Into the Community
by Major Ted Horwood and Captain Elizabeth Hayward
WE would love to say the transition from emergency support to the World Food Programme to a community rehabilitation and development initiative was seamless and deliberate. As we reflect back now though, there was an awkward tension: anxiety about the future and a peace that we should be part of it somehow.
Our mandate was to ascertain if the Army should stay in Iraq and, if so, what should be done. What followed was a frenetic visit to all the centres of operation to conduct a needs assessment based on local capacity and community concerns. Interviews with local residents, Salvation Army and other NGO staff and military personnel all fed into a general impression of how The Salvation Army could contribute to the future of Iraq.
It became clear during our visits with local residents that the education system in Iraq was a point of pride prior to the first conflict in 1990-91. But, as frequently happens, reduced family income and stress resulted in children being withdrawn from school. Consequently, schools were in disrepair and the teachers were often not paid. What had been a strength of Iraqi society had become a broken system of unmet needs. We also realised that if the schools could regain their prominence in society not only would the Army be affecting childhood educational concerns, but the schools could be a conduit of community strength for adults as well.
We returned to International Headquarters with a proposal to refurbish six schools in Al-Amarah and, if that were successful, a further six in Al Kut. In the event we refurbished around 50 schools and undertook a huge range of other programmes too. Our vision had been myopic and more was achieved than we even imagined.