Written by Phyllis Richards
BAGHDAD—An 'All Our Children' coordinator reported today on the first performance of the children's theater project in Iraq's only institute for the autistic. The institute's director said, "I saw something spark in the children I haven't seen in five years," the entire length of her tenure. Affectless children laughed for the first time. A child who would never approach strangers eagerly went to the actors. The staff was also electrified.
A consortium of humanitarian agencies, supported by One Great Hour of Sharing, All Our Children hopes to mount up to thirty performances. The second is scheduled this week at a school for the deaf and mute, and representatives of two Iraqi ministries have asked to attend. A second performance is being planned for the autistic students in a larger venue where parents can attend along with thirteen of the usual forty children, who were absent due to rain, which is greeted cautiously, much like snow in the West.
The live theater group plans to travel to Iraqi children in hospitals, orphanages, refugee camps and in poor neighborhoods. The goal is to improve the emotional health of these children who are disabled, fearful, anxious and depressed, their childhoods lost amid war, looting and insecurity.
With the grant supplied by All Our Children, Iraqi theater professionals produce two plays: "Love" and "The Neighborhood's Tree." "Love" tells about two cats that decide to resolve their differences peacefully rather than by fighting. "The Neighborhood's Tree" is about children who save a tree from being cut down. The plays are performed on rented wooden platforms in institutions and in outdoor areas. After each performance, the actors and children meet to share a snack—fruit, biscuits and tea—and to discuss the play.
Also, Beds in Mosul
In another recent 'All Our Children' project, funds bought 100 metal bed frames and mattresses.
Two or three children used to share each bed in Mosul's two pediatric hospitals. Germs spread quickly in these crowded conditions, and children had trouble getting the rest they needed to recuperate.
All Our Children was founded by Church World Service and others in March 2003. CWS has worked for over a decade in Iraq and knew that humanitarian needs, particularly those of children, would be intensified with the conflict in the country.
To date, the project has made deliveries of medical supplies to hospitals; deliveries of fresh food and books to orphanages; distributed relief kits; supported the repair of water systems; and supplied health clinics with hygiene supplies.
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