Iraqi-American Teenager Raises Thousands in Support for Iraqi Orphans in 100-Mile Bike Ride

Elias Eldadah, an Iraqi-American high school student, raised over $7,500 for Iraqi orphans this month by organizing a 100-mile (161 km) bike ride in the Washington, DC area.

Joining him in the cause were his teammates and friends – Michael LesStrang, Jake Shue, and Aidan Ortiz.  The four riders began at 4am (11am Baghdad time) Sunday morning, August 2, 2020, and finished approximately 8 hours later.

We are fortunate to live far away from the pain that children no different from us have to endure daily, and we wish to do our small part for them,” Elias and his team said in launching the two-week GoFundMe campaign.

The fundraiser caught traction so quickly that its goal was raised multiple times from the original $1,000.  Even as the race ended, donations continued to roll in.  The final total reached $7,650.

Elias (pictured above right) is the Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) Youth Liaison for the Washington, DC area.

* * * * *

The Iraqi Children Foundation intervenes with love and hope in the lives of children at risk of abuse, neglect, and exploitation by criminals, traffickers, and extremists.  It does so by providing legal protection, psychosocial services, nutrition, and education to orphans, street kids, and other vulnerable children.  For more information, visit www.iraqichildren.org.

(Source: ICF)

The Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF), the United States’ largest charity devoted exclusively to advocacy and support for Iraq’s children, premiered today a fresh, impactful design and message for the cause.

ICF Board Chairman Mohammed Khudairi explained:

Today, we reintroduce ourselves to Americans and the international community with a fresh voice. For over a decade, ICF has intervened with love and hope in the lives of children who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation by criminals, traffickers, and extremists. 

“We have invested in life-changing education, legal protection, psychosocial services, nutrition, and other support for the most marginalized children: orphans, street kids, children displaced by war, child laborers, and disabled kids.  We are now standing with them in the face of new dangers from COVID-19.

Liz McRae, Executive Director, said:

We started this process in early 2020 and poured our hearts and souls into creating a new image that would accurately depict who we are at our core, as an organization. As COVID-19 began to dramatically impact the world and our work, we doubled down on our efforts to refocus on our organization and the way we do things.

“Our mission and vision are strong, and we recognized the importance of the right tools to communicate messages driving real and meaningful change. We are committed to ‘thinking big’ to address the critical need for orphans and street children in Iraq, now more than ever.

ICF’s voice for Iraq’s children is reflected in the visual identity the organization debuted today.  It reflects a modern, bright, optimistic and inclusive outlook, focused on the deepest needs of children to belong to their family, community, and nation.

This idea is presented in the graphic pattern, with four elements surrounding the map of Iraq: the sunshine symbolizing hope, growth in the form of the date palm leaf and fruit of Iraq, and water marking the Euphrates and Tigris rivers which represent the historic position of Iraq as the seat of civilization.

The tagline – Protect. Nurture. Empower. – codifies ICF’s core mission to ensure all children are safe, have a voice, and are empowered to reach their full potential.

* Cuneiform inscriptions based on the ancient writing systems of Mesopotamia.

That mission – to protect, nurture, and empower – is manifested in ICF’s projects in recent years, including a “Street Lawyers” project providing legal protection and aid to more than 1,200 children and securing legal identity documents needed for school and nutrition and other benefits for 1,300 children.

Social services – including services for mental health, ending abuse, stopping child labor, and medical care – have been delivered to 1,006 children.  Two child-friendly and colorful “Hope Buses” in a desperately poor neighborhood provide tutoring and nutritious meals to empower an average of 100 orphans and street children each school day.

Some of these initiatives have been seriously impacted by COVID-19 related curfews in Baghdad and other obstacles to service operations.

ICF is a non-partisan, non-sectarian tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charity with top Platinum status on Guidestar.  It is also listed on the U.S. government’s workplace giving platform, the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC #95191).   Board and Advisor leadership includes veterans, former Ambassadors, top U.S. child welfare experts, Iraqi-American professionals, and business executives.  ICF initiatives in Iraq are executed with competent, trusted Iraqi NGO partners who know local communities and urgent needs best.   ICF relies on both private and corporate donations to make this work possible.

