Part 2: This post is part of a series of posts showing what you’re accomplishing at a school in Baghdad. Lives are being changed, jobs created, and a community transformed. You can follow the story of Saqr Quraish School here.
Last February, Ahmed’s life was full and rather ordinary. He was married and making a life with his wife and children in Mosul. He spent his days at his electrical appliance shop, never far from a heater during those cold, short winter days. Ahmed worked hard and cared for his family. Ordinary life.
And then everything fell apart. The group known as ISIS invaded his city, and Ahmed and his family fled. After a long trip, they arrived in Baghdad–tired, disoriented, and without the means to start over.
Just like the other families who found shelter among the tons of garbage at Saqr Quraish School.
Every family needed immediate help to survive the coming winter. They needed a way to start their lives over from scratch. They needed a home, work and a means to support their families. They needed hope.
The local government had the foresight to see the derelict school could serve as housing for IDP families. They called off demolition, and allowed the building to be repurposed.
And that’s where our friends at Iraq Health Aid Organization (IHAO) entered the picture. With your help, they provided the heaters and blankets that residents were desperate for. But IHAO could see beyond immediate relief needs–they could see that the former school could serve as so much more than a simple residence. They began a comprehensive process of consulting residents, giving them the means to invest in their new home, and creating programmes which would provide for their future.
The process of reclaiming the school was labour-intensive. IHAO set the residents themselves to work, their time and energy invested directly into the transformation. Not only was the renovation work completed for less cost, but it allowed the residents a direct role in shaping their new home.
The former school building is large enough to accommodate public spaces. In order to foster community and keep families healthy and connected, some rooms will be used for family gatherings and youth activities. Some former classrooms and lecture halls will be used to train residents for future jobs. When not in use by residents, public spaces can be rented out to other NGOs and organizations, to provide some of the revenue needed to maintain the building. A key part of making this holistic community work is the management of public rooms. Community elections will be held amongst residents, to form committees to manage activity rooms. It is one more way that residents will be able to have a direct impact on their community.
Many residents still need to find work to support their families. IHAO are systematically identifying individuals who want to start businesses, and making plans to help. They’ve chosen people like Ahmed, who has a proven track record of running a successful business, but needs a little capital so he can open a new electrical appliance shop in the market.
There are so many reasons why we are excited to work with our partner in Baghdad, and with the residents of Saqr Quraish School. As this community has come together, it has been marked by the kind of foresight needed to create a sustainable future.
Huge thanks go out to Cradle Fund, Mark Burnett, and Roma Downey. Foresight without funding is just wishful thinking. We're grateful for the resources provided to transform this little corner of Baghdad into a place of hope.