Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Vacation in Cairo...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Peace be upon you…
I am now in Egypt, on vacation with my son, who is studying here. I do not know how long I will stay; perhaps a month, perhaps less, but I need a rest after I have finished my work in the project where I used to work as a general coordinator between a Jordanian women’s organization and the High Commissary of Refugees in Jordan, (UNHCR).
I worked at the project for a year; this exhausted and depleted me, but I gained a big experience in working with non-governmental organizations; implementing programs, and writing monthly or annual reports- narrative or statistical reports.

Work is seldom free of disturbing or negative issues, but I think a person can come out with the best results, and move on his way challenging and smashing those issues, to carry out the project with the best required results, both on paper and on the ground.
Work demanded administrational, financial, and field tasks, and any project cannot succeed without an integration of these three items.
I used to follow up the receipts and expenditures closely, I used to check with our field coordinators in nine branches; raise the phone receiver to ask about an unsatisfactory bill, perhaps with a petty value, but I find it essential with employees to consolidate the notion that there is a supervision for them, so they wouldn’t allow themselves any transgression or deception, and that is something that can easily happen with the lack of monitoring.
Also there were the field visits to the branches to be carried out almost monthly, the periodical meeting for branch coordinators, almost monthly too. I mean after the monthly meeting of the coordinators, I used to carry out the visiting schedule to the branches, to see how much of the instructions was carried out, only to discover that a lot of them didn’t understand anything of the agenda discussed in the previous meeting; either for a lack of concentration from their side, negligence, or carelessness. There was only one coordinator out of the nine who was smart and active, and could comprehend the instructions quickly.
I don’t like the idea of dismissing any employee unless she committed a serious transgression; like a clear theft or a transgression against her colleagues so they would complain against her, or maybe a transgression against the Iraqis who are beneficiaries of the program. I usually prefer the method of giving notices, warnings, and a time limit to change the conduct, and usually, the results come out positive…
In general, I think my relations were good with most program employees, who were about 100, and especially with the serious, active ones, while my relations were tense with some of the inactive workers; I used to annoy them, and they thought I was a tyrant. They used to issue complaints against me to the organization’s manager, who was either a friend or a relative of theirs in most cases, and that was the reason they were so pampered. But I wouldn’t agree to change my mind, not because I was stubborn, but justice demands that I would be fair in evaluating the team of workers; regardless , they are Iraqis or non-Iraqis, relatives of the manager or not. I wanted everything to be done in a highly transparent, professional way- and that was the main issue that kept me anxious until the last day of work.
And I believe that I left my office with a high degree of satisfaction about the performance level, and about amending transgressions or corruption during the program’s implementation period… and this was a grace from God, and a blessing from Him alone….
Thank God…
Here in Cairo I don’t plan to go out in picnics or visit a museum, like I used to do in my previous visits. I don’t know why, but I feel the need to be alone, withdrawing from mingling with people… I decided to spend the days in organizing the house, cooking, and reading some books, until my son, Majed, returns from University in the evening.
I also will peruse completing some small projects by e-mails, through the Net, like sending water purifying sets to hospitals, clinics, or schools in Iraq, or collecting donations for a project to buy sewing machines for displaced women in various locations in Iraq, like Baquba, Al-Anbar, Karkook, the southern Marshlands,….
These projects remain with me even if I go on holiday, because I see them as a moral obligation I cannot give up, or throw behind my back. I cannot let down those poor people who need a helping hand to save them from the ordeal they face, to ease some of life’s burdens they are carrying, while they are away from their towns and homes, until things will settle down in all Iraqi areas, and every displaced family will go back to its original house to live a peaceful, safe life. This is a big dream that no Iraq-loving Iraqi will abandon, as much as I think…and believe.
I go back to talking about the year I spent, devoted in body and soul, to accomplish the Iraqi’s project in Jordan. At the beginning, I felt weak and like a stranger in the job’s atmosphere. The organization I worked for had a group of permanent employees, while I was appointed as a temporary worker to run the project. The clashes between me and them started after the first month, which we spend to submit courtesies towards each other.
