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Rebuilding Iraq one stitch at a time

6 Feb 2008 | Gunnery Sgt. Jason J. Bortz

The rebuilding of Iraq is a slow and arduous process.

 Thankfully, Coalition Forces are not alone in this mission.

 Non Government Organizations (NGO) like the United States Agency International Development and the Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team (ePRT), which works with Regimental Combat Team 5, have programs in place that will help rebuild Iraq socially and economically. Programs range from business development to employment to community infrastructure.

 In the Al Qa’im region, the effects of these programs are already being felt.

 Three years ago, the kindergarten school in Husaybah, Iraq, was used by insurgents and subsequently suffered structural damages that left the children without a school. NGOs and the ePRT rebuilt the school, and children are once again attending classes.

 The region is gradually improving economically as well.

 Many residents of the Al Qa’im region have had difficulties getting and maintaining jobs. To help the locals find employment, NGOs and the ePRT established employment programs to help men and women learn job skills.

 For the women, sewing centers have been established in Husaybah and Ramanna, Iraq, to teach women a trade that they can use to earn an income.

 Women must apply for the two-month course that teaches basic sewing skills with a sewing machine. The Husaybah center alone has received more than 700 applications, and each class can hold 50 students. The course covers everything from sewing-machine safety to machine maintenance to actual sewing.

 “Many women come here with no sewing skills,” said Jamal Nasir, procurement manager with the Husaybah Sewing Center. “Many of them have lost their husbands and need a way to earn money.”

 Upon completing the course, students are given a sewing machine and are assisted with finding a job or starting their own sewing business.

 The men in Al Qa’im also have employment programs to help them find jobs.

 Vocational centers have been established that train men in a variety of skills such as masonry, electronics, welding, carpentry, plumbing and more. There is even a class that teaches basic computer skills. The classes vary in length and size and the age range is 17 to 25. Like the sewing centers, students are assisted in finding jobs upon completion of the courses.

 Some locals dream of opening their own business or expanding upon ones they have already started. Grants, not to be confused with loans, have been established to assist these entrepreneurs, and the grants range from $500 to $130,000.

 A new program in the region is also helping the locals by giving out loans.

 An Iraqi who wishes to rebuild his home or improve his business can now visit the Al Takadum Organization of Anbar. At Al Takadum, locals can receive loans up to $3,000. Since it was started in August 2007, Al Takadum has given more than 200 loans. When a loan is approved, a monthly payment is established to pay the money back.

 According to Ghazi Hammond Aftan, the manager for Al Takadum, all monthly payments have been made to date.

 Before Al Takadum was established, Iraqis in the region had no alternatives to get a loan.

 “I had an idea for a business,” said Al’ Laur Abd Mottar, a local who came to Al Takadum to get a loan.

 Mottar wanted to start a scrap metal business, but needed money to start it.

 “I had money, but not enough,” said Mottar, who was previously unemployed.

 Mottar got a loan for $3000 and now has a thriving business that supports his family, which includes eight children.

 Al Takadum also helped Saha Hamad Saleh.

 Saleh already owned a tire shop in Husaybah, but he wanted to purchase a computerized tire balancer. Islamic law forbids charging interest on a loan. Saleh went to Al Takadum with a request to purchase the tire balancer. Al Takadum purchased the tire balancer and sold it to Saleh for a profit. Saleh now has more customers than any other tire shop in town.

 It’s programs like these that are helping the Iraqi people transition into a better life for themselves and their country.

 “(USAID) fixed a lot of things and gave us many solutions,” said Ghazi, who also serves as the director of education in Husaybah. “We have freedom right now; we help each other rebuild this (region).”