Saturday, April 6, 2013

Happy Birthday Heartland Alliance!

Storm coming
It's hard to believe that my last post was more than four months ago.  Time seems to pass so quickly yet at the same time, November seems like years away because so much has happened since then.  Winter has turned into spring, and yet like other parts of the world, one day it can be sunny and warm, another day it is cold and rainy.  But flowers are blooming and the hills are green, rather than the brown they wear for most of the year.
Spring blossoming trees
This change in seasons is marked by Nowruz in Kurdistan -- Persian New Year and the first day of spring.  This holiday is celebrated for several days with picnics and other events.  Just as on New Year's Eve (December 31), the main street in Sulaimaniya closed down and there was a huge street fair.  So, there are two "new year's" celebrations -- the one on January 1 and the one in March. 
Lights of Nowruz
For both celebrations, flags and lights are hung everywhere, and pictures of Kurdish heroes decorate the thoroughfares.  They are wonderful times to see family and friends, share sweets, and wear traditional Kurdish dress (though this is primarily at Nowruz given that it's cold here in January!
One of the main streets in Sulaimaniya decked out for Nowruz
There are two other important dates in March to commemorate.  First, International Women's Day is observed on March 8.  Here is the message I sent to our staff to mark the occasion:

One hundred eleven years have passed since the first International Women’s Day was marked by demonstrations and celebrations.  On this day, it is fair and important to ask how much progress has been made for women and girls around the world; it is more urgent and timely to ask how much further we can and must go.  Equal rights and opportunities in the home, school and workplace are fundamental, but more important is recognizing that women and men have equal value as human beings.  This is and must continue to be our goal. Thank you for your work in support of not only women but all those whose rights we are committed to protecting and upholding.   

Our office commemorating International Women's Day
The other important date in in March is March 13—when Heartland Alliance celebrated its 125th Anniversary.  As our President, Sid Mohn said:

[S]ince 1888, we’ve been providing the very services people need to end poverty and build a safe and stable life for themselves and their families. Heartland Alliance traces its roots to legendary social reformer, pioneer human rights worker, and Nobel peace prize winner—Jane Addams. Her legacy endures and I see her spirit and commitment to those who need help in every one of our offices in every part of the world.  Today, as we celebrate this milestone, I ask you to join me. Join me in believing that we CAN live in a world where children live safe from violence and terror. That every working person CAN earn enough to support their family. That elderly people CAN live with dignity. And that the disabled, sick and mentally ill CAN get the help they need. At Heartland Alliance, we ALL believe that ordinary people can create an extraordinary world. Thank you again for being a part of this important work."
Spring sky
 One way of joining us in our work is to become a Global Fellow, which is how I came to Heartland Alliance International Iraq.  Our Global Fellow Program is a great way for people to work in one of our international country offices, for six months to a year (though like me, this may often turn into another position), and see how this suits them (work in conflict or post-conflict areas is not everyone's cup of tea).  A Global Fellow can work on a specific project (for example, as a lawyer in one of our legal services programs) or in a specific area (such as a finance Global Fellow).  It's a great opportunity to experience life in a country like Iraq (or Colombia or one of the many countries in Africa and other parts of the globe where Heartland has offices).  To find out more about the Program, you can go to our website.  It will also tell you how to apply.  Right now, for example, we are interested in applications for Global Fellowships for our finance department and also for one of our legal programs (since Iraq is a civil law country, someone with civil law experience/knowledge is preferred).  The organization is also interested in Global Fellows who can help with writing grant proposals.
Sheep crossing the road to get to greener pastures
Most often, though not always, our Global Fellows are at what I call either end of the age spectrum:  they are either young men and women who have just graduated from college or another degree program and who are anxious to get their feet wet in the international NGO world.  Or like me, they are starting a new career in the later part of their life.  But no one should consider becoming a Global Fellow unless they want new experiences that don't include the creature comforts that they may otherwise be used to and unless they believe that we, in collaboration with our local partners, can help make a better world.

Oh, and one other change of the season.  We have a new member of our household, Pak.  He has settled in nicely and we've learned that he is a very smart dog.  Among other things, he can literally climb the fence around our yard like one would climb a ladder so we have to keep him on a long chain.  Otherwise, he would terrorize the neighbourhood, not because he's mean but because most Iraqis do NOT like dogs and keeping them as pets is very unusual.  Happy Spring everyone!

One of our global fellows (left) and
our program coordinator