News & Information – July - August 2009
Tserovani is about a half hour’s drive from Tbilisi, Georgia, and is the largest of the 38 settlements that the Georgian government built to house the 26,000 individuals who were uprooted from their homes in South Ossetia following last summer’s war with Russia. Tserovani boasts 2,000 red-roofed, one-story cottages, identical in design that sit in neat, mathematical rows against a backdrop of mountains. It is a far cry from the Georgia I visited in 1994 when thousands of displaced families from the same conflict were crowded into collective centers.

Many people in Tserovani are struggling to find what to do with their lives and wondering if they will ever be able to return to their homes in South Ossetia. IOCC has been active in Georgia since 1994 and in Russia since 1992, so we were well prepared to respond to the humanitarian disaster following last August’s war – on both sides of the border – working with both the Russian and Georgian Orthodox churches to provide assistance to displaced families.
Since then, IOCC has cooperated with the Georgian Orthodox Church and ACT International to provide counselors to the traumatized and to distribute essential food to 35,000 individuals in partnership with the United Nations’ World Food Programme.

The people living in Tserovani are farmers who want to work. IOCC’s next step is to provide opportunities for them to regain their livelihoods and sense of hope for the future by seeking additional funds for farming tools, supplies, and training.

I commend our IOCC Georgia staff for working tirelessly since the outbreak of the conflict to help families and communities get their lives back together. Everywhere I went, I heard good things about IOCC from our partners and associates. We look forward to continuing our work in Georgia. Your help is making that possible, and we are deeply grateful.

In closing, I had the very great privilege of visiting an elderly couple in Georgia whose home sits on the border of a no man’s land between Russian and Georgian checkpoints. They are struggling to keep their farm going without the help of neighbors who deserted the area for security reasons. I’ll never forget their determined spirit and peaceful demeanor as they worked on their destroyed house. The wife picked cherries from the trees in the overgrown yard to share with me, a complete stranger. I felt as if I was with my own grandmother. They didn’t have much, but they still showed us hospitality and welcomed us into their homes. We thanked them and said good-bye but before I entered the IOCC vehicle I returned to the house and gave each of them a hug and kiss on the cheek. I simply could not walk away without expressing my gratitude and love for them.

How do you get so emotionally attached to complete strangers in a matter of minutes? This is the beauty of IOCC. We are not just helping people with hand-outs. We share their challenges, heartaches, pain, generosity, determination, and love!

Sincerely,

Constantine M. Triantafilou
Executive Director and CEO

PODCAST: The Orthodox of Gaza
IOCC is providing emergency food and hygiene supplies to thousands of Gaza families recovering from last January’s conflict. In this latest podcast, we take a special look at the Orthodox of Gaza and what IOCC is doing in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem to help this small beleaguered community.

Listen Now on Ancient Faith Radio

Syria: Iraqi Refugee Lawyer
Finds New Life as a Beautician
Damascus, Syria — Afakh is a 29-year-old Iraqi refugee who has a diploma in law and public administration. Today, she works from her Damascus home as a beautician. Afakh came to Syria in 1991, following her father’s escape from Iraq as a dissident who opposed the rule of Saddam Hussein. When she began looking for work in Syria as a lawyer, she found that no law firms in Damascus would employ an Iraqi. READ MORE

Georgia: One Year After the Conflict, A Mother and Her Sons Start a New Life
Teserovani, Georgia — Lali is a 41-year-old mother who was disabled in a car accident while fleeing her home town of Akhalgori during last summer’s war in Georgia. Whenever she is tempted to give up because of the scant $80 per month in income that she receives from the Georgian government, she has merely to look at her two sons, Saba, 4, and Tornike, 15. “My only thought is to survive and protect my sons, the only valuables in my life,” said Lali. READ MORE

World Humanitarian Day –
August 19, 2009
World Humanitarian Day is commemorated for the first time today on August 19th. The United Nations is honoring international humanitarian aid workers who put their lives at risk to serve people around the world in need. On this special day, IOCC is featuring the words of three field staff members as representative of all its staff who daily serve tens of thousands in 24 countries on four continents. READ MORE

Order My Prayer Journal
Order now IOCC’s My Prayer Journal, an exciting tool to teach your Sunday School kids and youth groups the importance of praying for others. To order multiple copies, please contact the Department of Religious Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America at 800-566-1088. My Prayer Journal is free, but shipping charges may apply. To learn more, visit www.iocc.org/prayerjournal.

IOCC VOLUNTEER HIGHLIGHT
Maria Loukaki
Maria Loukaki has been a vital member of the Chicago Metropolitan Committee since 2000. She is an IT consultant for medical practices and lives in Chicago. “After going on an IOCC study trip to Bosnia and Serbia in 2006, I have felt more connected to IOCC and understand the importance of the help they provide,” said Loukaki. She has chaired IOCC’s annual Chicago banquet for the past 6 years and says it is a great satisfaction to put on an event where people enjoy themselves and learn more about IOCC. Loukaki plans to continue to support IOCC by helping organize fundraising events for the IOCC Chicago Metropolitan Committee, which puts on three events annually. “Volunteering is a small way for me to do my part to support IOCC in its humanitarian efforts around the world,” says Loukaki. You can do your part too: Join an IOCC Metropolitan Committee today!

Give a Gift of Hygiene Kits
For Families in Need!
Do you need a back to school project for your Sunday School kids and youth groups? Assemble an IOCC Hygiene Kit today and help families that have been displaced by natural disasters and war get the supplies they need!

For information on assembling the kits, click here.

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