IYLEP High School Alumni Inspire Youth Volunteerism in Baghdad

Written by Abdulaziz A.

Alumni of the 2013 Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP) reconnected this past February in Erbil. Alums from both the High School and Undergraduate programs gathered to reflect on their experiences and participate in workshops and panel discussions that built upon the skills students developed last summer in the United States. Meridian invited IYLEP alumni to submit a blog post describing their personal experience and growth with the program. We selected the winning entries to post on The LEAD. Abdulaziz was selected as one of the winners for the IYLEP High School group.

When Khalid, Maryam and I returned to Baghdad after the 2013 Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP) in the United States, we decided to start a project to help poor people in Baghdad. We looked for students in our schools that had the same interests.  We were really surprised to get support from a lot of the students. We collected used clothes and contributions from neighbors, friends and family in a 2-week period. We chose a neighborhood where poverty is really high. In order to distribute the goods, we had to get permission from the police and be escorted. Unfortunately, distribution points, where many people gather to receive charity, are often the targets of terrorist groups.  The police were not helpful, but one of our cousins recommended we approach the Iraqi army.  The army wants to build up and encourage more civic action, so we made a search for the areas in Baghdad that are under control of the army.  We found really poor families living in houses made of mud.

Continue  

Humanitarian worker leads food assistance for Syrian refugees

The Syrian civil war has raged on for over three years now, and recent escalation means there is no end in sight. The conflict has come in-and-out of focus in the voracious American news cycle, overtaken by stories of the Mid-term elections, racial tensions in Ferguson, and the new Taylor Swift album. That has not stopped International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) participant, Matthew Hollingworth, and the World Food Programme (WFP) from working tirelessly to provide food to the starving Syrian people. CBS’s 60 Minutes recently illuminated his story.

Continue  

IYLEP Blog Contest: Turning Exchange into Action

Alumni of the 2013 Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP) reconnected this past February in Erbil. Alums from both the High School and Undergraduate programs gathered to reflect on their experiences and participate in workshops and panel discussions that built upon the skills students developed last summer in the United States. Meridian invited IYLEP alumni to submit a blog post describing their personal experience and growth with the program. We selected the winning entries to post on The LEAD. Sara A. was selected as the winner for the IYLEP High School group.

Continue  

Mural Arts Exchange Launches in Democratic Republic of Congo

There is no denying it: art and culture are social drivers in the community. Using art for community engagement exists as a means for reaching not only artists, but also the youth and marginalized communities. Through a cooperative agreement, Meridian and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) at the U.S. Department of State have selected four American artists to travel to Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to participate in a cultural exchange.

Continue  

Democracy in Action: Int’l Visitors Observe Election Day 2014

On Tuesday, November 4th, visitors from around the world participating in a variety of our programs gathered at various polling stations across the United States to witness democracy in action. These visitors were on both the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and our GlobalConnect projects. Visitors observed elections in 10 cities: Sacramento, California, Manchester, New Hampshire, Raleigh, North Carolina, Louisville, Kentucky, Minneapolis, Minnesota, San Antonio, Texas, New York, New York, Annapolis, Maryland, Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

Continue