Monday, August 14, 2023

As local organizations seek to secure additional sustainability and become lead actors in decision-making that impact them and their communities, it is important for them to network and establish meaningful relationships with key stakeholders. By doing so, local organizations share their needs and foster collaborations that contribute to additional institutional and financial stability. 

Vana Handola, the Executive Director of the Ankawa Humanitarian Committee (AHC), traveled to the United States where she attended a series of networking meetings with key stakeholders in May and June 2023. ‘Through the USAID-funded Transitional Assistance project, implemented by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), we had a unique opportunity to meet with different governmental and non-governmental institutions and discuss the current needs of our target communities, the funding gaps, and our vision for a more prosperous Iraq’, said Vana. ‘It is important for donors and stakeholders to understand the reality of the situation directly from the local organizations, and those who are affected by the context in Iraq’.

Together with AHC’s Program Director and Grants Officer, Vana presented the work of AHC to stakeholders in Washington D.C. and Detroit, including USAID, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Office of International Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State, and other faith-based organizations. 

Vana is passionate about the work of AHC. Before taking the position of Executive Director, she accompanied AHC’s leadership in developing the organization’s strategy and resource mobilization plan, as AHC’s Head of Operations. ‘I am very proud to lead AHC and represent the organization in these high-profile meetings. It is not very often that an Iraqi woman has the opportunity to be in a leadership position, thus it is important for us, as an organization, to defy the stereotypes and exemplify the strengths of female leadership, breaking barriers and seizing opportunities’, Vana added proudly. 

AHC’s networking trip yielded positive results for the organization. AHC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Chaldean Diocese in Detroit, which will allow them to be the implementing partner of the diocese in Iraq and receive funds for future projects. ‘Not only we showed what a nascent organization can do with the appropriate resources and time for capacity building, but we also proved AHC’s role within our community and our capacity to participate in decision-making that influences our people directly’.

Transitional Assistance Project Description 

Transitional Assistance is a project funded by USAID to promote locally led development and position local actors to meaningfully contribute to durable solutions in Iraq. The project focuses on strengthening the capacities of local organizations through building institutional systems and staff skills. The project is implemented in partnership with the Ankawa Humanitarian Committee (AHC), Shingal Organization for Social Development (SOSD), Insan Society for Relief and Development (INSAN) and Tadhamon Iraqi League for Youth (TILY).  

AHC Staff Meet with USAID Washington Team
Vana Handola, AHC Executive Director, Soha Menassa, Catholic Relief Service Iraq Program Manager and other AHC staff meet with USAID Washington Team.
AHC Meeting with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
Vana Handola, Ankawa Humanitarian Committee (AHC) Executive Director, Soha Menassa, Catholic Relief Services Iraq Program Manager and other AHC staff meet with Virginia Farris, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Senior Foreign Policy Advisor, and Lucas Koach, the Director, Office of International Justice and Peace of USCCB.
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