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Travels for change

Lots of retired people travel, but where Irving M. Wolfe, PhB’34, goes, he tries to make a difference. Since his first trip abroad to Germany and Italy in 1936, Wolfe—now some 48 countries later—has continued to travel to the world’s political hot spots. Last May, along with his wife, Evelyn, Wolfe went to Iraq for eight days as part of the Iraqi Sanctions Challenge delegation.

Led by Detroit Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton and organized by Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general, the group brought more than $4 million of medicine to the people of Iraq, defying the UN–backed trading and travel sanctions.

“That was just a drop in the bucket,” says Wolfe, at 85 the oldest delegate on the trip. “We hope that other people and other groups will start to take medicine. Medicines—sophisticated medicines like penicillin and chlorine—are needed everywhere in Iraq.”

Because the U.S. prohibits direct travel to Iraq, Wolfe, along with 100 other U.S. citizens, ministers, and doctors, went from Amman, Jordan, by jeep across the Syrian Desert to the capital city of Baghdad. Each delegate, he says, was allocated only 2 liters of water during the 21-hour drive. A self-described anti-war activist, Wolfe says he endured the trip because he believes the Iraqi sanctions have harmed Iraqi civilians, especially children. During a trip to a Baghdad pediatric hospital, Wolfe recalls, “there was blood on the sheets, when there were sheets.” He says he witnessed children dying of preventable diseases, such as amoebic dysentery, because of a lack of medical supplies.

“The war has been over for seven years,” says Wolfe. “We are not letting the country rebuild.”

Wolfe, of Pomona, New York, has also traveled to Cuba, Nicaragua, and China. He urges others “to go to places where things are happening.”—P.J.A.

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