Student Projects

The Mustard Seed, a faith-based youth group from Williamston, South Carolina, has taken up the cause of nine-year-old Ayat. Ayat was blinded by a US cluster bomb near her family’s home in Baghdad.

Cluster Bomb in Iraq. A high percentage do not explode on impact. Many children like Ayat are maimed and killed by these cruel and indiscriminate weapons.

The group has raised funds for Ayat and her family, sent gifts, and educated the community about what happened to Ayat. They hope other communities will help other war-injured Iraqi children. And they believe that the story about what happened to these children must be told. Otherwise the American people will never learn about the human costs of the war.

No More Victims is working to facilitate similar projects in communities all across the country. We are grateful to the Mustard Seed and its cofounders, Ann Cothran and Selena Frank, for devoting their energy and creativity to helping and advocating for Ayat.
Letter from Ann Cothran, Co-founder of the Mustard Seed

A clearance expert holds up two types of US cluster submunitions used in Iraq. On the left is a ground-launched Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM), and on the right an air-dropped BLU97.
As co-founders of The Mustard Seed, a faith-based service organization for youth 12 and up and a few adults, Selena Frank and I were becoming increasingly troubled by the war in Iraq and our inability to help the injured, especially the children. I searched the Internet for groups who were helping war-injured civilians, and was excited when I found “No More Victims.” I immediately e-mailed Cole Miller and asked what we could do to help. Since we live in a rural part of South Carolina and are mostly made up of youth, we didn’t have resources to fund major operations. All I knew was that we’d do whatever we could to help a war-injured child, and to help make people aware of these children.

Cole wrote back to me about Ayat, a 9 year old girl who tripped over a US cluster bomb outside of her apartment building in 2003 when she was just six. Ayat was permanently blinded by that bomb, and though medical intervention couldn’t help her, Cole suggested that we could help her in other ways.

Selena and I told our group about Ayat at our next meeting and they were very excited about helping. I really don’t think that our youth had thought about the fact that children were being killed and maimed in this war. It saddened them terribly, but from that sadness came a determination to help this little girl.

Rolling Coins for Ayat.
We started small by making “Ayat boxes,” little two by two inch boxes with Ayat’s photo on one side and information about The Mustard Seed, No More Victims, and Ayat on the others. The kids used these boxes to save their spare change for one month; the adults put them on their desks at work or in their homes. When that month was up, they brought the change to a meeting and rolled their coins. They were so surprised to have raised $400 for Ayat just from pocket change! They really felt like they could actually help this little girl!

Next, we made prayer cards and bigger donation boxes and took them to places of worship to talk about Ayat and war-injured children, and to continue raising money for her. The more we learned, the more we wanted others to know. The more we all know, the harder we’ll work to make things right.

We are planning on having a big fundraiser over the summer to benefit Ayat. We hope to send care packages and small gifts to Ayat and her family. We want to send them funding when we are able, simply to make sure that they have food to eat, needed medicines, and shoes on their feet. Though Ayat can’t benefit from surgery, we want to show her and her family that somebody cares. And, through our fundraising, people learn what is happening to children in Iraq.

Gifts for Ayat
We’ve also contacted our state school for the blind about ideas for things to send a sightless child, and the possibility that one day she may be able to come here for schooling. We’d also love to raise the money to get Ayat a prosthetic eye some day. When she was injured, one of her eyes had to be removed and her eyelid was simply sewn shut.

I think that it is almost impossible for us to imagine what life is like for our little girl. Today, there is no place that is safe for Ayat. There is no place that is without fear for her. There can be very little joy.

Without resources for the blind in Iraq, Ayat has literally lived in a world of darkness for three years. She will never see again. But, we believe that there is hope for Ayat. We want more than anything to bring that hope to her and make it reality.

Ayat has become dear to us, though we’ve never met her. Her suffering affects us. We cannot turn our backs on her and we hope that through fundraising for Ayat, and through talking about her to our families and friends, we can bring an awareness to our community that children are being hurt and killed in Iraq.

We want the killing to stop. Because someone we love is there.

— Ann Oliver Cothran