Learn more about our work and donate at www.iraqichildren.org, or contact ICF Executive Director Elizabeth (Liz) McRae at liz@iraqichildren.org

(Source: ICF)

Iraqi-American NASA Astronaut, Jessica Meir, has sent an empowering message of support to kids on the Hope Buses in Baghdad, all the way from the International Space Station!

In light of the current global crisis, this message reminds us that our family is so important and also bigger than we think; it’s a time where we really need to come together to support each other from all corners of the earth, and beyond!

In her message, Astronaut Meir encourages Iraqi kids by saying “reach for your dreams and believe that they can come true“; this message is extra special as one of our recent Hope Bus students has big dreams of becoming an Astronaut!

The Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) has announced that, due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, it has made the difficult decision to cancel its annual “In Their Shoes” 5K run, originally scheduled for June.

In a statement, the ICF also renewed its call for donations to help it support Iraqi children and their families:

Dear friends,

At ICF, our highest priority is the health and safety of Iraqi children, and of our community of wonderful supporters around the world. With this in mind, and considering the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our “In Their Shoes” 5K in June this year.

While we are disappointed that we will not get to meet in person in June, we need your support now more than ever. Iraqi children and their families face many of the biggest challenges imaginable, now including the rapid spread of COVID-19.

We are committed to continuing to support these children with essential services including healthcare and nutrition, and we will continue to update you with how we are responding to the ever-evolving challenge of the current pandemic.

Please watch this space for more information about how you can support and help us grow our community. We look forward to staying in touch virtually for now, and we will look forward to seeing you for our “In Their Shoes” 5K in 2021.

We will be in touch with anyone who has registered online for the 5K already to outline next steps. If you have the capacity to donate at this critical time, please click the button below. Thank you for your ongoing support; together we will continue to work to protect the vulnerable orphans and street children of Iraq.

With love,

The ICF Team

 

Ayda (not her real name) lives with her mother and little brother in a house built of mud and sheet metal in a poor neighborhood in Baghdad.

She attends the Hope Bus regularly and also works collecting empty cans from landfill to support her family.

Ayda loves going to the Hope Bus because she gets to learn and spend time with other children. She wants to be a teacher one day just like the teachers on the Hope Bus!

Your generous donations help us keep the dreams of Ayda and the other children alive. This Valentine’s Day, support Iraq’s most vulnerable children:

GIVE NOW

(Source: Iraqi Children Foundation – ICF)

The Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) has announce the promotion of Elizabeth (Liz) McRae to serve in the top staff leadership position as Executive Director.

McRae’s promotion to Executive Director from Associate Director follows a record year for ICF during which significant gains were made in life-changing legal, social, and educational services for Iraq’s most vulnerable children – the orphans, street kids, and children displaced by violence.

McRae said:

I am looking forward to another record year in 2020. The needs of these children on the margins of Iraqi society is urgent. Their future, as well as Iraq’s future, is at stake. Investing in these children is both a geopolitical and a security imperative, and it’s the right thing to do.

“We believe in building a team of Iraqis and Americans, individuals and businesses, to work together to ensure these children are prepared to be productive citizens in the future.”

McRae’s is ICF’s top executive for development of Iraqi and American corporate partners who invest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Iraq.  She can be reached at liz@iraqichildren.org or at +1.202.790.1109

For more information, please see 2019 announcement regarding McRae.

(Source: ICF)

The children of Iraq are in crisis. An estimated 800,000 were orphaned by the end of the Iraq War.

The invasion by ISIS displaced more than 1.3 million. Thousands work on the streets, in homes, or in businesses.

They are why the Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) exists: to intervene on their behalf with love and hope.

On Giving Tuesday, 3rd December, all new monthly donors will receive a 100% match on their first donation, and the ICF is competing for a share of $500,000 in matching funds.

Thank you for your ongoing support!

Actress Alia Shawkat Designs Exclusive Tee for 5K to Benefit Iraqi Children

Iraqi-American performer and producer, Alia Shawkat, is best known for her acting work in TV shows like Arrested Development and films like Whip It and The Runaways.

