In late August 2014 Tearfund made the corporate decision to respond to the humanitarian crisis caused by the rise of the Islamic State, and in September 2014 I was deployed as part of an assessment team to determine what role Tearfund could play in alleviating the suffering of displaced people. It became clear very quickly that I would be asked to support the response in-country for a longer period and in November 2014 I began a five month secondment based in Iraq. Part way through this secondment I was asked to consider moving more permanently to manage one of our bases in Iraq, and after praying and seeking counsel about this I decided to accept the offer. And so, on 21st May, I will be returning to Iraq to begin a one year contract as the Area Coordinator, managing Tearfund’s work in Kurdistan (Northern Iraq).
Kurdistan is not how the average person would expect Iraq to be. Before I travelled there for the first time in September I fully expected to feel quite oppressed. Instead I was greeted by an incredibly open and hospitable culture. Despite decades of conflict and oppressive regimes, people in Kurdistan know how to welcome the foreigner! Perhaps it is the result of communities where everyone has been displaced at least once in their lifetime. However, the current conflict has resulted in a ‘human tsunami’ in Kurdistan with people trying to make homes everywhere you turn. There is a tangible sense of fear and trauma, despite which life must continue as normally as possible.
Tearfund is responding to the crisis by funding projects run by local church and Christian groups, but also by implementing projects ourselves. We have helped people survive the harsh winter through the provision of money for blankets, stoves, clothes etc. We are building temporary latrines, distributing hygiene items such as soap and toothpaste, providing vouchers for certain items, providing cash grants to enable people to meet their most pressing needs such as medical bills or food, we are helping people prepare for the incredibly hot summer – 55 degrees in a tent is pretty unimaginable.
In my role as Area Coordinator I will be leading the team in Kurdistan based in the same city as I have been for the last five months. The staff have changed slightly, but are still a mix of expatriate and national. We may move house but will remain in the same area of the city. In terms of the day to day work it will be lots of external meetings ensuring coordination with the UN and other agencies and raising the profile of Tearfund, lots of day to day management of staff, visiting project sites and meeting beneficiaries, and working on horizon scanning – looking for opportunities to work in newly liberated areas or with newly displaced people, trying to predict the crisis a little bit and the funding trends. It will be busy but I know from experience there will also be fun times!
– First and foremost for wisdom for international leaders as they seek a way forward for peace.
– For families as they face a summer displaced – the weather in Iraq is very extreme and so summer is a very real threat to people’s well-being.
– For further funding for Tearfund – all the projects we are running in Iraq are funded by governments and other international groups such as the EU. It is a bit of a treadmill of proposals to donors, but so far we have been really blessed with funding. Please pray for this to continue.
– For our team – we are a mix of expatriate staff and national staff. All expatriate staff are Christians but our national staff represent all different faiths. Please pray that we are able to continue working really well together, and that for those that are not Christian, that we would be a good witness to them.
– For me – taking on the management of this work is very daunting and I don’t feel remotely qualified. But I do feel that it’s God’s plan for me right now. So please pray that in the times when it’s tough I will remember why I’m doing this. Please also pray that I’m able to build a strong friendship group and am able to get fellowship with like-minded people.