By Spc. Alexis Harrison, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 7, 2007 - Troops from Battery A, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, and a civil affairs team from 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion handed out $10,000 in micro-grant funds to an Iraqi small business and a home for mentally handicapped children. Abdul Kareem Fasial, the owner of a small bakery in a Qadisiyah neighborhood, received $5,000 to go toward upgrades to what he called the best bakery in the neighborhood. "Cooperation made this all possible," Fasial said. "The soldiers made it very easy to get the grant, and I have no doubt that this will help me and the entire community."
Fasial and his small corner confectionary shop opened almost 30 years ago. He said his neighborhood has seen many rewards since the local leaders began working closely with the troops from 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, and others from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
"A lasting impact could be made if we endeared our Iraqi leaders to the cause," Army Lt. Col Michael Tarsa, the battalion's commander, said.
The Dina Institute, which cares for mentally retarded children, also received $5,000, as well as several hundred pounds of rice, sugar, beans and other food. Tarsa said his troops have been to the institute several times to check up on the needs of Inam Jawad, the institute's head caretaker, and her kids. After the first time they heard about the facility, they couldn't help but feel obligated to help, he said.
"We were drawn to the Dina Institute by the opportunity to help," Tarsa said. "They are a forgotten segment of society, and we knew we had the resources to help."
This wasn't the first time troops have helped the institute. But, it was the first time their help came in the form of money. Jawad said she will use the money to get caught up on employee salaries, medical supplies, and a few things to make the cold winter months go by a little easier.
Jawad thanked the troops and the council members who came to her aid a few months ago when all other channels seemed to fail. Word of the institute's struggles traveled through channels and eventually reached Walid Taha and Nadia Al Ezzi, two prominent business people who work to help children in need.
Taha is the chief executive officer of a huge conglomerate in Iraq known as the Taha-Kubba group. This commercial juggernaut manages dozens of companies that are all based in Baghdad and have ties to several other countries.
One of the smaller subsidiaries of the group is the Dema organization, which Ezzi runs. This group focuses its efforts not in trading or multi-million-dollar construction projects, but instead on providing medical care and aid to women and children who otherwise might not be able to get the attention they need.
This non-governmental organization heard the plight of Inam Jawad and the Dina Institute and basically wrote a blank check to help the home however they could, Ezzi said.
The first time Ezzi visited the institute, she said, she was heartbroken. Dimly lit rooms housed children unaware of the conditions they were living in. The water system in the house only worked part of the time, and that was assuming the generator used to power the house had any fuel.
However, Ezzi commended Jawad for never refusing a child in need of care. Ezzi said that, as bad as things were, Jawad was doing the best she could with what little resources she had.
Since then, thousands of gallons of fuel have been delivered; a tailor was hired to make special clothing for all the children living at the Jawad house; several repairs also were made to improve water and electricity services in the house where Jawad and a few employees take care of more than 30 handicapped children and a few adults who are incapable of taking care of themselves.
"I opened this institute for my daughter," Jawad said. "All this will help make sure my daughter is taken care of when I'm gone."
Tarsa said he hopes that since security measures have been placed and the Iraqi army unit in the area has been stood up, the community can keep the momentum and continue to grow. "The Iraqi army is the enduring security force in the area, and security enables continues economic development that we kick-started through our micro-grant program," he said. "It's all about setting conditions for continued development."
(Army Spc. Alexis Harrison is assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.)