Winter is Over!

This winter you enabled us to provide portable kerosene heaters and barrels of kerosene to 17 families in Iraq – families comprised of Iraqi IDPs, Syrian refugees, Yezidis, and vulnerable members of the host community. THANK YOU! According to locals, the winter months this year were significantly colder than usual and because of your generosity many families were able to stay warm despite the drop in temperature.

While implementing this project many people in America asked me a variation of the following question, “why are you providing heating in the form of a portable heater that runs on kerosene?” Great question!

The short answer is that Iraq experiences severe and prolonged power shortages. Most Iraqi homes go without electricity for up to 18 hours a day during the winter. This is not just the case for the most vulnerable families in Iraq, it is a reality for every person living in this country. It is not a question of cost, but rather of availability. 24/7 power is simply not available in Iraq. In fact, as I type this, my home has not had electricity for the last eight hours and counting.

So what does that mean for heating a house in Iraq? It means that for the vast majority of the day during winter, a family in Iraq cannot even turn on the lights in their house, let alone use central heating or an electric heater. Therefore, heaters that operate on something other than electricity are necessary. Kerosene heaters, also known locally as “sopas” are the solution for many families. Sopas run on kerosene – the kerosene is heated until it turns into a gas and this gas then heats the air and nearby objects. It is important to note that unlike the central heating we’re accustomed to in America, the sopa has a small proximal reach – it is only able to heat things located within a certain radius of the unit itself. Therefore, Iraqi families that have a sopa will often place it in the center of one room in the house. The family will eat, study, play, cook, watch tv, and sleep all together in the one room that contains the sopa heater. While small and portable, the sopa can be mighty and powerful. Even in the middle of the coldest night, a well-functioning sopa emits enough heat to keep nearby people warm. Sopas may not be as convenient or effective as the central heating we’re familiar with, but for the families we serve who received one this year, they are a treasured gift.

This winter you made it possible for 17 families here in Iraq to gather around their sopa in warmth and in comfort. Your support is writing a story of hope in Iraq and we are so grateful for you.

Jessica Binzoni