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2008 Archive of Blog posts

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BlogSafer & 'RSS Awareness Day'

Spirit of America's Anoniblogging Project designed to bring vital information to bloggers in repressed countries was recently cited by the respected, top ten blog site Read Write Web.  RRW gave a nod to national RSS Awareness Day by highlighting some of the ways that RSS feeds have become a "world-changing" tool.  

RRW shares a video explaining what a RSS is and does for those of you not in the know.  In addition, it lists some important contributions of that technology; one of which gives a shout out to our very own BlogSafer site:

RSS lets me, and more than 100 other people subscribed, monitor changes on a wiki I helped the Committee to Protect Bloggers set up called BlogSafer.org, where bloggers living under repressive political regimes can read in six different languages about the current best practices for blogging anonymously.  

Spirit of America continues to support the Anoniblogging project  by monitoring and maintaining the BlogSafer site. 

April 30th Update-Iraq Book Distribution

Greetings Friends and Supporters!

We're going to devote this entire update tothe successful culmination of our Children's Library Book Distribution in Iraq throughour partnership with LIFE for Relief and Development. Here's the story:

LIBRARY BOOKS FOR IRAQI CHILDREN-DEDICATION AND COURAGE PERSEVERES
Some very good news that's been a long time coming. Our Library Books for Iraqi Children was a Project created to stock children's libraries in community centers, hospitals and schools. The US Coalition Provisional Authority, along with Iraq's Ministry of Education, identified over 200 children's book titles as the foundation for the ideal children's library and then our work began in earnest. With your support, we were able to purchase $38,000 worth of brand new books and then spent another $7,500 to get them to Iraq via a 40' ocean container. The books were delivered at the end of 2006 to LIFE's warehouse in Baghdad, but then had to be stored indefinitely, due to sectarian violence. We further mentioned this in an August 28th email update, not sure of the outcome yet, but wanting to keep you in the loop. Now, at long last, we can report back to you a wonderful ending, mission really accomplished.


Providing all these wonderful books is a gift that will continue to "give" to many children for a very long time. The titles include everything from Cat in the Hat, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Peter and the Wolf, Black Beauty to traditional books written in Arabic; Omar is Lost, Karma's Bunny, Who Hid the Eid Lamb? and many more.

Here's what our contact at LIFE for Relief and Development had to say this week:

"Dear Michele and Everyone at Spirit of America,

We want to thank you for donating books for 9 libraries that were developed in Iraqi schools. This project took 19 months to complete due to the dangerous situation in Iraq, but we are pleased to tell you that the project was completed successfully. The school principals, teachers and especially the students are all very happy and satisfied with their new books. Reading books to children to encourage them to develop their reading skills is so important throughout the world, especially in areas where children are caught up in war. Reading is a wonderful outlet that encourages children to think creatively about the story and not what is happening around them. I wish we could open more libraries in Iraqi schools in the future to give all Iraqi children the opportunity to read books from a library. Many thanks."

And here are just some of the many pictures she sent, they are priceless, enjoy!

Only an outdoor classroom available for these wee ones, but that obviously won't stop them!

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That's our Spirit of America sign in the background!

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All ages, all circumstances will benefit from your generosity.

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Though this project has taken a while to come to fruition, it is a wonderful testament to how cooperation and patience work together to bring extraordinary results.

All the best,

Spirit of America
www.spiritofamerica.net

Making 'Good Neighbors' In Iraq

Supplies for Technical Sergeant Sherry Martin's Good Neighbors Program   have arrived in Iraq and been distributed to children in Baghdad.  Though TSgt Martin deployed out of Iraq several months ago, her replacement Master Sergeant Tim Gills has not only continued her work but made it his own.    Thanks to your support of this project, 100 soccer balls, basketballs and hygiene kits were sent for Iraqi kids.

MSgt Gills enjoyed handing out the supplies so much that he barely had time to take photos. He was too excited about playing soccer with the boys!  We can't think of a better way to exemplify becoming "Good Neighbors".  Here is his story and photos from the distribution day:

"I apologize for the lack of communication. A lot has been happening out here. As I stated in the previous email. I was too busy playing soccer with them to take pics but I searched through the ones that I personally took on that visit to see if I had any with the kids with items in hand.

Alas...I only had one. I attached it. It is a picture of a foresome of the kids that I've had the pleasure of getting to know over my past year here. If you look in [the ...boy on the right's hand] he has one of the soccer balls donated. The next pic is of them playing soccer but unfortunately the ball was kicked just out of view before the camera flashed. I was so excited to be out there. The shirts that they are all wearing were donated by a youth group from my home so the kids were really hyped up because to them, it felt more like a real soccer match.

I also attached a picture of me with some of the girls lined up before we gave items to them that day. I hope you like 'em. For me these pics mean a lot because just 8 months ago, barely any of those kids had decent clothes and most didn't have shoes. If you look closely, you will note that all of the girls have some type of footwear. Thanks to different people and organizations like yours, we've come a long way.

