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Working Towards a Better Tomorrow

Dealing with the changing challenges of today requires problem-solvers who bring different perspectives and are willing to take risks. ACORN emerged out of a pursuit to inspire and support communities, and a desire for actions to speak louder than words. Established in 1993, we’re an organization driven by community, bold action, and ingenuity. Contact us to learn more and get involved.

Our History: About Us

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much"

Helen Keller

Our History: Quote


Over the years, ACORN has kept up with thee changing needs of communities by running diverse projects. Here's a brief history of projects we've run in the past!


Coming Alongside Children with Disabilities.

The formation of a Kurdish Medical Board to advise ACORN was a foundational step in the development of sustainable services for disabled children in Northern Iraq. Assessments, registration and simple treatments for disabled children were started at the Sulaimany Pediatric Hospital in 1993 and a referral system covering all provincial health centers was established. In 1994, ACORN prepared the Sulaimany Children's Rehabilitation Center to provide services that included diagnostic assessment, surgical consultation, physiotherapy treatment, orthopedic aid and appliances, and child psychology and social work.

With funding from the British Government, ACORN collaborated with the Dohuk Department of Health to train nurses and assistants in physiotherapy and the Dohuk Children's Rehabilitation Center was born in 1998.  Five years later, ACORN handed over the Center to the Department of Health. At that point in 2003, over 7,000 children had been registered.

 In 2003, ACORN began working in Mosul and Kirkuk to design appropriate services and train specialized staff for new Children's Rehabilitation Units across Iraq. Medical assistants received a one-year theoretical and practical training to work as physiotherapists and others were trained in production of splints & braces. Staff from Dohuk Children's Rehabilitation Center, with ACORN support, provided supervision for Mosul's Children's Rehabilitation Center until late 2004 when it closed due to insecurity. ACORN continued to support disabled children’s services in Kirkuk until 2009. 

Since 1998, ACORN has been working in several other locations running Satellite Physiotherapy Units to provide services to disabled children in rural areas. ACORN has also run workshops for production of children’s braces and mobility equipment since 1997, providing the equipment necessary for these workshops. Other trainings run by ACORN include a two year physiotherapy diploma course, orthopedic technology, English, and continuing education for physiotherapists. ACORN was also advocating for higher levels of education for physiotherapists in Iraq, working to see a Bachelors program established.

Incorporating Disabled Children in Local Schools

In 1997, ACORN commenced work with the Sulaimany Ministry of Education. ACORN incorporated physically disabled children into local schools, making ramps and changing bathrooms to make them accessible where previously, children using wheelchairs or crutches were often not welcomed or provided for. Seminars for Primary School Directors were organized to explain the specific needs of disabled children and how to help them be included. Select teachers were trained in how to use stories and games to enable normal children to better understand and welcome children with disabilities.
During 1998-2003, this program to train teachers was run in 124 primary schools in Sulaimany. “Just like Me and You” program was also carried out in 25 primary schools and 25 secondary schools. Sections of the program have now been included in the curriculum for training Primary School Teachers.
In August 2006, ACORN ran a 10-day training course for 25 teachers in Halabja. When school started in October, the Child-to-Child Program was implemented in 20 primary schools and kindergartens.
In 2003, ACORN was asked by Liliane Fonds to oversee the sponsorship of disabled young people. These funds enable them to continue their studies at school and college. As of 2010, 24 children and teenagers had received aid.   
In mid-2004, ACORN commenced a Special Education Pilot Project in partnership with Sulaimany Ministry of Education. After 7 years of working to get physically disabled children accepted into schools, this was our first attempt to address the educational needs of children with intellectual disabilities. For this new work, many teachers were interviewed and 6 were selected for on-the-job training in Special Education.
Three schools began running weekly playgroups and a home visiting program for families with disabled children under 6 years old. Four teachers were trained as ‘Family Guides’ who gave developmental and learning support to 24 children.
Since 1997, ACORN has been producing a range of books, manuals, leaflets and reports in Kurdish language (Sorani Dialect) relating to Disability Awareness, Physiotherapy, Parent Education, and Research and worked to build support for families. ACORN has contacted the parents of children with Down Syndrome, asking them to attend meetings to discuss issues relating to this disorder and encourage each other in how to care for their children in positive ways.
In 2005, ACORN encouraged the government to establish a ‘Department for Special Education’ to oversee the educational needs of disabled children. ACORN provided two cars to ensure smooth running of the special education program, ensuring that the supervisors could make frequent visits to train teachers and to oversee the Halabja Disability Awareness project in 20 primary schools.

Horizons Duhok Learning Center

Horizons Duhok Learning Center ran from June 2013-April 2016 and was directed by Matthew David Archer.  A qualified and committed staff of native English speakers taught Beginner through Intermediate Classes and offered English conversation classes for advanced students. We averaged 40 students per term and 8 students per class.

Music for Life
In the autumn of 2015, the Music for Life project was started for patients at the Burn and Plastic Surgery Hospital in Duhok.  Visits were made to the hospital twice a week where live music was performed to soothe and bring comfort to patients, their families, and the medical staff.  The project ran until the end of February 2016 and was managed by Lizzy Hogg.

SMILE Project
The aim of the SMILE Project was to improve the emotional well-being of children who were receiving treatment for cancer and Thalassemia at the Jin Pediatric Center in Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan.  During our visits with the children, we provided activities which included arts and crafts, music, puzzles, and caring conversation.  
The SMILE Project was launched as a 3-month pilot project  in September 2011.  After proving successful, ACORN staff received permission from the Directorate of Health to resume the project in 2012.  The twice per week visits stopped after the Pediatric Center relocated to a temporary facility which did not have space for the project. The project ran from September 2011 until February 2016 and was managed by Lizzy Hogg.

Agricultural Development
The Flower Farm Project was established in 2010 with the purpose of providing new employment and job opportunities to internally displaced persons in Iraq.  Another aim of the project was to encourage the production of more locally grown products.  The project was managed by Case Corner ended in 2012.​

Our History: Who We Are
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