Thursday, June 2, 2011


It seems like forever since I have posted on my bog - but we have had some frustrating times over the past few months. It seems that once Tahseen delivered the supplies, they were put into a warehouse until the seniors were moved into a new building. Well, they were relocated 3 months later but there was no evidence of our donated items being taken there. Tahseen fought many battles trying to accomplish this but had no luck. This is when that "God kissed" phrase comes in.

Out of the blue, I get an email from a Maureen McLuckie from Great Britain. Maureen is the Coordinator-Administrator/volunteer of The Kurdistan Childrens fund ~~ ~~. Maureen had seen the quilts on the childrens beds and when she asked where they came from - was told that some lady from American came and brought them. She set upon a Google search with quilts/afghanistan and found my blog and email !! How great is that !! When I received her email, I was out of breath with gratitude and surprise! I knew this marvelous lady was going to be our answer to getting this mission accomplished !

Miss Maureen was determined to help me out once I explained my plight - and as you will witness by our latest pictures, the new pillows, mattresses and seniors aids (walkers) are now at the seniors home and in use! Tahseen asked if they liked their new things and the answer was quick and postive !!

I can't thank Maureen enough for her perserverence in helping me accomplish this mission. She was truly God-sent.

Please enjoy the photos and see the quilts!! mattresses !! pillows !! walker !! all thanks to my many donors who helped my with this ministry !! May God bless you all for your generosity and kindness.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


As you can see ~~ I said "had". The dream has become a reality! I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart who donated money to help me see these seniors enjoy a newfound comfort in their sleep! And a huge thank you once again to Tahseen (my Kurdish son) who helps make things happen for us! Once I wired the money to Tahseen, he was able to meet with the Directorate and advise them that we had mattresses, pillows and walkers for the seniors. He took the time, with the help of his lovely wife Ashne, to go and purchase the pillows, mattresses and walkers. We had a little extra money left over and so he bought special toilet risers and will buy two adjustable walkers. My dear friend Dolores in Sun City West, Arizona has wheelchairs, walkers and canes just waiting to make their way to Sulymaniyah as well. Once I arrive in Phoenix in two weeks, she and I will be working on a way to get them to Kuwait via an APO - military postal service and then on to Suly ! I have added a slide show of the mattresses and pillows being purchased, accounted for and made ready for delivery!! Thank you, Thank you !

Friday, May 21, 2010


I continue to attempt the fund-raising in order to have enough money to buy the mattresses for my seniors. Tahseen tells me that it has increased to 45. Some of the seniors suffer from illnesses and have little medicine to give them relief. It is just a sad situation. If you can find it in your heart to help out, please send me an email to The total is getting close - but not quite there yet!

In the meantime, please have a look at the pictures that Tahseen took and emailed me last week. It will depict the dire conditions that these dear seniors live in. Click on the picture and watch as a slideshow ... each picture has a caption - it tells a story.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The ongoing story --- The little 16 year old girl who had bad front teeth (Zhino) has been receiving dental care and will have a new smile by weeks end. We found out that her two front teeth were seriously infected and she needed a dental surgeon to do her repair work. A big thank you to Tahseen who is making all of this happen. He has some friends who are dentists and they are taking care of my Zhino. Joe and I sent her a package of art supplies to encourage her to continue with her sketching. She is such a fabulous artist!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


December 28 finally arrived and Joe and I left for Sulymaniyah which is the second largest city in Kurdistan, the northern province of Iraq. We travelled via Amman, Jordan and spent our first night there visiting friends.

December 29 was met with great anticipation. After two years, my dream of wrapping an orphan with a hand-made quilt was finally going to be realized.
Joe and I arrived in Suly on a cold and gloomy rainy day but it did nothing to dampen our spirits. My wonderful new friend Tahseen Taha was there to greet us with his good friend Karzan. What wonderful young men they are!

Let me tell you about Tahseen before continuing with my story. When I was having trouble contacting anyone at the Chamber of commerce in Suly, I decided to try emailing the chancellor at the American University of Iraq whom Joe had met in early 2008. Still, I received no response. I later found out he had relocated to Jeddah. After that, I tried “info” @ American University of Iraq. And finally I received a response – from Tahseen Taha. Ever since then, he has been my lifeline to the orphanages and their directors. As well, he has become a dear friend and refers to me as his Canadian Mom!! Of course, I now call him my Kurdish son! He has a wonderful heart and I was witness to just how wonderful during our time together in Suly.

Tahseen and Karzan drove us to our hotel and we had a short visit to discuss the plans for the next day.

