Once again, IOCC finds itself thrust into emergency mode. Since August 13, we have assisted thousands of individuals who were uprooted from their homes due to the conflict that broke out between Russia and Georgia. Some fled to Tbilisi and other Georgian cities; others took shelter in the Russian Federation. IOCC mobilized its Tbilisi and Moscow offices – and with the assistance of the Russian and Georgian Orthodox Churches – supplied thousands with emergency food and hygiene items. I want to commend Gregory Manzuk, former head of office for IOCC Georgia and IOCC Bosnia, who made himself available to help coordinate our response.
Russia and Georgia have been two very important IOCC countries. Russia was our first humanitarian mission in 1992 and also benefitted from our massive food aid programs of the 1990s. Georgia has had an IOCC presence since 1994 and showcases some of our best development programs with hundreds of public schools repaired and thousands of farmers and small business people assisted with micro loans. Imagine our sadness then at seeing these two nations come into conflict. We join our prayers to those of His Holiness Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and His Holiness Ilia II, Patriarch-Catholics of Georgia, and call for peace, reconciliation, comfort for those who suffer, and eternal rest for those who perished.
Over the last ten years both Russia and Georgia have been resurgent, each in their own way. Russia has become wealthy from its gas and oil industries and has found its place again as a world power. Georgia has made many strides with more investment, better infrastructure, a burgeoning tourism industry, and a genuine civil society.
With this latest conflict, my fear is that the clock has been turned back on that progress. We are waiting now for a complete picture of how much damage has been sustained in both Georgia and South Ossetia.
I believe that those who have suffered from this conflict can and will pick up the pieces. When people taste genuine self-sufficiency, progress and the ability to create and manage their own enterprises, it is very hard to turn back the clock. IOCC’s investment in Russia and Georgia has been long standing, and we will be there to help them begin to recover.
Constantine M. Triantafilou
Executive Director and CEO
IOCC has been developing new and innovative ways of assisting Greece’s Peloponnese region combat wildfires during its dry hot summers. Through a new $118,000 grant from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, IOCC will help the Fire Department of Pyrgos improve fire fighters’ safety and enhance their ability to effectively combat wildfires. IOCC will provide over 200 fire shelters and train its fire fighters on how to use the equipment. The fire shelters provide increased protection from radiant and convective heat and are used in wild land entrapment situations. IOCC has been assisting Peloponnese farmers since 2007 with supplies of animal feed and seed to replant grasslands in the wake of last summer’s wildfires.
The nearly 1.5 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria continue to struggle with few opportunities for schooling and employment. IOCC has been addressing the situation of Iraqi refugees with two programs funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration (BPRM). BPRM recently awarded a third contract worth $1.8 million for IOCC to continue to provide vocational training for an additional 800 young people in such areas as hair-styling, car repair, cell phone repair, sewing and computer skills. In addition, mothers will receive workshop training in mine risk reduction (to assist those refugees who return to areas in Iraq that have unexploded ordinance).
Jordan, a desert country that borders Syria, the Holy Land, and Saudi Arabia, has a population of about 6 million people. An ancient land known to be a crossroads for a number of civilizations, it has stunning ancient ruins including the complex of Petra, a popular tourist site. The country has few natural resources and struggles to provide its population with enough water. As part of its general expansion into the Middle East, IOCC opened an office in the capital of Amman in 2005. Since then, IOCC has provided millions of dollars of donated medical supplies, school books, sewing machines, blankets and supplies for infants.
It had not rained in the Denver area for most of the summer, but on August 16th, the day of the Denver IOCC Metropolitan Committee’s 5th annual Bike Ride/Walk, the heavens opened with torrential rain and cold temperatures. Nevertheless, 41 hearty IOCC supporters donned their windbreakers and gathered at the E.B. Rains Memorial Park in Northglenn and raised more than $6,000 for IOCC. The pan Orthodox event featured clergy and parishioners from four area churches, including parishioners from Colorado Springs, nearly 70 miles away. IOCC thanks them and all our Metropolitan Committees who hold these events to spread the word and support for IOCC.