From the Executive Director: IOCC Expands in Syria
As Americans follow daily news reports from the Iraq war, we remember that a byproduct of war is always the displacement of families from their homes. The United Nations estimates that some 4.2 million refugees and internally displaced persons have fled their homes in Iraq since 2003. In January, IOCC staff visited our new project in Syria that provides assistance to Iraqi refugees as well as disadvantaged Syrians. This $1.98 million program, funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM), is a significant expansion of our operations in Syria. I was especially touched by the story of one woman named Jeanette who is receiving emergency supplies from IOCC. After receiving personal threats and the bombing of their church, she and her brother fled Baghdad in 2007. Although college-educated, she cannot find work in Syria since Iraqi refugees are not granted work permits. Now, she is hoping to get her parents out of Baghdad and immigrate to Canada. “I want what others want,” she told our staff, “a home, a job, a safe place to live.” Jeanette was speaking for all refugees in Bosnia, Serbia, Georgia, Lebanon, the Holy Land, and elsewhere. For most refugees their best option is to return to their homes, but for many Iraqis that simply is not an option, given the country’s security situation. Syria is safer than Iraq, but without jobs it is less than an ideal situation. IOCC provides hope and aid in this situation: emergency supplies to meet people’s basic needs; tuition assistance so that children can resume their education; and vocational training to give young people more options. We hope this slideshow of Iraqi refugees who are participating in IOCC’s program will put a face on this crisis.
Yours in Christ
Constantine M. Triantafilou
Executive Director and CEO
Five months after the Greece wildfires, IOCC continues its aid to farmers who lost livestock, pasturelands, and olive trees. IOCC’s latest distribution of 92 metric tons of animal feed in Zaharo, one of the areas most affected by fires, will benefit 279 farmers with about 18,500 animals. IOCC’s total relief and recovery program for Greece has exceeded $500,000 and has included distributions of feed totaling 704 metric tons and 20 metric tons of forage seed to allow farmers to permanently restore their grasslands. Executive Director Constantine Triantafilou, traveling with a fact-finding group from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese led by His Grace Bishop ANDONIOS of Phasiane in late January, found that winter feed remains the highest priority for affected farmers.
IOCC’s US Program will be restarting its very successful initiative to build new homes on the Gulf Coast in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. The “Volunteer in the Gulf” project recruits volunteers from parishes throughout the U.S. and Canada to travel to Saint Tammany Parish in Louisiana for one week of service to build new homes for individuals who were affected by the 2005 hurricane season. Over 200 IOCC volunteers representing Orthodox parishes, as well as other faith communities, put in 1,000 work days and helped to build 43 homes between 2006 - 2007. The program in 2008 will run from 24 February 26 July. Interested participants can fill out an application by clicking here. For more information, please call US Program Coordinator Pascalis Papouras at 1-877-803-4622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
IOCC Jordan recently received over $1.2 million in clothing for babies and books for school children. The books, donated by the McGraw-Hill Companies Glencoe through Brother’s Brother Foundation, valued at $867,000, were transferred to the Jordanian Ministry of Education which will use them to stock public libraries. A shipment of baby clothes donated by Lutheran World Relief (LWR), and valued at $357,000, has been distributed to several Jordanian charities. IOCC Jordan has benefitted the country with a total of eight Gift-In-Kind shipments since it opened an office in Amman in 2005.
Nine years after the conflict ended in Kosovo, about 15,000 of the estimated 230,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) living in Serbia and Montenegro have returned to Kosovo. IOCC Belgrade, in partnership with the Visoki Decani Monastery, recently contributed to the return process of three families by providing them with household appliances and basic food supplies. “There continue to be serious barriers for minority returns to Kosovo including freedom of movement, access to housing, employment opportunities, public services and the attitude of the receiving community,” says IOCC Belgrade Program Manager Nenad Prelevic. “Nevertheless the security situation and the willingness of some local administrations to protect minority returns have improved since 1999 and this has allowed for safer returns.”