Over three hundred people from NHS bodies with their friends came together at the weekend for a glittering charity ball in Newcastle Civic Centre.
They had gathered to support and raise funds for Kurdish born orthopaedic surgeon, Professor Deiary Kader who founded the Newcastle-Gateshead Medical Volunteers to bring much needed medical relief to Kurds back in Erbil.
Deiary has mobilised dozens of his fellow health professionals to use their holiday time over the last three years to visit Kurdistan to carry out dozens of knee and hip operations.
The Kurdistan Region has developed in leaps and bounds in the last decade with fast increasing disposable income and improving public services such as near continuous electricity.
But the health system is lagging behind and Deiary and his team are helping plug the gaps and transforming the lives of people many of whom have been housebound and immobile for years.
The dinner was attended by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle who gave an official welcome to the efforts of the volunteers.
I delivered greetings from the APPG while the KRG High Representative to the UK, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, also sent a message of support.
She praised “another excellent year of service and dedication to the care of the people of Kurdistan” which is “remarkable in the high standard of care and professionalism its members offer while working voluntarily in Kurdistan during their own holiday time.”
Bayan added that “The people of Kurdistan in Iraq have suffered greatly over the decades – from war, displacement, chemical bombardment and torture. Our people have suffered in other ways too. Under Saddam’s dictatorship, Iraq was a country under siege. Travel was restricted and there was little transfer of knowledge so that many advances in medical technology, techniques and knowledge bypassed us. Today we are trying to catch up and we are delighted and grateful that the Newcastle/Gateshead Medical Volunteers is prepared not only to provide medical help but also to share knowledge.”
Poignantly, she said that the work of the NGMV “is making a difference to many people’s lives and that is something that every one of you should feel proud of. None of you needs to go to Kurdistan, and none of you has to do these operations, but the fact that you do is a testament to your compassion and generosity.”
Talk about dialogue and links between countries often seems academic and distant from the concerns of ordinary people. The NGMV does much to turn this into a story of human beings connecting with each other and enjoying themselves into the bargain. Deiary and his team deserve great credit for all they have done and plan to do. The day will come when the health service in Kurdistan can stand on its own two feet in knee and hip operations, so to speak, but the achievements of this remarkable initiative will live forever.