Kalamazoo dinner helps Iraqis rebuild

Feb 28, 2013

Food distribution in Basra
Credit Haider Alsaedy / Iraqi Health Now
Middle Eastern restaurants in Kalamazoo are catering a dinner Friday, March 1st, to help send aid to people in Iraq. It starts at 6 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 321 South Street, in downtown Kalamazoo. The money raised will support the group Iraqi Health Now that has been sending money and supplies needed in Basra in southern Iraq since 2006. The project was the idea of Haider Alsaedy, who came to Kalamazoo from Iraq in 1991. He wanted to help people in his hometown recover from the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the insurgency that followed.  

At first the group sent donated walkers, wheelchairs, crutches and other supplies in boxes and later in large shipping containers. But Iraqi Health Now Project Coordinator Kathy Murphy says that ran into problems caused by bribery and corruption. So now it raises money in Kalamazoo that Alsaedy takes to Iraq every year to buy food, clothing, and other supplies needed in Basra.

 People at Friday’s seventh annual “Friendship Dinner” will also get to watch a short video about Iraqi Health Now’s work in Basra in 2012. 

     Murphy says conditions in Basra, and Iraq generally, are still very bad. She says less than 30 percent of Iraqis have access to clean water and electricity is on only a few hours each day. Unemployment rates are extremely high, especially for young men and women, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.  Murphy says Iraqi Health Now helped about 100 families in the Basra area last year. That number is very small, given the needs of the community, but Murphy says the project is having an impact. 
Kathy Murphy: There is an area in Iraq where people really feel good about the fact that there are people in Kalamazoo who have helped them, so we are really building a relationship that is pretty much priceless
Credit Haider Alsaedy / Iraqi Health Now

Iraqi Health Now works with the NGO Healing the Children-Michigan/Ohio to get aid to Iraq. Murphy says public interest in the project has slipped a bit since American forces pulled out of Iraq but still remains strong. She hopes to travel to Basra in the next couple of years to meet the Iraqis that have been involved in the effort. 

  Reservations for the “Friendship Dinner” are strongly recommended. RSVP by calling (269) 657-5266. Tickets cost $15 per person; $7 for students and kids under 12.