else–and they somehow found themselves in this safe but forsaken place.

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A young, shy seamstress in the making.

Colourful dresses line the walls of Sikoot’s front room.

A commercial sewing machine is tucked into a corner, near a window and natural light to work by. Large cones of thread in basic colours sit next to the machine. Folded stacks of partially-finished garments wait nearby, just needing final, hand-worked embellishments to make them ready for sale.

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