On this week’s episode of Truthdig Radio in collaboration with KPFK: the great Bill Moyers on the desperate state of our democracy, Nomi Prins on the scandalous IMF and Cole Miller on grass-roots philanthropy.
0:35 - Nomi Prins
7:09 - Cole Miller
21:20 - Bill Moyers
Click here to listen to the program or read the transcript.]]>
Updated: Friday, 06 May 2011, 7:31 AM EDT
Published : Thursday, 05 May 2011, 10:51 AM EDT
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Hamzah Al-Daeni has seen and lived through more than any 8-year-old should. In May 2008, he was playing in the yard of his family’s home in Iraq when an American missile landed nearby. He lost his leg, and several family members were killed.
“His house is right in the middle, between the American Army and (forces loyal to the opposition,”) said his translator, Shadia Kanaan. “He was almost caught in the crossfire, and so the American missile hit right in front of the house.”
But a local organization, Healing Children of Conflict , is trying to help. And for the first time, they’ve brought a child to the US, to Grand Rapids, for treatment.
“Initially there was one hospital in Iraq and they told him he had no chance of making it,” Kanaan told 24 Hour News 8. “So this is kind of a miracle.”
His father, Imad, was desperate to get help for his son. “(Imad) says the trauma, the experience of what happened to his son was so traumatic, and he was very angry at the American Army,” Kanaan said.
Though not independently confirmed by 24 Hour News 8, Healing Children of Conflict said the shrapnel that injured Hamzah came from a missile only used by US forces in Iraq.
Imad already sold their house and car, among other possessions, to help pay for medical bills. So he turned to the country he blamed for his son’s injuries.
He connected with Healing Children of Conflict, a Grand Rapids-based organization with a mission to help children seriously injured in conflicts involving the United States.
“For him to come here and see this humanitarian effort, it really changed his mind completely,” Kanaan said of Imad. “He’s seeing things from a completely different perspective. He’s actually very grateful for that.”
A welcoming ceremony took place Thursday at the Ronald McDonald House of West Michigan. Hamzah will be in Grand Rapids for several weeks for treatment and to be fitted with a prosthetic leg.]]>
Three years ago, Salee Allawi was playing outside her home in Fallujah, Iraq, when a missile hit. The explosion killed her brother and injured her legs so seriously that they were amputated below the knees.
On Sept. 19, Salee traveled with her father, Hussein Feras, from Los Angeles — where she is spending the month to break in her new prosthetic legs — to the Peninsula to meet Lexi Mooneyham, a Carmel Valley girl who raised $600 to help pay for Salee’s travels to the United States.
“Meeting her was like a dream come true,” Lexi said. “It was reassuring to know that all those efforts I was doing were going to a great cause, that I helped someone and to see the effects of that.”
The money Lexi raised was a small portion of the $15,000 to $20,000 it costs to bring an Iraqi child to the United States for medical treatment. But to the directors of No More Victims, the Los Angeles-based organization for which Lexi raises money to help Iraqi children, her contribution extends beyond the amount she raised.
“We’re really grateful to Lexi for helping with Salee’s experience,” said Cole Miller, the founder of No More Victims. “She was so proactive. She put these (fundraising) ideas together herself, she implemented them and provided encouragement.”
No More Victims, which focuses on helping children injured in war, has brought 10 Iraqi children to the United States to be fitted with prosthetics to replace limbs they lost as a result of American military action.
Miller said that because of Lexi’s efforts, he felt she should meet the Iraqi girl she helped — and that Salee should meet the person who helped her. So he and his wife, Anne Miller, who helps run the organization, drove Salee and her father up the coast.
Salee and Lexi only had about 24 hours with each other, but they seemed to make the most of their time. They bonded despite a language barrier — Salee speaks Arabic, but very little English.
Lexi and her friend, Lindsay, took Salee to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where Salee saw an underwater world very different from the war-torn desert she calls home.
“Life is so beautiful here,” Salee said through a translator. “When I heard the sound of the ocean, it reminded me of the sound of my friends laughing when we played.”
Salee said she misses her friends in Baghdad, where she grew up before her family fled the violence in Iraq’s capital and moved to the Fallujah region. She joked that she wished to make young friends in California because she has been spending all her time with “old people.”
