After the key Iraqi city of Ramadi recently fell to the Islamic State, an influential New York Times best-selling author wrote a blog post describing the heart wrenching experiences that a group of Iraqi mothers went through to escape ISIS, and in doing so, has helped raise over $500,000 in three days that will assist displaced Iraqi children and families.
Ann Voskamp, who published her best-selling book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are in 2011, travelled to Iraq in March and talked with displaced mothers who are now living out of shipping containers since ISIS has taken over their land.
Voskamp, a 41-year-old Christian, learned about the awful experiences and tough choices those mothers had to make in order to flee from their communities to dodge the wrath of ISIS.
Shortly after Ramadi was seized by the Islamic State, Voskamp wrote of the stories the Iraqi mothers told her during her visit on her blog titled A Holy Experience last week. Among the atrocities the mothers faced, Voskamp explained that the mothers told her how they were forced to painfully choose which of their sons they could take with them in the getaway car and which sons they would be have to leave behind as ISIS was closing in on their towns.
In her blog post, Voskamp linked to the American nonprofit humanitarian organization called Preemptive Love, which is based out of Iraq and, among many other things, aims to put 22,000 Iraqi children back into school by this upcoming fall. Thanks to the blog post, Preemptive Love received over half a million dollars in donations in an astounding three-day span.
"Before Ann's post, interest in helping the people of Iraq had decreased dramatically. There was a sense that perhaps nothing could be done to combat ISIS and nothing could be done to address the suffering they've introduced to Iraq," Preemptive Love Executive Director, Jeremy Courtney, said in a statement provided to The Christian Post.
"Ann inspired and mobilized thousands of people from across the world to a greater vision — she reminded us all that the only way to drive out darkness is with light; the greatest weapon against hatred is love."
"Ann's passionate commitment to the children of Iraq who have suffered so much as a result of ISIS —and her commitment to helping Preemptive Love empower women and families across Iraq — is going to make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of people who are waiting for help to arrive," Courtney continued. "Ann is now at the forefront of our peacemaking movement, leading an entire generation of mothers to take seriously the responsibility to look at the darkness of ISIS, racism, bigotry, and fear, square in the eyes and choose to love anyway."
Preemptive Love, which originally started in 2007 as a group that provides heart surgery training to Iraqi doctors and nurses so that they can conduct lifesaving operations on the tens of thousands of Iraqi children in need of heart procedures, now has many other facets in which it aims to help displaced families escape from dependence on humanitarian aid and become self sufficient again.
In 2014, Courtney explained that the amount of donations that Preemptive Love received had decreased significantly and only amassed $1.6 million for the whole year. But thanks to Voskamp's blog post, the organization raised nearly a third of the 2014 donation total in less than a week.
"I had over $2,000,000 dollars worth of requests for urgent help sitting on my desk in Iraq before Ann published her passionate plea last week," Courtney further explained. "We now have some of the resources we need to keep pressing in, serving the needs of Iraqis who are stuck in no-man's land, on the run from ISIS, and looking to rebuild their lives."
In an online FAQ page, Courtney listed how the $500,000 that was recently donated will be put to use.
Preemptive Love will use between $100,000 and $150,000 to help put over 10,000 Iraqi kids back to school in the Baghdad region. According to Voskamp's blog post, 10 kids can be put back to school with just a $100 donation.
The organization is also working with the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church in Baghdad to authorize the construction of a school expansion that will allow for hundreds more children to be educated.
Additionally, the group has budgeted $10,000 for an emergency response team to help those families still fleeing from ISIS in Ramadi.
"There are 15 miles of people living in makeshift tents, cars and dwellings," Courtney wrote. "Most of the [humanitarian] aid stops at the first mile on the Baghdad site. We are negotiating with Iraqi security forces and militia leaders to get deeper into the territory to help those who are more in danger and less-reached."
Preemptive Love has also designated $10,000 in "empowerment business grants" to help women returning to the town of Diyala get back on their feet financially. Likewise, the group has designated about $8,000 to the mothers living in shipping containers that Voskamp wrote about in her blogpost. The money will help them start their own soap making business.
An additional $10,000 will be designated to authorize the "dispatch of lifesaving medicine to Diyala."
"The reason your hands are where they are in this world is to give other people in this world a hand," Voskamp said in a press statement. "I'm completely overwhelmed and grateful for the support of passionate readers and the larger committed community who have stood up together in solidarity to defy evil and crush hopelessness — who have decided in the face of this terror, to wage love — and have opened their hearts to help put an end to this suffering."