Ten years ago, we started helping kids get life-saving heart surgeries. We weren’t the only ones doing this work. Many foreign doctors came to Iraq—but they relegated local doctors and nurses to the sidelines of the operating theater.

This approach saved a lot of lives, but it failed to address the the underlying need: making sure Iraq’s medical system can give Iraqi kids the care they need, long after the foreign doctors have gone home.

We settled on a different approach, partnering with foreign medical teams and local doctors and nurses to build Iraq’s capacity to provide high-quality cardiac care. Teams of foreign doctors spend thousands of hours training local medical staff—and then hand them the reins. As a result, children’s lives are being saved in hospitals across Iraq—and now, around the world—even after our teams have left.

By partnering locally, we were able to accomplish so much more than we could alone.

Responding to Iraq’s biggest crisis—together.

In 2014, ISIS stormed across Iraq. We started showing up on the frontlines in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Mosul—providing  life-saving food, water, and medical care for those caught in the middle of the conflict. We started providing jobs and income and empowerment opportunities for those who lost everything fleeing ISIS.

We could not do this without our Iraqi staff, friends, and local partners like the Iraq Health Access Organization. They know the people, places, needs, and solutions far better than anyone else. Just like with our heart surgery programs, we knew we had to be in this together—with local people and local organizations—if we actually wanted to help.

As part of the Fallujah campaign, IHAO/PLC staff prepares an emergency delivery for families displaced by ISIS in Al Garma, Iraq. Included were 52,000 pounds of food aid and 24,000 litres of water.

Today, we work shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends in Iraq and Syria. Not just because we believe it’s necessary (we do)—but because it’s the best way to work. We go into the hard places together. We design our responses and programs together. We empower people together. When we say “we,” we don’t mean white Westerners charging in to “save the day.” We mean all of us together, collectively expanding the work that can be done.

Everything we do is about building local capacity, investing in local institutions, and strengthening communities that will endure well after we are gone.

Our local staff, friends, and partners extend the reach of what we can do in any one place. They get us into places we couldn’t reach without their influence. They help us stay longer and do more than we ever could have done by ourselves.

Expanding our coalition expands our reach, and then our impact. Thinking of ourselves as something bigger than our own staff means we can accomplish things that are bigger than ourselves.

You’re a part of this coalition, too.

When you join us—when you live out this idea of preemptive love, when you show hospitality wherever you are, when you show up for those displaced by war by purchasing refugee-made products in our store, running fundraisers, using your voice, or by giving—you build something that will last.

You help us work in more than one place at a time. You become an extension of this movement, right where you are—even as you help us to invest in and through local partners where we are.

We depend on you to make our work possible, and we depend on our local partners to help us use those resources most effectively. That is our coalition. That is how all of us—you, our staff at Preemptive Love, and our local partners—create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

We are a network—a coalition—of people working to unmake violence and remake our world with the hope that someday, this work will no longer be needed.