Spirit of America's Blog
In Iraq, a country whose recent history is to inextricably linked to our own, American personnel are working to counter the horrors visited upon Iraqis by ISIS. Spirit of America was asked to assist in that endeavor, with a special focus on addressing the needs of the 900,000-plus internal refugees who have fled to Iraqi Kurdistan since Iraq's second city, Mosul, fell to ISIS in June. These people escaped through the desert with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and now face the hardships of winter in extremely difficult circumstances.
"When ISIS came my father was outside getting water for us. We didn't know it would be the last day we would see him. He was killed by ISIS. My mother told us to hide underground and we could escape after ISIS left. I like my mother's personality. She is brave and protects us. I want to be a doctor. It was my father's wish. But there is no school here."
Boosted Medical Capacity for Guatemalan Village
Recently, Spirit of America began speaking to a US military team working in Guatemala. Guatemala has faced many challenges in recent years; one of the biggest is the drug trafficking organizations and the pervasive violence and corruption they bring along with them. The team helps to bring more stability to areas of the country that often find themselves at risk of being exploited by some of these criminal groups who typically prey on areas with weak governance. During a trip to a new municipality the US personnel came across a great opportunity to help. The municipality had a functioning clinic that served as the village's main source of medical care for its inhabitants. However, the clinic was operating on a shoestring budget and what's more, a big portion of it was being tied up in paying rent for a structure used by the clinic. The village mayor informed the team that they owned two structures that could be used in place of the one costing them a valuable part of their budget. Unfortunately, those pre-fabricated structures were located over 50 miles away. The team contacted a local contractor who made an assessment and determined that those buildings could be de-constructed, transported, and re-constructed for a relatively low cost. Spirit of America was able to provide the funding for the contractor to complete the work and the Guatemalan military volunteered to provide the transportation of the structures.
Locals visit the new structure used by the clinic
Thank You Veterans
Happy Veterans Day,
All of us at Spirit of America give our profound thanks to the Veterans who have served the USA. We are proud of who you are, what you do and how you represent America to the world. We know the freedoms we enjoy rest upon your courage and commitment.
We'd like to give a special thanks to three Veterans who are part of the team at Spirit of America: Ryan Frost, Chris Clary and Isaac Eagan. All three Spirit of America field team members have combat arms backgrounds and served in the US Army in Iraq or Afghanistan. They continue to serve at Spirit of America, working side by side with US troops and diplomats in the world's toughest places.
Ryan served in northern Iraq from 2006 to 2007. He also served in two deployments in Latin America. Still an active member of the National Guard, Ryan heads up Spirit of America projects in Central and South America. In the photo below, Ryan is supporting the US team in Guyana.
Help Iraqi Children who Escaped ISIS with Boots for Winter
We didn't expect Spirit of America would be providing support in Iraq after US troops were withdrawn in 2010. But ISIS changed that.
Spirit of America's Isaac Eagan just returned from Iraqi Kurdistan. After meeting with US personnel, local officials and relief organizations, Isaac identified an urgent need. Children who escaped from ISIS need rubber boots for the winter. Please give now.
Countering Extremism through Opportunity in Niger
I recently returned from ten days in Niger, the culmination of a project Spirit of America has been working on since the beginning of the year. Niger, just to the north of Nigeria, with Mali to its west, Chad to its east, and northern borders with Libya and Algeria, is by many measures one of the poorest countries in the world. Desertification, astronomic births, mortality rates and a lack of economic opportunity create a highly unstable environment. When combined with extremist influence – the country's borders are threatened by groups like al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram, and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa – this could be a potential recipe for disaster.
A U.S. Army Civil Affairs team is working to prevent those causes of instability from leading to conflict, something which has occurred several times throughout Niger's history. I first traveled with the team in Feb. 2014 to see if there was a way Spirit of America could assist in these efforts. Following initial discussions, we determined that the northern region of Agadez would be the best place to focus our support.
During an initial assessment in rural parts of Agadez in April, it was apparent why this was an important region. The local population is comprised primarily of Tuareg and Fulani tribes, semi-nomadic herders, whose traditional way of life is under threat from desertification, eroding economic opportunity, and modernity in general. Coupled with feelings of marginalization from the rest of the country, these factors have contributed to multiple rebellions against the government over the last few decades. With extremist influence on the rise from neighboring Mali and Algeria, the region has the potential to erupt into conflict yet again.
Providing for Students in a War Zone
It was a cool December day when I visited my first Afghan school last year. There, I had the opportunity to meet some students to whom Spirit of America had previously given school supplies. When I met them, the students were gathered on large carpets and had chalkboards propped up against a mud wall and a tree. To these students, "school" wasn't a tangible place or a building; it was an event...an opportunity to learn.
Schools look different in different places. Even without a hard structure, youth are able to attend classes in Afghanistan.
Improving Food Security and Government Capacity in Mali
Spirit of America recently funded a livestock health initiative in Mali that enhanced the ability of the Malian government and military to take care of its people. Responding to a local need identified by the US military team working in the country, we provided funding for vaccines and vitamins so that Malian officials could treat goats and sheep in a key area. Here's what the US team leader told us about the project:
Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the world's most food-insecure regions. Local sheep and goat production is vitally important for both food production and the income they generate within many regions. Two very common issues facing animal production within some sub-Saharan regions are poor nutrition and parasitism. These two problems compound each other due to the parasites hindering the efficient utilization of scarcely available food resources. The funding from Spirit of America provided anti-parasite treatment and multi-vitamin supplementation for 2,023 sheep and goats. The medication also provided the opportunity for 10 veterinary technicians to gain more experience in administering treatment. Also, US military officials joined the conversation by discussing proper anti-parasite medication use in order to most efficiently treat animals and avoid side effects. In the short term these animals will be able to utilize the available resources during this rainy period more efficiently and thus be able to provide greater high quality protein through increased meat and milk production for the local region. The increase in available meat and milk will be used directly for food and as a source of monetary income for many families. The training the veterinary technicians received will help to increase the local animal production beyond this single rainy season. Through local capacity building Spirit of America helped further US Government objectives in Mali by increasing stability in the region.
Humanitarian Assessments in Iraqi Kurdistan
I've just returned from the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, Erbil – a bustling metropolis only an hour's drive away from the front lines of the fight against ISIS. Seven years after my last Army deployment to Iraq during the height of the Surge, it was a strange feeling to be back, but I'm glad to have the opportunity to see what we can do to help. Over the past week, I've been meeting with US and Iraqi officials as well as local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), all in an effort to determine how Spirit of America can add value to international efforts to address the ongoing conflict spread throughout this part of the Middle East. View the project page for this blog here.
SoA Field Ops Manager Isaac Eagan just returned from initial assessments in Iraqi Kurdistan
The humanitarian crisis here has taken on alarming proportions over the past few months. In addition to the Syrian refugees already fleeing events on the other side of the border, the recent ISIS offensives in Anbar Province and Mosul drove an estimated 800,000 Iraqis – what are known as Internally Displaced Persons, or IDPs – to the relative safe haven of Iraqi Kurdistan. Here with little more than the clothing on their backs, they've sought refuge in formal camps, with extended family members, in ad hoc shelters in schools and places of worship, and even in half-built buildings and jury rigged tent cities. With winter coming, their plight will grow more desperate.