She made a friend last weekend, in a meeting that was six months in the making.
In March, Lexi was perusing the Internet, searching for “an organization to help with something in the big picture,” she said.
“After reading some of the kids’ stories, I was totally hooked,” she said.
She contacted No More Victims and was told about a girl who needed new prosthetic legs because she had outgrown the ones she received as a 10-year-old. Lexi recruited three of her friends to help sell friendship bracelets for $2 each at school and at Sunshine Sports in Monterey.
Lexi “has been so dedicated to her work,” Anne Miller said. “She amazes me with her maturity, her dedication and her sense of responsibility.”
Speaking through a translator, Feras told the story of the day Salee lost both legs, his other daughter lost one leg and his 12-year-old son was killed.
Feras said he was drinking tea and talking about the war with friends when they heard explosions from airstrikes in the distance. He called to his children to come in the house because he was worried.
His children ignored their father’s plea, saying to him, “We are used to hearing these explosions.”
Moments later, Feras’ family was changed forever.
“Suddenly, there is a big explosion (near) where we are sitting,” he said.
Feras stumbled out of the smoke-filled room, covered in blood, to look for his children.
He saw Salee on the ground after she had been thrown about 15 feet by the explosion. Then he spotted his younger daughter, Rusul, who was 4 years old at the time. Her right foot and ankle had been mangled. They were later amputated.
Having spotted his two daughters, Feras turned his attention to finding his son, Akram. All he found was a piece of Akram’s shirt.
With no ambulance service available, Feras and some relatives drove Salee to the hospital. Salee had lost a lot of blood, and the hospital was short of her blood type, AB. Feras rushed out to the street, he said, waving down cars to ask the drivers if they were AB and, if so, if they would donate their blood for his daughter.
A message was sent to a local mosque about Salee’s situation, and from there word spread through the neighborhood. Within a few hours, 23 people had shown up, each ready to donate a pint of AB blood.
“We only needed 12″ pints, Feras said.
Feras is grateful for the people who drove to the hospital late at night in a city rocked by violence to give blood to a little girl they did not even know. He expressed a similar feeling of gratitude for the people of No More Victims, an organization Feras found out about through word of mouth.
“I couldn’t believe this organization came to help,” Feras said. “I couldn’t believe they came all this way to help my daughter.”
It is not lost on Feras that the people helping his daughter come from the same country as the people who hurt her.
“We blame the American government for what they did, but we receive help from the people,” Feras said. “Americans are really friendly, they are really helpful … We are the same people. It doesn’t matter if we are Americans or Iraqis.”
Lexi recognizes that it does matter, at least in one regard. Living on the Central Coast, she likely will never worry about facing the violence that devastated Salee and her family.
Salee “was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Lexi said. “Living here in America, and especially in Carmel Valley, I will never have to worry about a bomb getting dropped on my house.”
Lexi said she will continue to raise money for No More Victims, expanding her efforts to help other Iraqi children who have been injured and to raise awareness of the war’s impacts.
“I feel that as an American, it is the right thing to do,” she said.]]>
The Iraqi girl lost both legs in a missile strike, according to No More Victims, the group that arranged her trip. She captivated Greenville in 2007 with her courage and determination as she underwent surgery, then was fitted for the legs that let her walk and play again.
She was scheduled to return 12 to 18 months later for new legs to accommodate her growth, but No More Victims instead arranged for her treatment near its Los Angeles headquarters.
But because Salee and her father, Hussein, preferred the care they received in Greenville and felt at home here, local volunteers raised money to pay for their return visit, said Ann Miller, the group’s national community coordinator.
“The care (in Los Angeles) was good, but they’re just so much more comfortable with the team in Greenville,” Miller said. “They are so excited to be coming back.”
They arrived Tuesday, had a joyous reunion with locals who’ve befriended them and settled in at Ronald McDonald House, which is putting them up. On Wednesday, they were already at Shriners, where Salee’s care is provided for free.
Now 12, Salee’s not so little anymore. For the past six months, her first prosthetic legs have become quite painful as she has grown. That’s caused her to sit out activities she’d been participating in, interpreter George Maalouf said.
A new pair of legs is expected to remedy that.
“She’s gotten a lot longer life out of those prostheses than we typically get,” orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Westberry said as he examined Salee’s legs. “But she’s outgrown them.”
