Sunday, April 27, 2008



Our friends over at 963 Coffee have started this wonderful business to facilitate the fair trade of coffee so that you get your daily Joe and coffee farmers get their fair share of what would otherwise be a $5 cup of coffee. Instead of beans on the dollars, they get a fair wage, good working conditions, the right to organize themselves into unions, and a host of other benefits not afforded by other coffee companies.

In addition to what is already a great product, the 963 Coffee guys have set up an affiliate program through which all of your purchases made by linking from this blog, "Can Of Worms," will go into an account with the Buy Shoes. Save Lives. name on it. Buying coffee and helping South Americans and Africans will now fund heart surgeries for Iraqi kids!

Here's our coffee campaign: We get 40% of sales from the store through this affiliate program. If you buy 10 bags of coffee for $10 each children in Iraq will receive $40 of your purchase.

If you are an addict, I recommend you sign up for the Monthly Obsession (like a subscription to coffee!). If we get 63 friends signed up for 2 bags of coffee a month, that would be $6,000 to children in Iraq in one year alone! That's an entire heart surgery funded by drinking coffee!

So forgo your Starbucks today and drink some 963 Coffee instead.


hate will get you every time

I've been listening to a song over and over again, called "Always Love" by Nada Surf. It's catchy and the chorus says "always love...hate will get you every time." I've been listening to it, not because I've been overflowing with love lately but because I've really been struggling to love.

This struggle wouldn't be as annoying if one of our slogans wasn't "Preemptive Love." I love that phrase when I can apply it to other people...just not me.

Last night a friend called and told me that some fundamentalists have been finding out about these Iraqi children that are being sent out of Iraq to be operated on by Jewish Doctors. This isn't a good thing. A "Grand Sheikh" in Iraq has written an article condemning Israel, their heart surgeons and anybody who is helping send children there. In this Arabic letter, that was read on television and posted on several extremist internet sites, he not only condemns sending children to Israel for heart surgery, but he rightly questions why no other Arab countries are helping these children. It's almost as if he's dumbfounded by the fact that Arab governments aren't taking care of their own children...and that Israel's doing it for them.

One of his main points against sending children to Israel for life saving treatment is that, God forbid, it "may lead to children or their parents loving the enemy." It would be better to have your children die walking to school from heart failure, rather than be saved by an enemy. It would be better to not live to be four years old rather than learn to love at five.

Already, families of these children have been harassed and people have tried to kidnap them. Remember them....May they learn to love. May they not give into cowardly hate or be intimidated to not seek help for their children. May they love...and be blessed with new hearts.

It's still said...hate your enemies or die loving them.

Always Love. Hate will get you every time. Always love.

24 Days.

That's how many more days I'll be in Iraq.

It's crazy how fast a year has gone by. I remember thinking a year is such a long time but now that it's coming to a close, it seems like things were just getting started. These past few days have been extremely busy with work and relationships here. We're working harder than ever on shoes and developing the business along with our non-profit back in the States. It feels like there have been visitors out here every week, wanting to find out more about the business, more about these kids, and more about how they can help out.

Last week, "Brother's Together", our partners in Jordan came out to visit and we sat down for several hours talking about how we can continue to work together to help more kids. It was an incredibly encouraging time as we strengthened those ties.

We also spent time talking with "Kurdistan Save the Children" and they're doing everything they can to continue to give more and more support for these kids as we continue to fund surgeries together. When I first arrived there was a list of over 700 children that were in need for heart surgery. Last week we found out it's gone from 700 to 2,800 children. They were hesitant to give us that number because they said most people hear that number and don't even bother to try and help because it's too overwhelming. It is.

We've continued to make more trips to the Iranian border to get more shoes. Last week we were entirely unsuccessful and ended up looking through hundreds of shoes without finding the ones we were looking for. On our way back we stopped by this small village because we had noticed a Klash store there before. We ended up finding some of the shoes we needed along with making a few new friends. The Klash maker said he's ready to help these children and before we could leave two doctors randomly walked into the store. They asked what we were doing and we told them. One of them said that there were 200 children in his village and in the area surrounding it that have heart disease but he has no way to help them.

