Recently, I promised myself to never again use the phrase, “this has been a challenging year.” Responding to emergencies is what IOCC does. Over the last 16 years we have built networks and strategic partnerships giving us a unique ability to respond to emergencies and to use them as a platform for the long term development programs that bring about true self-sufficiency.
I think of our staff working in the Caucasus. They are some of IOCC’s longest serving veterans, and, once again, we are asking them to organize the programs that provide emergency supplies to thousands of displaced families while continuing our long term projects such as training farmers in southern Georgia in better farming techniques, and clergy and public school teachers in Tbilisi to prevent drug abuse among students. IOCC recently received a $200,000 grant from the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) that will expand our work to provide food and hygiene supplies to displaced families in the Tbilisi and Gori areas.
My recent visit to the isolated enclaves of Kosovo with former NBA players Vlade Divac and Dragon Tarlac also comes to mind. We visited the agricultural and infrastructure repair programs that IOCC is implementing in Kosovo, and we had a chance to bring some joy to children living under very stressful conditions. I recall the excitement of school children as they were greeted by these larger-than-life NBA stars who came with gifts of sports equipment and encouraging words. One little boy cried, “this is better than my birthday.” I promised myself then that if these children can still find renewed energy and joy in life when they live under such restricted movement, we owe it to them to never get tired of our work.
I invite you now to renew your commitment to stand with us as we serve those who are struggling with all the challenges that this year has brought — hurricanes, floods, and conflicts.
Constantine M. Triantafilou
Executive Director and CEO
IOCC’s successful Iraqi refugee program in Syria has just received its fourth contract with the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration (BPRM). The contract, worth $2 million, will benefit nearly 62,000 Iraqi refugees and disadvantaged Syrians with a variety of assistance including school tuition, school and hygiene kits, teaching materials, summer courses, vocational training courses, and housing supplies such as bedding, kitchen sets and infant support kits.
IOCC delivered 20 pallets of hygiene kits and medical supplies to local area hospitals and shelters and also sent its “Frontline”, a team of Orthodox clergy who are trained in Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM), to Galveston, Texas to help residents who were affected by Hurricane Ike. IOCC decided on this course of action after American Red Cross officials reported that shelters are completely full and invited IOCC to provide trauma counselors for those shelters. Earlier this year, IOCC completed training for 40 Orthodox clergy in CISM at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary in Boston and at St. Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center in San Francisco. IOCC will continue to send its Frontliners to American Red Cross shelters in Houston and Galveston for the ongoing relief efforts.
Since 2006, IOCC has delivered seven medical shipments worth nearly $5 million to Zimbabwe’s beleaguered hospitals. Zimbabwe, which is facing complete chaos in its financial system, has the highest inflation rate in the world. In September, IOCC delivered three shipments of medical supplies, pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs to the Luisa Guidotti Hospital in Mutoko. The shipments, worth a total of $2.2 million, included bath equipment for the disabled, dentist stools, walkers, cervical traction devices, antibiotics, and a number of pharmaceuticals including those that treat high blood pressure, sleep disorders, allergies, and a variety of infections. The pharmaceuticals will be used by Park Town Clinic in Harare which is supported by the Orthodox Church of Zimbabwe. The shipments were supplied by Medical Teams International (MTI) and Brother’s Brother Foundation. The Robert Bazzoni Onlus Foundation and IOCC paid the acquisition and shipping costs.