We're not leaving any time soon
Yesterday, USAID agreed to a second phase of the project. Our operations are extended a year and will continue to June 2007. This was not too much of a surprise for anyone, as there have been discussions for a while that this would happen. We had an office-wide celebration to commemorate the occasion.
This is the first all-staff gathering that I have been to since I joined. Though we all work in the same building, with approximately 95 employees (excluding security), it is rare that we get everyone together. The building contains two offices - the national headquarters, which occupy the second and third floors, and the regional offices, which are on the first level.
The mood was much more upbeat than I expected. The staff erupted in applause after every speaker and it seemed that everyone (excluding me) took pictures. I don't think I've ever been to a work-related event that was this jubilant. And there were only soft drinks and cake on offer, as captured in the picture, which was taken by a coworker.
Most of the staff will now be employed until the end of the contract. Many of them previously worked for other USAID contractors whose operations were discontinued. I'm sure they're pleased to continue working with us, but what is more important is that they will have jobs. I have not heard any statistics on unemployment lately, but aside from mention of job creation schemes, I notice that this was only briefly discussed in yesterday's speech on the economic conditions in Iraq.