I was learning the vocabulary of the project, little by little; I was evaluating the personalities of the employees around me, one by one. Then I discovered that the rules for them do not correspond with my own views, for several reasons I cannot describe, to keep the privacy of the work. And because I like the proverb that says- Do not throw stones into the well from which you drink. I do not like throwing stones at people, for this is a foolish, fruitless thing, and my experiences taught me to be very practical. The important thing is- what is the positive achievement we can accomplish in the middle of this chaos, and this corruption? This is always the question that keeps going in my mind.
I faced difficulties in finding compromises between my convictions and theirs, I gave them my resignation twice or three times, but each time I went back to work after a meeting with the manager, that usually ended in a sentence like: You are the head of the project, you stay in your position and do what you see fit, Do not quit!
And after each resignation I went back to work with new authorities, and with the will to be more powerful and determinate to complete the project according to my view; in a highly transparent, truthful, and professional way…
And now, after the work was finished, I sit alone to re-read the last year, and evaluate the experience, and I would like my evaluation to be far from stabbing at people or adulating them… for I did sit at the heart of meetings, and listened, debated, and saw how these organizations work, I came out with a perspective that can be general, or a mere personal opinion, but I would like to write it here so I wouldn’t forget it:
· The International Organizations employ new workers from foreign nationalities, but in truth they do not form any positive addition to improve performance in projects, except that their salaries deplete the donors budget. They attend the meetings so we would meet them and welcome them. Projects are devised according to the vision and conviction of those workers, who form the team of Senior workers. The local employees are usually under their leadership, and that’s an obvious mistake; the local employee should lead those, to give them an idea about what is going on in that country, and what the locals or refugee guests would need in projects and programs.
They invent programs that they like, programs that can drain the donor’s budget, while in truth they do not lead to improving either the refugees or the local beneficiaries’ conditions.
The true needs requested by the beneficiaries are usually overlooked, marginalized, or scorned, while priority is given to programs that the foreign worker fancies, like domestic violence or violence against children.
It was always my belief that domestic violence or violence against children is a result of the psychological frustration that the father or mother live through, these bad financial conditions the family faces; give them grant for small projects; give them the skills to find better jobs, and that will reduce the domestic violence and all the crap you are running after. But as usual- no one listens.
Implementing programs like distributing petty cash sums and simple free material aid, like heaters, blankets and detergents. The distribution of such items is carried out sometimes in a sudden, random and unjust procedure. This thing encourages people to be humiliated, to be greedy, and like to stand for long hours to receive a trivial aid; this is crushing the personalities of people going through an ordeal, not programs to empower their personalities and retrieve their self-confidence. On the contrary- it enhances the humiliated beggar inside their personality, and with the passing of time, their dignity will fall away and they will enjoy playing that silly role.
The monitoring is weak and insignificant on organizations playing the implementing partner role, because of the infrequent field visits, and being content by merely inspecting the records, while bills and activities can be forged, and no one can verify if the records contain a lot of false services that were never carried out. But who knows, and who can prove the opposite?
I discovered that even the international organizations that carry out implementing the programs in Jordan are not incorrupt, and that they also have corrupt workers, perhaps some of the locals. But as the manager is a foreigner, this proves to be a weakness point, because he has no thorough contact with the local society that would enable him to pursue the credibility of implementing the program, or the credibility of the filing system contents, ( the language can be a fundamental barrier sometimes).