Salee also was seen by prosthetist Ed Skewes, who amused the giggling girl with his Donald Duck imitations while forming fiber glass molds for her new legs. They should be ready in about two weeks.
“It’s a real treat to be able to treat children from here and all over the world,” Skewes said. “I’m very happy to see them again.”
Decked out in a frilly black dress and sparkly, colorful bracelets for the occasion, Salee was clearly happy to be back with people she knows, too.
“They are so glad they ended up coming back here,” her father told Westberry through Maalouf. “They felt very strange in L.A. And they’re very grateful for your help and to the hospital.”]]>
JUNE 6, 2008: Noora and her father, Afif Abdulhameed Otaiwi, leave their hometown of Heet and travel to Amman, Jordan, the first leg of their journey to America.
JULY 10, 2008: Noora and her father arrive at the Portland Jetport, where they are greeted by a crowd of well-wishers.
JULY 15, 2008: Noora goes to Maine Medical Center for the first time for a CT scan to assess the extent of her head injury. Doctors are unable to find a usable vein because of the scar tissue she’s developed getting numerous IVs in Iraq, and the procedure is delayed for a few days.
AUG. 22, 2008: Noora receives a balloon implant to stretch her scalp so there will be enough skin to cover her artificial skull after it is attached.
DEC. 12, 2008: In a six-hour operation at Maine Med, the thigh graft that was placed over Noora’s wound by Iraqi doctors to protect her brain is removed. A prosthetic piece of skull custom-made for her head is then placed over her injury.
JAN. 19, 2009: The skin stretched over Noora’s new skull does not heal properly, so Noora’s plastic surgeon applies a product to encourage the growth of new skin.
FEB. 23, 2009: The product applied Jan. 19 doesn’t work, so doctors remove Noora’s prosthetic skull piece so that it can be sterilized. Three expandable balloons are placed under her scalp to make more skin over the next few weeks. The new skin will eventually be pulled over the wound.
MAY 4, 2009: In a three-hour operation, Noora’s prosthetic skull piece is successfully reinserted and her new skin is stretched over the plate, eliminating a large portion of the scar tissue on her head.
MAY 20, 2009: Noora gets approval from her doctors to go home to Iraq.
MAY 30, 2009: Friends throw a going-away party for Noora and her father at Fort Williams Park, one of their favorite places in Maine.
JUNE 4, 2009: Noora participates in a fashion-show fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House.
JUNE 6, 2009: Noora and her father fly to New York to begin their long journey home to Iraq.]]>
A seven-year-old girl is finally enjoying a long-awaited reunion with her mother and siblings, after spending nearly a year in Maine. Noora Abdulhameed and her father traveled to Portland for medical treatment to repair injuries she suffered during the war.
For the past year, NECN reporter Marnie MacLean and videographer Dave Brosemer have followed Noora’s progress. They bring you Noora’s journey.
July 2008, an Iraqi father and his injured daughter arrive in Maine. For Afef Otaiwi it is a leap of faith — bringing his daughter to the same country now fighting a war in his homeland.
His kind smile hides his fear.
We first meet Noora and Afef shortly after their arrival in Maine. Afef tells us about the day Noora was shot by a U.S. sniper as the family was driving home.
The bullet shattered Noora’s skull—she spent 10 days in a coma. Noora endured seven surgeries in Iraq–but doctors couldn’t replace the missing bone–leaving her brain vulnerable to permanent damage.
Her father says she keeps asking a question he cannot answer.
“She ask me all the time, why do American sniper shoot me? What I do?”
It has never been determined why soldiers targeted the vehicle. But concern for Noora’s health outweighs the family’s frustration — The group No More Victims helped bring Noora here for free medical care.
Though Noora doesn’t speak English, we find a way to communicate — through pictures.
Despite her ordeal, Noora is bright, happy and eager to learn as much as she can in her new, temporary home.
Helping her make that transition is Susi Eggenberger and her husband Doug Rogers—the Maine couple has offered to help Noora and Afef while they are here.
It’s a commitment they expect will last a few months. The Ronald McDonald house invited Noora and Afef to stay here, so they can be close to the hospital.
Soon, the doctor visits begin.
