Supporting the vulnerable, reaching out to the children of Iraq

The following interview was conducted by Hussein Al-alak, with Cindy Fogleman of the Iraqi Children Foundation. The ICF is a US based charity, whose work takes a long term approach and seeks lasting solutions to support Iraq's orphans, street kids and displaced children. By providing a range of services in Iraq, ICF intervenes in the lives of children - who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation. 

What is your name and what is the role you have with the Iraqi Children Foundation? 

My name is Cindy and I currently serve as a full time volunteer for ICF. My professional background is in foreign policy and legislation, as well as finance. I provide staff support to ICF Chairman Mo Khudairi and the President Barbara Marlowe in carrying out our vision to intervene in the lives of Iraq's orphans and most vulnerable kids who are at risk of abuse, neglect, and exploitation by criminals, traffickers, and extremists. 

Who are the Iraqi Children Foundation and what is their background? 

ICF was founded about 10 years ago by Americans working in Iraq during the war. Today, our Board and Advisors include Iraqi-Americans, veterans, lawyers, former US and Iraq Ambassadors, and one of America's leading experts on child welfare. 

Can you please tell us about the work of the ICF in Iraq? 

Glad you asked! So often we get questions about adoption or orphanages. We do neither. Many desperately poor orphans, street kids, and displaced children in Iraq live with widowed mothers or extended family so we focus on providing support "in place" through education, nutrition, legal protection, stopping child labor, health care, and more. We work through competent, trusted Iraqi NGO partners to ensure effective solutions in the Iraq context. 

How does the ICF support children inside of Iraq? 

Through our Baghdad Street Lawyers, we have provided legal protection and aid to kids who are picked up for begging, targeted for trafficking, unfairly charged with a crime, and other cases. These lawyers also provide kids with missing legal identity documents that are needed to enrol in school or to get government food and financial benefits. 

Social workers help kids by ending child labor, obtaining health care, mediating in cases of abuse, accessing orphanage care (as a last resort), and other cases.  

Our first "Hope Bus" is a colorful school-on-wheels, decorated with Dora Explorer and Sponge Bob, that provides 50-55 kids in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Baghdad with tutoring in reading, writing, science, and other academic subjects as well as a nutritious lunch, health care, life lessons, recreation, and art. But an estimated 100 more kids need the same loving care so we are currently raising funds to launch "Hope Bus 2!" 

ICF holds the "In Their Shoes 5K" run for Iraq, can you please tell us about this?

The 5K has been held for 6 years and is our annual fundraising event for Iraq's orphans and most vulnerable children. It is a run/walk followed by an after-party of Iraqi food, gelato, and - this year - live music by the "Salaam Band" and dancing. We also have face painting and balloons for kids. 

It is a great way to gather the Iraqi-American community, veterans who served in Iraq, Iraqi and US diplomats, students, families, and business people who are interested in Iraq. It is fun but also does a lot of good by generating support for our projects and bringing like-hearted people together. 

"In Their Shoes" is held annually in the USA, how can people in Britain get involved? 

This year, BP joined ICF by hosting a "sister" 5K in Basra, Iraq and raised thousands of dollars for Iraqi orphans and vulnerable kids! It would be great fun to have a "sister" In Their Shoes 5K in Britain too! There is always 2019! 

If not, mobilizing an ICF team for Iraqi kids at another 5K or 10K, like in London, Manchester or Scotland - to help raise funds, or even supporting our US 5K by being a business sponsor are ways to help. We are happy to explore these and other ways to do more, to provide care to the Iraqi children we love and serve. Just reach out to us!



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