Supporting Vulnerable Children
STEP exists to support vulnerable children and has been actively working in Iraqi Kurdistan since 2001, when the Kurdish people were still suffering under the regime of Saddam Hussein.
During the war of 2003, STEP provided emergency support to orphans, working children, internally displaced young people, schools and social services.
The establishment of the Kurdish Regional Government after the war has seen the Kurdish people gain some degree of autonomy within the new Iraq, but there remains an historical trail of desperate poverty and trauma within this community.
It was the plight of the vulnerable children that prompted STEP to start open a drop-in centre in Suleimany, which is now the hub of STEP's activity with young people.
The work and credibility of this project has fostered strong relationships with the local government departments. STEP has been asked to provide training for teachers, head teachers and social workers.
STEP has also been lobbying the local authorities to establish Child Protection Policies, including the provision of foster care. In 2008 STEP became a recognised partner of UNICEF.
Working with Displaced People
There are currently thousands of displaced people living on the outskirts of Suleimany in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, which have existed since 2004.
Most of the people living in these tented camps have fled sectarian violence in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk as well as refugees from Syria in more recent years.
Christians, Yazidis, Arabs and Kurds are scattered in churches, empty, derelict or unfinished buildings and wherever they can find shelter.
As well as working in the camps, STEP has mobile teams visiting different locations seeking to provide for the differing needs as they are identified.
Working in Syrian Refugee Camps
Since the crisis in Syria began in 2011, Iraq has seen an exponential influx of refugees cross the border.
STEP has been busy working in nearby refugee camps were able to provide families with blankets and clothing for children, following a successful international appeal.
In August 2014, the Arbat camp moved to a more permanent site, although child friendly spaces like those that STEP had been working in the original Arbat camp have yet to be put up.
A strong team of social workers have been trained by STEP in the past year and are currently working among refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) in parts of the city.