Two Maine surgeons have signed on for Noora’s care–plastic surgeon John Attwood sees a complicated case.
The decision is made to give Noora a prostethic skull…but she needs new, healthy skin to cover it. Dr. Attwood inserts balloons under Noora’s scalp and carefully injects them with saline every few days.
It is a slow process…..many weeks go by, but finally Dr. Attwood feels he has enough new skin to cover the prosthetic skull…her surgery is scheduled at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
Her nervous father walks the halls of the hospital. Susi Eggenberger is also nervous…evidence of the bond she already shares with the girl she has agreed to watch over.
The surgery goes well….but Dr. Attwood has a nagging feeling… perhaps he didn’t have enough new skin.
He was right….a section of skin never healed….and instead of going back to Iraq after several months….Noora would require more surgery and more time away from home.
Noora takes the bad news better than her father. When she’s not dealing with doctors, Noora is getting out and exploring Portland.
She meets new friends almost daily during her walks to a nearby playground. Susi is a constant companion…and Noora is happy to have all the attention.
She sings in Arabic…but her english is improving daily…..she can now understand what people say to her, I find out she’s a fellow Tom and Jerry fan.
While Noora has settled into her new life with ease…for her father–the medical setbacks mean more time away from his wife and other children.
And because he has been gone so long…Afef has lost his job as a history teacher—
The laptop is his lifeline…..using Skype, Afef can communicate with his wife Afra and three other children.
For Noora’s mother…it is a way to see her daughter is being well cared for— she even gets to approve Noora’s new holiday dress.
Weeks turn into months….and soon Noora is experiencing a real Maine winter…..tackling the snow with her usual good humor.
Inside, Afef shows us a photo of his newborn baby. He has missed his daughter’s birth…..another reminder of all that war has taken away from him.
Noora’s doctors know how much Afef wants to return home—and they feel that pressure to heal Noora–a second attempt to grow new skin for Noora’s head is more successful….and after enduring five surgeries here in Maine—Noora is finally cleared to return to Iraq.
At her going away party Noora gets to have one final playdate with her american friends…..the Hannah Montana t-shirt and Cheez Doodles show how much she has embraced the culture…..for better or worse.
But her impact on people here is more profound. Noora isn’t a number, or a statistic…she is the face of collateral damage.
An innocent victim who has fought hard to survive. She has endured so much…..yet retained a sense of joy. In her final days in Maine she even gets to strut her stuff on the runway at a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald house.
Noora says she will miss Maine…most of all the ocean… and knowing she is safe from harm.
Afef is hopeful conditions will improve in Iraq and he will be able to raise all of his children without the fear of losing them.
As Afef and Susi look through the scrapbook of their year in Maine….both find the moment bittersweet….
These two families, separated by culture, language and religion have found trust and true friendship–and they are deeply grateful to have been given that chance.
At the Portland Jetport there are final hugs.
Cheez doodles in hand, Noora begins the long trip back home …finally healed…and happy.
Noora will still require more surgeries in the future to try and restore some of the hair she has lost.]]>
Since late January, Harrison has been planning a fundraiser to help pay medical expenses for Noora Afif Abdulhameed, a 7-year-old Iraqi girl injured in the fighting in Iraq in 2006. She has been in Portland since last summer, receiving medical treatment for head injuries.
“I just wanted to help her,” Harrison said. “I understand that I am pretty lucky to live here and that other kids aren’t as lucky. I thought this would be a good way to give back.”
Harrison, along with Happy Wheels in Portland, will host two hours of skating at the rink on March 14. All proceeds will go to Noora’s cause and skate rentals are free during the event.
“I like to skate and I figured this is something others might want to do as well,” Harrison said.
Harrison learned about Noora’s plight after studying and reporting on the war in Iraq as part of a cultural studies project in his fifth-grade class at Breakwater School in Portland.
While doing research, he came across Noora’s story in a newspaper and decided to take his project a step further and raise money for her, said his mother, Elizabeth Campbell.
In October 2006, Noora, who was 5 at the time, was shot in the head by U.S. snipers. According to the advocacy Web site www.nomorevictims.org, Noora’s medical records show she had sustained an explosive bullet injury to her head that smashed skull bones and ruptured her cerebral membrane.