She is also a talented artist, with her contemporary works featuring in high profile gallery shows including at the Known Gallery and Dilettante Gallery in LA.

This year, Ms Shawkat joins the Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) to design a custom t-shirt for their upcoming “In Their Shoes” 5K race in Alexandria VA, on June 22nd.

Ms Shawkat’s artistic style is a playful and contemporary mix of colors and textures, often taking the form of abstract cartoons.

I’ve grown more and more curious as I’ve gotten older about my father’s heritage”, says Ms Shawkat.

I’ve travelled to the Middle East and feel such a strong connection to the people and the environment.

The more misunderstood Arabs and the Muslim culture are in America, the deeper my urge is to share the beauty of our culture with Americans and in my art”.

Ms Shawkat’s father came to America from Baghdad in the 1970s with only $200 in his pocket, and eventually started his own business.

Her father has been an active participant in charitable giving for children in Iraq, and this commitment clearly runs in the family.

I’m open to every opportunity that allows me to help children in need”, says Ms Shawkat.

Iraqi Children Foundation invests in education, legal protection, and medical on-the-ground support for Iraq’s most vulnerable orphans and street children.

An investment in these children is an investment in the future of Iraq.

In 2018, ICF provided 14,200 meals for children enrolled in their education programs, and handled 675 legal cases for children, including the victims of sex trafficking.

Without these critical services, these children are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation by criminals, traffickers, and extremists.

The Alia Shawkat t-shirts are available exclusively through registration in the 5K in Alexandria this week.

The event, now in its 7th year, promises to be a fun family-friendly morning, with an after party including Iraqi music, snacks, and entertainment.

For those who can’t make it to Alexandria, donations can be made via the same link, or registrants can sign up and note and note their location as a “remote runner” in the comments (ICF will send remote runner’s shirts with free shipping in continental US).

Race details:

ICF’s “In Their Shoes” 5K will be held at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at 0800 on June 22, 2019 (registration opens at 0700).

Registration link: https://runsignup.com/Race/VA/OldTownAlexandria/InTheirShoes5KIraq

For more information please contact Liz McRae: liz@iraqichildren.org, +1.202.790.1109

IN THEIR SHOES 5K – 2019
A Benefit for Iraq’s Orphans & Most Vulnerable Children
Saturday, June 22, 2019
Check In: 7AM  Race: 8AM

US Patent and Trademark Office
600 Dulany St.
Old Town Alexandria, VA US 22314

Honorary Co-Chairs
His Excellency Fareed Yasseen, Ambassador of Iraq to the United States
Ambassador Ryan Crocker (Ret.), Former US Ambassador to Iraq, Recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom

5K YOUNG AMBASSADORS   ICF’s 5K “Young Ambassadors” return again this year!  Teeba, Ala’a, and Humoody came to the US from Iraq during the war.  Teeba was in a car bombing as a baby. Ala’a was abandoned because he had cerebral palsy.  Humoody was shot in the face.  On June 22, all three will be the voices for other very vulnerable kids who remain in Iraq.

THE IRAQI CHILDREN FOUNDATION intervenes in the lives of Iraqi kids who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and recruitment by criminals, traffickers, and extremists.  Through funds raised by the 5K, ICF provides access to education, legal protection, rescue from the streets and child labor, medical care, clothing, and fun.  The last two 5Ks helped fund the colorful new HOPE BUS 1 & 2 that provide tutoring and nutrition to some of Iraq’s most at-risk children.  ICF is a US based, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charity (26-1394773).

COURSE INFORMATION:
ICF 5K Course Map Out and back on Eisenhower Avenue. Start/finish at Patent and Trademark Office.

TRANSPORTATION/PARKING:
Free Parking available at USPTO Building West Parking Garage Located on 550 Elizabeth Lane, Alexandria, VA 22314Metro:  Convenient to the Eisenhower Ave. and King Street Metro stations (Yellow/Blue line).

Click here to sign up

By Hussein Al-alak. Republished with permission.