Now we are trying to focus on getting their schools up and running with school supplies and such. I only wish that my time wasn't nearing a end. It sounds funny because I have my own precious wife and 3 wonderful children I am eagerly anxious to see after being deployed for over a year. However, these kids had grown on me and I sort of feel like I'm leaving them behind. We ARE doing great work out here..." --Master Sergeant Tim Gills

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Ready to play with new soccer balls donated by SoA
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Iraqi boys playing a 'real game' with new soccer ball

Iraqi Kids Library Books Project Complete At Last

Though the SoA team works hard to bring every project to a successful completion as quickly as possible (i.e. supplies purchased, received, distributed and updates posted), even with our best efforts some projects take many months to complete.  The Library Books for Iraqi Children  has been one of those projects. 

Originally begun in the Fall of 2004, the effort to bring books to Iraqi children has been hampered by purchasing challenges, shipping delays, a search for in-country support and security issues stemming from sectarian violence.  Early on, Spirit of America staff realized that we needed a partner organization with personnel stationed in Iraq to help facilitate the receipt and distribution of the books.  We are very fortunate that LIFE for Relief and Development was recommended to us by personnel then serving with the US State Dept.  LIFE has proved to be an invaluable ally, and their commitment to the success of this outreach effort hasn't wavered even with the months of delay and the tragic and untimely death of one of LIFE's Baghdad Director of Programs in October of 2006. We are especially grateful to LIFE team members Dr. Adil Al-Nuaimi and Vicki Robb for their dedication and support. 

For all the challenges and delays, the Library Books program has remained one of our favorites. It encapsulates many of the difficulties and the joys that we experience every day in getting the needed supplies from here in the US to our requestors and on to those who need them most.  In the end, seeing the photos of smiling children enjoying books they may never have had access to except for this project makes it all worthwhile.  We appreciate the patience of those who donated directly to the project!  While it make take longer than we might like sometimes, the SoA team does everything we can to see each project through and bring you confirmation of just how much of a difference your contributions can make. 

We hope you enjoy these photos of the distribution of over 1,000 books to 9 different schools throughout Iraq.  The Iraqi Ministry of Education identified the schools and, in most cases, specifically created a "library" to house the new books.  Regardless, of whether the library consists of a single shelf, a dedicated room with study desks or an outside classroom, it is evident from these pictures that the books will be well-loved.

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Books on display at the Gifted Student School in Karkh
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Iraqi Girls at the Talented Student School in Karkh 
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SoA Sign at the Talented Student School In Karkh, Iraq 
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Baghdad Secondary School-1 of 9 schools receiving donated books
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Boys at the Baghdad Secondary School studying hard

 

Supplies from Unrestricted Donations Received

A few days ago we posted a blog with updates on several different requests that were fulfilled using your generous contributions to SoA's Unrestricted Fund.  We're happy to share that the shipments of supplies including shoes and socks, soccer balls, school supplies and hygiene kits have started to arrive as evidenced by the messages of gratitude posted below from our military contacts.

Army Sergeant James Baker serving in Afghanistan has received 165 pairs of children's sneakers and 2 cases of socks to distribute to need children in the area.  He had previously detailed the pervasive lack of adequate footwear which as you can imagine is hard on little feet in the extreme cold and searing heat that the region experiences. 

Sergeant Baker wrote to let us know that the shoes and socks had arrived:  "I just received your packages today.  I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am for you help and support.  The unit that is replacing us is coming real soon.  When they get here, we are going to set up a humanitarian aid drop in one of the local villages in our area of operation...  I can't wait to hand out these goods to the villagers.  Thank you so much for your upport.  I will keep you updated and send you pictures for the H.A. drop.  Thanks again."  We will share those photos and updates on the distribution as soon as we receive them.

We also received confirmation from Navy Lieutenant Commander Jon Lindsay that he is starting to receive the supplies sent from SoA which include 200 each of soccer balls, school supplies and hygiene kits; " I just received 6 boxes of the personal hygiene kits.  Thank you!  We will put them to use and provide you with feedback (stories, photos) on how it goes.  Thank you so much for you efforts and generosity; it definitely does make a difference in the communities we work in, as every little bit helps to improve conditions and change perceptions about US-Iraqi relations."

In an earlier message, LCDR Lindsay communicated how items that seem simple and generic like books and school supplies can have a big impact:

"We now have some communities we are working closely with, providing some needed civic infrastructure in the forms of school refurbishments, power delivery, and literacy programs.  We are also working closely with our partner Iraqi security forces to put them in the lead in a lot of these civic events, and we're starting to see communities change their outlook toward the police.  We are trying to change the perception from the Saddam-era "brute squad" that Iraqis think of when they think police and more of the friendly neighborhood "thin blue line." 

It was amazing in one of our literacy programs where this one Iraqi woman almost broke out in tears saying she only knew the police to come and take away her men and never imagined they could help the community.  The school programs are thus great for children as well as adults.  I tell you that story just to point out that these sorts of humanitarian missions have effects far beyond the immediate needs they meet."


No endorsement of Spirit of America by the US Department of Defense or its personnel is intended or implied.