Iraq, ISIS and Balloons? SD Nonprofit Helps Iraqi Refugees

A balloon won’t solve the crisis in Iraq, but it will bring a smile to the face of a child refugee fleeing the terror of ISIS.

A San Diego woman knows this first hand after traveling to northeastern Iraq in late September, just as the conflict heated up with U.S. warplanes bombing terrorist strongholds below.

“Anytime I told someone I was going, they got really kind of anxious and said ‘That’s the worst idea ever. Don’t go’ and this and that,” said Deborah Eriksson, executive director of Restore International, a Point Loma-based nonprofit.

Restore International already has influence in far off places like India, Uganda and Somalia, so Iraq was a natural fit when the organization’s founder Bob Goff, a former attorney, saw the need.

“We have 70 students. They’re learning English and art; they’re taking computer lessons. It’s crazy,” said Goff in an Instagram message to followers back home.

The small team is starting an after-school program geared toward orphans and kids in refugee camps.

They hope to eventually grow it to 600 students.

“My view of it changed” said Eriksson referring to the country. “I’d been hearing on the news all this violence, all this fear people had been talking about it, and there is a lot of that going on for sure, but when I was actually in this town in Northern Iraq and working with the kids at the refugee camp, there was a lot of hope and a lot of joy.”

Eriksson hopes to inspire others to conquer fear and replace it with hope.

The nonprofit is looking for partners to sponsor a kid for $25 a month or donate toward winterizing the refugee camp.

“Even though we don’t have all the answers by any means, we felt like there is something we can do here. We can be helpful and just meet some basic needs,” said Eriksson.

Eriksson will be returning to Iraq soon.

Contact Us