On the morning of December 30, Tahseen arrived with all of the boxes and a wonderful driver. We drove to the first orphanage which was the boys orphanage. On the lower floor were the boys age 5-10 and the upper floor were the boys 11-18. The first things we handed out were teddy bears to the little boys – squishy, huggable teddy bears! You can see by the pictures how the children’s eyes lit up! What a heartwarming scene for us! Following that, they all formed a line and as I pulled a quilt from the box, they threw up their hands if they liked that particular quilt and would like to have it! It was so much fun to wrap that colorful little quilt around a child and embrace him with a big hug. Tahseen explained the red heart that is appliqu├ęd to each and every quilt. It means that the quilt was made with love and is given from one heart to another … that they can wrap their new quilt around themselves and know that they are wrapped in love! I watched the expressions on the children’s faces as he talked about the red heart and it was touching to see how the kids reacted facially. They knew they were receiving something very special – more than cotton and color!

After we gave them their quilts, it was time to give them a zip lock bag full of school supplies. These came from an organization called OIC – Operation Iraqi Children. This is an organization in the United States whose co-founders are the actor Gary Sinise and Laura Hillenbrand. They came to us via the humanitarian team of the U.S. Military. This humanitarian team was my savior because they were instrumental in transporting my 6 large boxes of quilts from Kuwait to Sulymaniyah. It would have cost a fortune to have them accompany us on Royal Jordanian Airlines! I am forever grateful to Ltd. Herrera and Chief Hall for their support and contribution to making this ministry a success!

After visiting with the little boys and looking at their bedrooms, we had a group picture and enjoyed a few final hugs. Then we were on our way upstairs to visit the teen boys. They were all waiting to see us with great anticipation!!

They were overjoyed to be receiving quilts that had themes of cars, basketballs and sports on them! Thank goodness we had lots of them!! Again, they showed their sensitive side (can they even have one after what horror stories they can tell?) when Tahseen told them the significance of the red heart. This truly seemed to mean a lot to these boys. Again, we handed out school supplies and had a fun group picture with lots of smiles and a few hugs (after all, these are teens!). The lady in the photo is a lovely, warm hearted lady who has worked at the orphanage for 30 years! Joe had met her two years ago when he visited the kids. She remembered him also.

We also found several boxes of flip-flops in the boxes of donated goods from the Humanitarian Team. We made sure every boy received a pair and all of the workers in the orphanage. Everyone was very appreciative.

In some of the other boxes from the Humanitarian Team, there were hand-made cotton bags – again full of school supplies. Inside these bags was a picture of a young boy from Tempe, Arizona. He had taken it upon himself to ask for donations of school supplies to send to the children of Iraq. His name is Taylor Lott and he is a member of the Boy Scouts of America. If I can locate him when I am in Arizona in the spring, I will go meet him and show him the pictures of the actual kids his school supplies went to!! Thank you Taylor for your kind and generous heart. You are an example of what small acts of kindness can do and how they can impact the lives of others.

It was time to leave and go meet the girls. They were about a 20 minute drive away. There weren’t as many in-house when we arrived. Several had gone to spend the holidays with extended family members. We did leave quilts and school supplies behind for them. We had a wonderful time with the 8 girls who were present. Four of them we found huddled in a small empty room with the exception of a small bench and a small tv. The caregiver introduced us to them and explained who we were. Eventually, the other girls came out of their rooms and we all gathered in the lobby of their orphanage. They dove into the teddy and doll box and made their selections. The colorful quilts that we had for the girls were so perfect! They were thrilled with their new blankets. Tahseen told them, once again, of the red hearts. And once again, they were touched by the story and significance. After handing them their new school supplies and sandals, we had a fun tour of their bedrooms. There are 3 – 5 beds per bedroom and all were very tidy. They older girls had posters of famous singers on their wall (so that seems to be the same the world over!) and the little girls has some cute pictures as well. Each bedroom was named after a flower and one was butterfly. There were two sisters here and we were told that they had two brothers in the boys orphanage. How I wish I had asked if they go to see their brothers. The oldest girl was an incredible artist. She showed us her sketches and we were so impressed that we will be sending Tahseen some art supplies for her. A talent such as that must be encouraged. As we were saying our goodbyes and preparing to leave, I mentioned this girl to Tahseen. He asked for some time to go see her work. He suggested that perhaps he can work with AUIS (the university) to get her some additional help. He came out with a sad, but true story. Beside her sketches, were several phrases but I couldn’t read them. Tahseen told me that they said how dark her days can be and she misses her mother so much. I wish I had spent more time visiting with her. My heart aches for her. I wonder what her sad story is. Four siblings in orphanages with one horrific story. I wanted to take them all home.
The little girl in pink in the picture above asked me to sit by her on her bed. She took my hand and pointed to the red appliqued heart on her quilt. She indicated to me that she had placed the heart close to where her heart is when she is laying in her bed. That little red heart meant so much to this sweet child. She understood its significance and believed that she was loved! How profound is that !! ??

