Baghdad – Yalla
It took Haidar Al-Alewi and a group of young men from Amarah (in southeastern Iraq’s Maysan province) 4 hours to travel the 372 kilometers to meet 25 orphans from Sadr City in Baghdad, as part of the humanitarian project he calls Joy of Iraq’s Orphans. Haider wants to expand JOIO to cover all of Iraq, a dream which has drawn criticism from people who want him to finish his commitment to the orphans of Maysan before heading to other areas.
The activist is president of a small humanitarian organisation named Al Farqadayn, describes his project as for all Iraqis: “My goal is to work within a space that is not dictated by geographical lines, as we aim to reach all the orphans in Iraq, and help them achieve happiness, without being hindered by latitudes or longitudes.”
Al-Farqadayn employs the efforts of Amarah’s youth to assist the city’s orphans and underprivileged. Encouraged by their success, the young men and women decided to take their project beyond Maysan, to work with orphans in Baghdad.
In Baghdad they teamed up with fellow activist Roua Al-Zubaydi. “I got to know Haidar after he contacted me through Facebook. We exchanged messages and agreed to work together. Now, we are in stage one of the project,” Roua told Yalla. “The original plan was to arrange a party for 25 orphans of martyred PMF fighters from Sadr City. We then decided to expand our work and take it to other cities like Ramadi, Salahadin and even Mosul.”
In Sadr City, the kids received haircuts and new clothes. After an hour of hard work, all 25 of them were ready to party, and the team took them to a floating restaurant on the Tigris.
One volunteer from Kut, Hannan Al-Rubaiy, says: “I cannot describe how happy I am to see these children dance and jump for joy. I am happy about what we did for these children, but their happiness is even more important.”
In a corner, artist Mohammed face-paints the kids’ cheeks. He’s a popular guy, with a long line of expectant children. “I have been bringing some happiness to children for two years now, but working with orphans comes with a double dose of emotions, happy and sad. Seeing the sad face of an orphan breaks my heart, but seeing the joy they get out of having their faces painted makes up for all the sadness.”
Haidar agrees: “You cannot celebrate with children without painting their faces, as you get to literally paint a smile on them.” A three-year-old boy at the back of the line pipes up: “I want my face painted.” He starts crying, which helps him skip to the front of the line.
The final activity is a trip to the amusement park, tickets paid for by Al-Farqadayn, with help from Roua Al-Zubaidy: “We got the managers to give us a discount on the price of food and game tickets and Al-Farqadayn paid the rest. In the end, we have made the children happy today, and an orphan’s joy is one that nothing can match.”