Fundraiser directs resources to Iraqi refugees

Each has sent refugees fleeing their homes, often in need of medical care, food and alternative housing. 

While Katrina victims are recovering and public outcry has brought Darfur to the attention of world governments, Iraqi refugees are not often in the American mindframe, said Tim Baer, an organizer with the Bloomington Peace Action Coalition.

The coalition will host a fundraiser from 7 to 9 p.m. today at the John Waldron Arts Center.

“We’re hoping that more people in the community become aware,” Baer said. “We’re all human beings, and we should be responsible.”

The event will benefit Direct Aid Iraq, an organization that brings refugees together with medical and humanitarian resources.

“We want to do something tangible toward peace and healing in Iraq,” Baer said. “They’re really grassroots, meaning they’re really ‘people-to-people’ oriented. ... They’re not bureaucratically top-heavy.”

Because less money is spent on administration, a higher percentage of the donations go straight to the aid for refugees.

Indiana Students Against War will co-sponsor the event.

“We work on things together often, especially if we want the University community to participate,” Baer said.

Local vocalists Janiece Jaffe, Curtis Cantwell Jackson and Deborah and Jonathan Hutchison will contribute live music to the evening.

The Hutchisons are a husband-and-wife duo, said Deborah Hutchison. The duo will perform entirely original songs of hope intended to soothe the soul.

“It makes me feel less helpless about what’s going on,” Deborah Hutchison said of performing at charity events. “I can reach out to people wose lives are being pulled apart ... and help them put their lives back together.”

Noah Baker Merrill, project director for Direct Aid Iraq and a 2002 IU graduate, will speak at the fundraiser and present parts of a film Direct Aid Iraq produced.

“It’s basically a series of short stories,” he said, in which refugees the organization has helped tell the audience about their lives and situations and how they benefited from Direct Aid Iraq’s work.

“The people who are coordinating in the Middle East are all Iraqis,” Merrill said, explaining that people who have lived through and are surrounded by the situation are best qualified to determine what the greatest needs are.

Currently, Iraq is paying reparations to Kuwait for the 1990 invasion that devastated the latter. Iraq pays into a United Nations fund that the Kuwaiti government can then use as they see fit. Merrill said he wonders if a similar fund will ever be set up for the United States to repay Iraq for the damage the United States has caused.
Beyond helping individuals, Direct Aid Iraq tries to promote a future of peace between the United States and Iraq.

“We’re taking responsibility,” Merrill said. “It’s not country-to-country or government-to-government, it’s people-to-people.”

For Baer, the motivation for organizing the event was simple.

“It’s just a tragic, tragic situation,” he said. “The need is there, so let’s help.”

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