She underwent several neurological surgeries in Iraq, but members of nomorevictims.org brought her to Portland so she could undergo more surgery to repair her skull.
Harrison met Noora in February during school vacation. The visit, he said, strengthened his desire to help.
“In Iraq she didn’t always have electricity or clean water and that made me sad,” Harrison said. “I had fun getting to meet her and I can’t believe how well she speaks English.”
Harrison sought his mother’s help in his quest to aid Noora.
“He came to me and said he wanted to do this,” Campbell said. “I always knew he was a caring kid, but this isn’t something you really expect to come from a 10-year-old.”
Initially, Harrison thought he would raise some money through a bottle drive. Then, with his mom’s help, he began calling Greater Portland businesses to see if they would be interested in hosting an event to defray costs of Noora’s medical care.
Many businesses were interested in an arrangement where 25 percent of the proceeds would go to Noora’s cause.
That was good, but Harrison had another idea. He decided to call Happy Wheels in Portland, one of his favorite places to skate. He then got what he described as some of the best news of his life.
“They told me they would help and that they would donate all of the money from the event to Noora,” he said.
And so, on Saturday, March 14, Happy Wheels is going to do just that, manager Dan Dyer said. The fundraiser will go from 5:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. and admission is $4.50.
“We couldn’t believe they were donating all 100 percent of those proceeds to this cause,” Campbell said. “We were shocked.”
Dyer said Happy Wheels owner Paul White believes in fundraising causes that help children like Noora. To him, hosting the event was a no-brainer, Dyer said.
“We are just glad we can help,” Dyer said. “Paul White is big into giving back and we felt this one of the best ways we could do that.”
Harrison said he doesn’t have any monetary goal for the fundraiser, but said he hopes at least a few people will show up.
“Not everybody can be there and not everybody can skate,” Harrison said. “This allows them to still give if they want to.”
Noora is currently staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Portland and is scheduled for more surgery, Campbell said.
If people don’t skate or can’t make the event, they can still donate money to Noora’s cause by e-mailing Campbell at ecamp.main.rr.com, or calling her at 885-1373.]]>
In a University of California, San Francisco conference room, audiologist Colleen Polite switched on an electronic device that had been surgically inserted into Mustafa’s ear weeks ago.
After several tense minutes with no response, Mustafa stopped playing with his puzzle and buried his head in his father’s chest at the sound of Polite’s voice. Moments later, the sound of a clacking toy drew a stare and a frown from the otherwise cheery boy.
“I think he’s off to a fantastic start,” Polite said. “It was almost as if he read a script before he came in today.”
Mustafa was 2 years old and just learning to speak when a missile struck a neighbor’s home and left him deaf in June 2007.
He has not been able to talk since. His father, Ghazwan Al-Nadawi, said his son sometimes bangs his head in frustration over his inability to communicate.
No More Victims, a group that brings war-wounded Iraqi children to the U.S. for treatment, sponsored Mustafa’s trip to San Francisco in December. The next month, UCSF surgeons donating their services inserted a cochlear implant in his right ear.
The implant channels sound past damaged ears and directly into the brain. The device turns sounds transmitted through an external microphone mounted on the ear into electrical impulses that are fired into auditory nerves.
Over time, the area of the brain that manages hearing learns to translate those impulses. While the experience is not the same as normal hearing, patients can understand speech, use the telephone and listen to music, according to doctors.
Mustafa’s device even includes a jack that will allow him to directly connect his implant to an iPod.
Mustafa will need several months of observation to determine what sounds he is and is not hearing so the device can be fine-tuned, Polite said. He and his father, a professor of media studies at Baghdad University, expect to stay in San Francisco as the boy adjusts to the device.
The boy also will undergo intensive hearing and speech therapy at a San Francisco school to begin training his brain to adapt to the new signals.
“The younger that we can implant, the more malleable the brain to the input,” Polite said.
The explosion that took Mustafa’s hearing ripped through a neighbor’s home in Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, during the run-up to a major U.S. offensive against insurgents in the city.
Through a translator, Al-Nadawi said he hopes his son will soon be able to hear him and his mother speak. But there are other sounds he hopes Mustafa never hears again.
“Now that he can hear, will he hear more bombing and more bullets over his head?” Al-Nadawi said. “This is an unknown future for him.”]]>