From Erbil….

Working 16 hour days, 7 days a week with no break.

Iraq declared a level 3 Humanitarian (not Security) Emergency, which means that the UN has free reign to pull in more staff and resources, to assist the humanitarian crisis.

Apart from working long days, heartbreaking/eye-opening visits last week when I met with over 60 displaced men, women and children in Dohuk; the place where Christians and Yezidis are fleeing ISIS.

I was undertaking a mapping assessment of how displaced communities obtain information about food, shelter, safety/security, etc from government sources or other sources. In our assessment, our contact led us to a school outside Dohuk City, which held about 150 displaced Yezidis.

Heartbreaking. All I can say is that there seems to be no end to the horrors that ISIS is bringing to this country.

As we talked with the group our Kurdish translator surfaced more sad stories. Many lost their spouses (kidnapped by ISIS), some were separated from families on Sinjar Mountain. Others were tortured and beaten. A few witnessed execution-style shootings and beheadings.

Staggering.

The visit shook me to the core. Here I am, standing in front of these resilient people. The group gradually moving in  closer as if they were craving some sort of human emotion/touch. As we asked questions, men put their mobile phones in front of us to show graphic photos of ISIS carnage. Perhaps because it was not something out of a Hollywood film — but real people capturing real horrors on the ground.

Seeing this, there was no way for me to hold back a few tears. Somehow, them seeing me cry made them feel they were being heard. They all had kind eyes and smiles. The children were strikingly beautiful.

The 2nd camp was filled with more children. One Kurdish man was a former translator for the US military. He spoke perfect English. He told me his wife had been captured. He carried his 80-year-old grandfather down from the mountain on his back. They had no food for three days, barely any water.

As I turned around, I noticed nearly 50 people had quietly surrounded us.  I asked more questions. Many men declared “there is no more Iraq,” “Iraq is finished” and “there is no more home for us.” Upon learning that I was an American, several asked for help. They urged “please tell Mr. Obama to help us.”

In short, be thankful, if you can, for what we have in our lives; freedom, shelter, love, abundance, and more.

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