Iraqi Children Foundation, safeguarding Iraq’s future generations

For millions of people around the world, the welfare of Iraqi children is key to safeguarding the future peace and stability of Iraq. In this exclusive interview, Hussein Al-alak talks to Mohammed Khudairi, of the US based Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF), about their ongoing efforts in Iraq.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Mohammed Khudairi. I am the Chairman of Iraqi Children Foundation, as well as the Managing Partner of Khudairi Group.

Can you please tell us about the Iraqi Children Foundation?

The Iraqi Children Foundation intervenes in the lives of orphans and street children who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation by criminals, traffickers and extremists. The organization was set up ten years ago by Americans who saw the need to help rebuild Iraq after so many years of conflict. More than 800,000 children were orphaned as a result of the Iraq War, and the ISIS occupation displaced another 1.3 million.

How does the work of the Iraqi Children Foundation help vulnerable children?

Our vision is that all children in Iraq have a voice, and are empowered to reach their full potential. All our programs have this goal in mind. We help vulnerable children through several channels, including:

⦁ The Hope Bus program – we convert used city buses into colorful, child friendly classrooms. Each bus has two teachers and a social worker, and serves around 50 children with tutoring, nutrition, health care, social services, practical life lessons, community, and fun.

⦁ The Street Lawyers program – our lawyers provide legal protection for children who are targeted by criminals and traffickers, abused by employers, or are facing other risks. They also assist children to get their papers so that they can go to school.

⦁ Social Services program – social workers on our team work to end child labor and get children off the streets. They also work to stop domestic abuse, provide medical care, and help get access to psychosocial services for children with mental health issues.

As Iraq has experienced decades of conflict, can you please tell us how this impacts on children? Children who are displaced, or have been exposed to high levels of violence, are often left emotionally and physically vulnerable. Can you please tell us about some of the risks that children in Iraq now face?

Many children have been left orphaned (800,000) or displaced (1.3 million) as a result of conflict in Iraq. Children who are in this vulnerable position are less likely to reach their full potential, as they are less likely to have access to education, health care (both mental and physical), and community support.

These children are more likely to become targets for human traffickers or extremist recruitment. The importance of ensuring children are not radicalized in Iraq cannot be overstated; extremism is a destabilizing force in the Middle East and globally. This is not just a humanitarian issue, it’s a regional security issue.

In the past, there have been cases where children have also been used as weapons of war, or due to bereavement, have been forced into exploitative trades. Can you please tell us about some of the safeguarding measures that have been, or are currently being put in place?

As an organization, the Iraqi Children Foundation looks to empower children so they are less vulnerable to exploitation. This includes educating children about risks, and providing a safe space for them to learn and form a sense of belonging with caring adults, and other children.

We also try to protect children and give them a voice, by providing legal representation in cases where children are exploited. Other nonprofits, non-government organizations, and government organizations all contribute to safeguarding measures; there is still a lot of work to be done.

As the media often gives focus to human interest stories from Iraq, or children left disabled by war, what support is available for children born with either physical or learning disabilities?

For families stuck in cycles of poverty in Iraq, there is limited access to medical care for children with disabilities. Often, these disabilities go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. As a result, these children are unable to receive the treatment they need.

Our social workers spend time getting to know families who live in impoverished areas of Baghdad, and to identify cases where children are suffering due to disabilities. We will work with the families of these children to get the correct medical attention and ongoing support, providing financial aid where necessary.

As the Iraqi Children Foundation is based in the USA but are working with children, on a grassroots level across Iraq, can you please tell us how people in Britain and America can support your work?

We have extremely competent NGO partners in Iraq who deliver our services to the children. We have worked with our primary partner, Justice Gate, for the past 7 years. We partner with local NGOs because we believe it is important to invest in Iraqi organizations and build capacity to provide ongoing services and ensure the growth and success of the country.

Our team and donors in America, Britain, and across the globe are working hard to raise awareness and dollars so we can continue to invest in the children of Iraq. On a practical level, our greatest need is ongoing financial support – those interested can donate via Global Giving. For those located in or near Washington DC, we also have a fundraising 5K run each year.

This year the race is in June, and we would love to see you there! We are extremely transparent at ICF, and very focused on effectiveness and efficiency of our programs. We are always open to discussing our work and results, you can find more information and our contact details at our website.