So, work is busy. Spring's gone and the heat's here already. It seems like everything's been increasing lately.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

25 years ago my best friend was born. I'm so thankful that we've been able to live life together in Iraq and I can't wait to see what happens after all this. She's brought so much joy and blessings to people all over Iraq and all over the world.

I'm one of them. Happy Birthday're so loved.

Monday, April 7, 2008

past few weeks at a glance.

Here are a few images from these past couple weeks.

This is a gas mask I found in the Bazaar a few weeks ago. Initially I was trying to think of how it could be displayed as a piece of art but these pictures are all I've come up with so far. I love the symbolism of it all.

This is a piece of art that was created for our Preemptive Love art exhibition. This is the tail-end of a bomb that was used on Halabja. One side shows the faces of Kurds here and on the other side he painted several doves flying towards the top of the bomb. To him these doves were symbolic of the white Klash.

We're beginning to realize that on our internet site there's no pictures of girls in Klash! These pictures are hopefully just the beginning of some new images that will be on our site soon. These two girls are Kurds who are so passionate about helping out these kids. I went with them to buy their shoes and now they're wearing them all over. This is huge, considering no women here wear them. Needless to say, it's opening up lots of doors for them to talk about the cause and how they're doing it to save lives.

Last week we went to the border again to meet with Klash makers and bring back more shoes. It's a long trip there and back but we're beginning to love doing it. It gets us out of the city and into the homes of Kurds. This place is special for so many reasons, one being this is where the Klash was created.

This woman's sewing the top part of the Klash. This is the most time consuming part of making the shoe. In between serving the men in their home they sit down and sew for a few minutes at a time.

Our drive takes us right along these mountains before we start heading right into them. They're littered with large chunks cut out of their side so that Saddam's tanks could hide in them during the Iraq-Iran war.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Rock.

A few days ago a friend led me and some others on a five hour hike through a canyon about half an hour away. Most days we're stuck in the city and so any time somebody offers to take me out of it, I always jump on the opportunity.

Before I got here, I assumed Iraq was just a giant sand box. Down south that's true but up north it's more like a big box of dirt and rocks. Sand storms are formed in the south and then they hit our city after they've evolved from sand storms into dirt storms. Everything from my computer to my shoes in front of my house have a thin layer of dirt on them after just a few minutes. I guess that's made this hike in the mountains so special. Dirt's supposed to be walked on, not form a protective layer over all of your possessions.

We hiked for five hours through a descending canyon filled with dozens and dozens of waterfalls. I started to count them all but lost count after twenty. Some parts we had to swim to keep going while other parts we had to lower ourselves down by a long strip of "seat-belt material" our friend found in the Bazaar.

It was phenomenal.

Even though so many of the Kurds lived in the mountains for years, waged war from their mountain tops, gave birth to their children in its caves, and consider them their only loyal friends, it's amazing how much they avoid them when they're not required to be there. The idea of hiking for pleasure is ridiculous to them. To me, it seems ridiculous that these beautiful images were only a half an hour away and everybody's ignored them, including me.

At the end of five hours we walked out of the canyon and came upon this scene. Hundreds of Kurds were eating in this small valley, dancing and singing, and smoking their Hookas. They were enjoying the end result of all the waterfalls and sitting next to the stream while people rolled their cars into the middle of it to wash them. They all had their cameras out and were taking their traditional Kurdish pictures, which all look identical to your typical high school senior photos. When a bunch of sweaty foreigners emerged from the canyon, they quickly seized the opportunity and added us to their photo portfolios. Meanwhile, a shepherd came to the water at the same time, bringing his herd of cattle. People went from dancing to literally shoving these cows off their picnic blanket and away from their food, then quickly resuming their dancing. I felt like I was walking into a painting.

That whole day just reminded me of what a beautiful country Iraq is...and how beautiful its people are.