I’m with the World Help team in Northern Iraq, and we’ve just spent the day with the future leaders of this nation—kindergarteners.
This World Help sponsored school of more than 150 students is taught by award-winning staff who believe changing the future of Iraq begins with its children. Every day these boys and girls receive a meal and are taught language basics, math, and art—all from a Christian curriculum.
The school also tutors grades 9-12 in the afternoon, and helps prepare high school students for their college admission exams. In the summer months, we sponsor VBS programs—our latest seeing 300 children in attendance!
Many children in this school have been deeply impacted by conflict and the terrorization of ISIS. They have personally seen bloodshed, lost loved ones, and been forced from the safety of their homes. But the staff here works daily to address their trauma and provides a highly structured environment. As a result, we’re witnessing an empowered generation of children able to explore every corner of their potential.
One teacher named Hadeel told us she has seen incredible improvement since these children first arrived. The safety this environment provides allows them to relax and laugh again . . . to just be children. School has become their favorite part of the day, and many are reluctant to leave when classes are dismissed.
These programs are more significant than you or I may fully know.
Today, nearly 2 million Iraqi children are currently unable to attend school because of conflict and displacement. This is an enormous cause for concern as these children miss out on the critical development found in the classroom.
Iraqi and Syrian children have been dubbed the “Lost Generation” because of their unstructured, nomadic lifestyle—full of trauma and devoid of developmental opportunities. There are so many opposing forces in the lives of these children. The odds are disparagingly against them.
One Iraqi mother told us her daughter had always been at the top of her class. But now, this bright little girl doesn’t even own a pencil. The potential of 2 million Iraqi children is thwarted with every passing day spent outside the classroom. Hopeless days in an unstructured refugee camp have been the only reality many of these young children have ever known.
So much is at stake for the future of Iraq. What will this society look like 10-20 years down the road?
If we don’t act now, a generation of children will enter into adulthood with unthinkable emotional and psychological damage and very minimal education.
History is repeating. I can’t help but think of the children in Uganda displaced and terrorized by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. The education of thousands of children was interrupted, and many never returned to their schooling, which still brings heartbreaking struggles for young Ugandan adults today.
If we have learned anything from the cost of war, it should be that children absorb their circumstances and carry it into development. They pay the dearest price. A broken child without help will grow into a broken adult.
As World Help seeks to provide long-term solutions in Iraq, we’ve seen that education is an indispensable answer.
I had the privilege of witnessing this strategy in action today as dozens of Iraqi schoolchildren clamored to show our team what they have learned. Some recited their ABCs; others spouted poetry—but each one was undeniably proud to display their knowledge.
I couldn’t help but think of my own grandsons. How many times have they beamed as they presented me with a coloring page, or told me about a school project they worked so hard on? A child’s need for validation and affirmation is the same worldwide.
Iraqi children should be filled with the wonder and rewards of childhood. Instead, they carry the unbearable cost of war on their shoulders. They’ve seen more tragedy in their short childhoods than they should ever have to see in their entire lives.
But not all hope is lost. There’s still time to bring hope to these children’s lives.
And we must start now . . . today!
World Help is working intensely to enrich the lives of war-torn children throughout Iraq, but we simply cannot continue without your help. Funds are desperately needed to develop and sustain these incredible programs.
Our schools offer children the sanctuaries and tools they need to successfully learn and grow—a place where burdens can be left at the door. But there are still countless children waiting for this opportunity . . . and time is running out.
There is no time to lose. We must fight like never before for these precious ones.
Jesus told us in Matthew 18, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
Let’s draw the children of Iraq into the loving embrace of Christ through our compassion. Let’s be the very hands, feet, and heart of Jesus to a lost and broken generation. Will you join me today?