Saturday, July 21, 2012

A New Year

UNDP Access to Justice Project with the support of Norway
I know it has been a very long time since I've posted, but it's been a busy several weeks.  First of all, I'm pleased to report that the UNDP Access to Justice Project for Vulnerable Iraqis Project was extended in May and will continue another eight months, into 2013.  The project is still sponsored by UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) and supported this time by Norway in lieu of the European Union.  So we're very glad to be able to continue this essential program which provides outreach and legal and social services to those in need.  For those of you who saw my last post about our Photo Exhibition , What the Eye Does Not See:  The Faces of Vulnerability in Iraq, all the beautiful photographs can be viewed on:
Grapes and pears in our garden.
I'm now into my second year living here in Sulaimaniya.  Another summer has arrived and with it the heat.  This week it is 40 degrees Celsius (or as I was taught, centigrade) -- about 105 degrees Fahrenheit.  Not too much different than what friends and family in the United States have been experiencing.  In many ways, it's more tolerable because it is dry heat with very little humidity.  On the other hand, the inevitable power outages mean long periods of time (e.g., four hours) without air conditioning in our house.  During these times, including as I'm writing this, the goal is to move as little as possible, but even then eventually sweat drips down your front, back, legs, arms, etc. As you can see from the pictures above and below, summer also  means wonderful produce.  We have a very large grape arbor in front of the house.  The grapes are pretty sour, but perhaps we can set up a winery and make a little money to help support our programs.

For much of the Arab world, Ramadan started yesterday, but in Iraq it started today (which made me happy that I had one final day of the weekend where I could eat regularly).  Once again I will be fasting while I'm here as I did last year, though I do drink water during the day. 

With the advent of my second year here, I have become Country Director of Heartland Alliance's Iraq office and programs (I tell my friends and former work colleagues that it's sort of like being the CEO of a foreign subsidiary).  As you can imagine, I've felt a little overwhelmed these first few weeks as I've gotten to know the programs, financial systems, etc. but I love it and feel so privileged to be entrusted with this role.  My direct boss, the MENA (Middle East North Africa) Regional Director is terrific -- very supportive and affirmative.  As the International HR person at headquarters in the US pointed out, I've had many roles with Heartland, including Board member, member of the President's Council and Legal Programs Director here in Iraq, and I hope I can continue to be of service in this new position. 
Proud mom with my handsome son and
gorgeous daughter-in-law at law school graduation
One reason why I haven't posted in a while is that I had a long visit to the United States to attend my son's graduation from law school and to celebrate my father's 90th birthday with my mom and the rest of our family (which includes 1 son and 1 daughter-in-law, 2 sisters, 1 brother, 3 nephews, 5 nieces and a niece-in-law, Jim and a boyfriend of one of my nieces -- 19 in all).  It was great  being with my family for this happy occasion and to celebrate my dad's life.  When I was growing up, my father encouraged me to pursue the things I loved and taught me to believe that I could do anything I wanted with hard work and determination.  I never dreamed I would be given the opportunity to have two wonderful careers -- first as a corporate lawyer and now as a human rights worker -- and to be given the privilege of living and working in Iraq with our terrific staff and the wonderful people who live here.   And I'm tremendously grateful for the continuing support of my mom and dad, even though they would rather that I be living closer to them.
With my mom and dad, son and daughter-in-law