Giving Thanks on Give to the Max Day: From Minnesota to Iraq

November 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Minnesotans ignited a national philanthropic movement with the launch of the first “Give to the Max Day” in 2009. The idea is to generate buzz around an annual giving day – “The Great Minnesota Give Together” – and provide an online platform for Minnesota nonprofits to receive donations on Give to the Max Day. This year’s Day is today, November 15, 2012.

It has proven an effective idea. During last year’s Give to the Max Day, 47,534 donors logged on to GiveMN.org and gave $13.4 million to 3,978 Minnesota nonprofit organizations, whose missions range from feeding the hungry to protecting the environment to promoting the arts.

I work for a Minnesota-based nonprofit organization, the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project (IARP), and in June of last year I had the opportunity to travel to Iraq as an unarmed civilian. I stayed at the home of Sami Rasouli, an Iraqi colleague, in the city of Najaf. My “security” was Rasouli and a mediocre beard, which helped me pretend to be Azerbaijani when we passed through security checkpoints.

When I arrived in Najaf, I unexpectedly found out that I would be teaching English classes four nights a week—starting that night. I got to know my students well over the next five weeks and had meals with many of them. We talked about politics, literature, history, and the war. I felt extremely humbled when some of them told me stories about losing family members or friends to the violence.

One student had played on Iraq’s national tennis team. He told me how his coach and three of his teammates had been stopped in the car they were driving, ordered to get out, and executed. It was luck that he wasn’t in that car. I thought about all of the thousands of times I had driven to and from tennis courts and about my college tennis teammates. What if our places in life had been reversed?

I was privileged to be able to travel to Iraq and learn from colleagues and students. Today, on Give to the Max Day in Minnesota, I am privileged to live in a state that remembers every year to give back. Minnesotans are generous throughout the year, but this is a special day to give back to the thousands of nonprofit organizations that save lives and make lives better every day.

A delegation from Minneapolis organized by IARP is currently in Najaf. In their presentations about Minnesota, the delegates are talking about the many Minnesotans who resolutely protested the occupation of Iraq and the manufacture of weapons made with depleted uranium at Minnesota-based factories. The delegates also mention in their presentations the generosity and commitment to civic life through support for nonprofit organizations in our state. It’s a proud day to be a Minnesotan.

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An IARP delegation is currently in Najaf, Iraq.

Luke Wilcox is the Development and Communications Director of the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project, which has a Give to the Max Day page at http://givemn.razoo.com/story/Iarproject.

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