We found that we had some quilts left after spending time with the children. Tahseen suggested we stop by the seniors home. He hadn’t been there and wanted to go see it. All I can say is how horrific it was. It made the kids orphanages look like the Holiday Inn! We entered and were introduced to the director of the orphanage. He told Tahseen that the building had been donated but not much had been done to it to make it very liveable. The seniors were sitting at a long table (the ladies on one side and the men on the other). They were eating rice and something else unidentifiable. Their hands were so cold as I reached over their shoulders to hold them. One little lady who couldn’t have been more than 70 pounds, was squatting down in front of a small kerosene heater – trying to get warm. As she looked up and saw Tahseen, she thought her son had come to visit her. Tahseen was so touched by this that he quickly squatted down, kissed her hand, touched it to his forehead and leaned forward and gave her a kiss on her forehead saying yes, mamma, your son is here. She wasn’t sound of mind and that scene will forever stay in my mind. It was so touching and gave the little old woman a moment of joy and peace I am sure.

We wandered back into the bedroom area of the ladies. There were many beds in a small room and two of these dear souls had to sleep in the hallway by the bathrooms which smelled terrible. There was absolutely NO dignity in their lives. As Tahseen said – they have been “thrown away” and no one cares about them.

Upon our return home, Joe came up with a wonderful idea to help these dear old people out a little more. He suggested “Seniors Helping Seniors” program. This would mean that seniors in our communities at home could have a fund raiser and we would hope to realize enough funds to buy some decent mattresses with rubberized mattress protectors. As well, some decent pillow and sheets. When we looked at the bed, they looked like they might fall onto the floor if it weren’t for some kind of spring or piece of wood to keep them from doing so. The sheets were almost unidentifiable as sheets.

As you read this letter and can find it in your hearts or seniors community to help out, please send us an email at and let us know of your plans.

As we drove away from the seniors home, we realized how lucky we were to have been born into a different situation. Tahseen was born and raised in Sulaymaniyah but has travelled and has a good lifestyle. He, Joe and I were very touched by the events of the day. We have all vowed to continue to make a difference in the lives of these children and seniors who have no one to call family.

I will continue to write letters to the children and Tahseen and his wife will read them. We are going to try to raise funds (I am happy to provide anyone a wonderful hand-made quilt to raffle off for fund-raising) so that they can get some English lessons and eventually communicate directly with us by computer. Anyone who has an old laptop that they aren’t using any more, please don’t throw it out, please keep it and we will arrange to have it shipped to Tahseen for the kids. I think it will be a fabulous incentive for them to learn English. Our teen artist has two front teeth that are in very bad shape. We are arranging for her to have them fixed. Even in her environment, we could see she was very self conscious of her teeth.

These small acts of love will profoundly impact the lives of these 50 children and the seniors.

I hope and pray that you have enjoyed this newsletter and I pray that you will act on it in some kind way to help us help these dear ones have a better life.

To quote Tahseen from an email to me yesterday - “I found something that gives me spiritual joy”. And friends – if you could have joined us this day – you too would have found a new way to spiritual joy!

Blessings ---- Alanna

For the pictures and updates, please add our blog to your “favorites”.

Friday, January 1, 2010


The dream came true this past few days! Joe and I arrived in Sulaymaniyah on the 29th of December. As gloomy as it was, our day started in a bright way when we were met by Tahseen who was our translator, host and new-found friend. His friend Karzan was our driver - another wonderful young man. On the morning of the 30th, Tahseen picked us up and off we went to the first orphanage - upstairs is where the older boys lived (age10-18 years of age), downstairs consisting of little ones, age 5-10. Talk about a heartwrenching time! But, boys will be boys and the excitement was catchy. My heart swelled with joy as I wrapped each little one (and teen) in a brightly colored, hand sewn quilt. Tahseen explained to them what the red heart on each quilt meant and they were very touched. We also presented each of them with a package of school supplies that came from the organization "OIC" - Operation Iraqi Children by Gary Sinese and Laura Hillenbrand (co-founders). These came through the U.S. Military Humanitarian Team (thank you LTC Herrera and Chief Hall). After pictures and hugs, we were off to the girls orphanage. There were only a few girls present when we arrived. It was a holiday time and most of them were at relatives for a few days. Again, we handed out teddy bears, quilts and school supplies. Lots of hugs too!! I will write a detailed newsletter about our two days in Suly and post it in the next day or so. Thank you to all who have helped me with this wonderful ministry. I have posted the pictures in a slideshow ... enjoy!! and let's continue to help these underprivileged kids.


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