Restoring Hope to 5-Year-Old Shepherd Boys on the Edge of ISIS

This month, we’re serving hundreds of families in a remote area west of Mosul. They are caught up in the fight against ISIS in a part of Iraq controlled mainly by Shia militias. No other organizations have been able to reach these families, not even the UN. But you lean into the hard places, for families like these…

Ali, 5 years old, is a shepherd. He’s fantastic with animals.

“I loved those animals and considered them my friends,” Ali explained. He is so attached to them, he gave them each names like “Blacky” and “Spots.”

Ali and his family are displaced because of the war with ISIS. Right now, they live in an old, abandoned village west of Mosul. They are in a terrible situation because the village is without access to food and clean water. There is nothing for people or their animals to eat, except for food that the local soldiers—part of the Shia militias who control this area—share out of their own rations.

Even at such a young age, Ali is facing the most agonizing situation for any shepherd: displaced to a village without any grass or feed, he watches his beloved sheep slowly starve to death.

“We are hungry.”

Ali’s sister Huda tells us the only thing they have to eat now is fried onions, once a day. There isn’t even any bread.

“Did you bring water?” Huda asks. “The water we have is poisoned.”

Their dad shows us what the water looks like straight from the well. It looks clean enough, but it’s strongly laced with sulfur and makes everyone sick, including the sheep.

What makes the situation even more painful is that Ali’s family has enough food to last the winter—back in their village. But the war is preventing them from returning home to their food stores and wells. Territorial pressure from other shepherds and bare winter fields prevent them from moving their flocks to larger towns with more resources.

Their sheep are their lives—their wealth, their daily work, their lifestyle. These families have no way to help their sheep until spring comes, but they can’t leave them behind.

This is where you enter Ali’s story.

When our trucks drove into the village, Ali wondered if his family would get any food. His response when he learned that everyone in the village, including his family, would get a share? He flashed the biggest smile!

“Now we can eat something good—better than the last difficult days. Thank you!”

You didn’t just show up for Ali, the displaced boy. You showed up for Ali, the shepherd.

You showed up with food. You showed up with water tanks, which local leaders were able to use to provide an alternative source of water for families in the area.

We returned the next day with feed for the livestock. Ali is over the moon to have something to give his sheep to eat! As soon as he received his share, he fed his sheep and watched them eat well for the first time since they were displaced.

The relief you provide is buying time for villagers to negotiate solutions in terrible situations. You are filling empty bellies and restoring hope to 5-year-old shepherd boys.

  Continue to show up for these families with provision and presence. Give today.

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Erin Wilson contributed to this story.