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JumpStart in Iraq

JumpStart International was founded in Iraq in 2003 to serve as a catalyst to assist Iraqis to rebuild their communities through a labor-stimulus program.

Although founder Sean O’Sullivan initially worked as a photo-journalist in Iraq during and after the fall of Baghdad, his engineering background led the direction for the JumpStart concept:  practical, hard-headed engineering humanitarian response to the crisis in Iraq, providing immediate progress in engineering works to clean up the war-torn appearance of Baghdad and prepare and assist in reconstruction.

The goal was to remove the wounds of war and employ people, giving them hope and demonstrating visible signs of progress, to help themselves restore civil society and restore faith that Westerners and Americans were trying to help them get their dignity and their sovereignty back.

JumpStart implemented hundreds of engineering, clearance and construction projects that provided visible signs of progress, building homes, incomes, and hope for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. At its peak of operations, JumpStart was the largest NGO operating in Iraq, with extensive operations in Baghdad, Fallujah, and Najaf, actively working to demonstrate visible signs of progress with as many as 3,400 daily workers working on over 80 simultaneous projects throughout the center of Iraq.

Projects were rapidly executed: some projects, such as rapid response teams which would react when a hotel or car-bombing scene needed clearance, lasted for only a week or two for a dozen workers, while longer-term projects, such as the Al Harthea construction of housing in the Green Zone, employed up to 500 workers for six months or more.

Over 1,000 government facilities were cleared through JumpStart projects.  From skyscrapers to college campuses, nearly every major government Ministry in Iraq accepted the help of the JumpStart workforce in the period from September 2003 until the end of 2005.

It was a difficult time to work in Iraq.  In fact, dozens of JumpStart workers were injured when on-site in targeted bombings, and by the end of 2004, all of the management organization of JumpStart were directly targeted by various insurgent, gangster, kidnapping and terrorist organizations, including the assassination of JumpStart co-founder Mohaymen Al Safar in Baghdad July 2004 and the kidnapping and torture of JumpStart’s longest tenured engineering foreman, Omar Al Nakib in Fallujah in January 2005.

Thousands of people were housed in homes reconstructed by JumpStart in Baghdad & Fallujah in 2004 and in a housing construction project begun in Baghdad in 2005.  At the end of 2005, due to increasing difficulties in continuing operations, JumpStart suspended operations in Iraq.