In an earlier post I briefly touched upon the worthy endeavours of Chad, and the work that he conducted in Jordan as part of No More Victims.
Since today is Bloggers Unite for Refugees Day, it provides a fitting opportunity to share the details.
I met Chad on my first trip to Jordan in 2006, where we were staying in the same hotel, a hotel both where people came and went – usually en route to Iraq – while others stayed for months, even years.
The common room was the main area to stave off the freezing winter chills with the assistance of the solitary heater on wheels, and on the second night I ventured shyly downstairs and slinked into a seat.
I was jetlagged, confused, and pondering whether I could pass the whole three months without ever crossing the road, when I saw a man propped up in the corner asleep.
Since he was wearing a shirt befitting a lumberjack, I smugly surmised that he was some kind of American Rip Van Winkel, and thought no more.
Skip forward, and Chad became a fabulous companion to traipse the streets of downtown Amman, terrorise my nights with an assortment of items from the rubbish tips, and a valuable source of mirth.
However, his purpose in Jordan was less one of mirth and mischief, and more of a humanitarian nature.
As a member of No More Victims, Chad was in Jordan to meet with seven year-old Abdul Hakeem and his father, Ismael, and guide them through the complex and time-consuming visa process, after which Abdul Hakeem would receive crucial surgery for injuries sustained during a mortar attack in his home town of Fallujah, Iraq, on 9 April, 2004.
At the time, Abdul Hakeem and his family were asleep at home when the mortar rounds fired by US forces rained down on their home.
While his older brother and sister were injured, his mother, who was 8 months pregnant, suffered abdominal and chest injuries and has since undergone five major operations.
Sadly, she lost her baby when the mortar shrapnel tore her abdomen open and punctured the child’s body; despite the circumstances, the family was refused compensation by the US Forces for causing a death in the family, as “it was just a fetus”.
Indubitably, this stance is at odds with that advocated by the outgoing President Bush, who bases his argument against abortion and stem cell research on the premise that life begins at conception and “We must continue to work for a culture of life where the strong protect the weak and where we recognize in every human life the image of our creator”.
Moreover, since US forces did not permit ambulances to transport civilian casualties to the hospital – instead, they fired on ambulances – a neighbor volunteered to take the family to the hospital, where doctors estimated Abdul Hakeem’s chances of survival at 5%.
As the number of causalities increased, the doctors laid his unconscious body aside and treated other civilian casualties whose chances of survival appeared higher.
In March 2005, No More Victims learned of Abdul Hakeem’s plight, and sent his medical reports to Dan Kovalik, an attorney with the United Steelworkers.
He then contacted local doctors, including oculoplastic surgeon Dr. Toni Stefko, who immediately volunteered to help, while Ray Tye, a Massachusetts philanthropist, donated $50,000 toward hospital costs, and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh met the remainder.
During his stay in Jordan, Abdul Hakeem was a little miracle: despite the trauma that he has experienced, he would nonetheless fill the large common room with his squealing laughter while watching movies, or scream in delight as Chad wheeled him around over his head.
When we talk about courage, it is people like Abdul Hakeem that epitomise the true sense of the word; to meet a child so young, yet so brave is incredible and renders all else in the world insignificant.
As Iraq’s infrastructure continues to collapse, it is organizations such as No More Victims that provide vital assistance and hope to countless children and medical professionals affected by the conflict.
Through grassroots community projects in America, children have received life-changing medical treatment in Los Angeles, Houston, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Greenville, South Carolina.
High school and college students have raised funds to deliver wheel chairs, medical equipment, medical supplies, clinics generators, space heaters, educational supplies, in-home tutoring and a plethora of forms of relief to Iraqi families with war-injured children.
Almost a year later, Chad passed on a video of Abdul Hakeem; to say I was amazed would be an understatement, for the change in Abdul Hakeem was astounding, and entirely due to the miracle of not only medicine, but of human kindness.
If we want to find heroes for our times, it is to the organizers, supporters, and children engaged in programs such as No More Victims that we should look.