I have seen projects being implemented, with tens of thousands of dollars being spent on them while they weren’t of real benefit to people, but rather it enhances in them the inclination to join in order to gain some profit, like giving high sums of cash money for transportation, or a free meal for every family member who attends that event. So, the women and children go, not because of the value of the activity or to gain skills but rather to receive materialistic benefits
On the other hand, the organization can present a false or incorrect documentation about the attendance number and deduct large amounts of money from the donor for every petty activity carried out, so, the whole thing became a pure commercial process; draw the beneficiaries by paying cash money and a meal, and give the financer the impression that the program is successful and the beneficiaries are in high numbers. That, alas, is a silly game in which the refugees foolishly participate without realizing that they are encouraging these organizations to steal and go on presenting false, meaningless services. But the statistic reports give a positive indication that this organization has large numbers of beneficiaries, and the financing goes on…
The same game is played by the local organizations; they employ local workers with high salaries, nearing- $ 1000; the employees are young, without experience or a high degree; they are usually relatives or friends of the organization’s manager. The refugees are treated cruelly and arrogantly by these workers- that’s according to the complaints I hear daily from the Iraqis who refer to those organizations. And when they need volunteers to work in the organizations, they hired Iraqi women with high university degrees and long experience, paying them token salaries ranging from $150-200, which would include, of course, the poor volunteer’s transportation expenses, when she will knock on doors to get information from Iraqi families to arrange a file for each family. This service is called (outreach service), then, the collected information schedules are presented to the High Commissary. sometimes I have noticed that the expenses of some of these organization’s activities, like the International Refugees Day, are presented like this:
- Showing a film to the women; movie theater & monitor charge: …. The cost is a few hundred dollars.
- A lecture; the stationery & lecture hall charge: …. A few hundred dollars.
- Toys & face painting for children; paint charges & other items: …. A few hundred dollars.
- Serving sandwiches for the women and children:…. A few hundred dollars.
And the result after that celebration for one day was: $5000! By God I saw this last year by my own eyes. The question is: what did this activity add to the refugees?
Give me now $5000 to buy medicines for refugees or displaced families… to buy sewing machines for refugee or displaced women to sew clothes for their children… to buy water purifying systems for refugee or displaced people to drink clean water… to repair the windows, walls, doors, classrooms, chairs and desks of a school in a remote Iraqi village that has hundreds of poor students… but the problem is- there is a defect in the financers, and in the program’s implementers. I do not know if it was stupidity, corruption, good intentions, or bad intentions… I don’t know…these questions puzzle me, and I cannot find an answer to them….
After the work is finished, I used to think a lot, and wonder about the reasons for the ruin in which Iraq is living after the occupation; what is the meaning of the weakness of control, and what is the meaning of administrational corruption?
If I had been a manager of the project and couldn’t visit the branches in the field to see the work with my own eyes, to meet the staff employees, listen to their views about improving the work, or it’s problems and difficulties, to see the beneficiaries of that project, to hear their complaints or reactions, to check for myself that everything is being done the right way- all these things develop the work and push it forward. If I had been deprived of this, I would have seen a clear failure ahead…
But- if I were a a minister in the present Iraqi government, or a parliament member, with all my experience and ambitions, how can I implement the reconstruction of the country while I cannot visit the locations, because of the bad security conditions? How can I trust that the projects were carried out in a correct way? How can I believe that the money was spent in the right place? Will I have s set of trustworthy assistants who will relate to me the true information from the field? Or will I be surrounded by corrupt employees, who will take advantage of the fact that there is no communication between me and the people to relate false information to me? How can the process of the country’s reconstruction be accomplished while the team of decision makers cannot go down to the field to see the implementation of the projects with their eyes.
Now I understood more the true nature of the present Iraqi government’s predicament, and why is corruption and theft going rife without a real achievement to reconstruct the country….. and how big and deep the gap is between the poor, needy, displaced people, and the decision makers.
Iraq needs long years to recover…
first, Iraq needs the occupation forces to go out, it needs to strengthen the build of the state, the army, and the police force, so it is in the hands of honest, sincere, and strong Iraqi people …

then, the country must be rebuilt step by step, so the civil life can return; the water supply, the electricity, the transportations, schools, and hospitals, so that Iraq would go back as we love Iraq to be; green, radiant, with the Iraqis living under one sky, gathering them like one family, and each member loves for his brother what he loves for himself.
The beautiful dream will remain on the horizon…and we ask God that it would be fulfilled one day, sooner or later.
But that day will come, by the will of God…
and we are all awaiting it…
How narrow can life be, without hope…

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