Community Development in Iraq through Volunteerism

The Volunteers of Duhok team discusses ways to engage students in community development through volunteerism.


By Ameer Sabri, Manager of Volunteers of Duhok University (VDU)
Alumnus IYLEP 2015

Volunteers of Duhok University (VDU) is an initiative launched by a group of students from the University of Duhok – a fast-growing institution in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Established in March 2015, the idea of setting up a youth center was pitched by a student, Saeed Qasim, and his mates, Zeena, Pekhatin, Karzan, Matty, Khosh, Iman, Yoshia, Khalid, Shihab, Ahmed, and Iman Na’man to create and spread the culture of volunteerism among students.

First of all, the VDU team developed a registration form for membership of VDU and visited three colleges – College of Arts, College of Science and College of Engineering – to distribute it among students and encouraged them to become either a member or a volunteer. As opposed to the team’s expectations, it got an amazing response with receiving more than 400 membership forms and later launched VDU at the university campus. VDU facilitated students to get opportunities to work as volunteer with different nonprofits, social enterprises and community organizations for short-term so that they can gain new skills and have work experience for improvising their resumes. The volunteer experience helps these students as potential candidates for new jobs when they graduate. The only payback the volunteers get is an experience certificate and transportation and these two incentives have been instrumental to encouraging students to volunteer.

So far, Volunteers of Duhok University has undertaken several initiatives with local and international nonprofit organizations. Under the first initiative, VDU sent 10 volunteers to work with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) for a project with the Syrian refugees. Its aim was to teach Kurdish Alphabet to the kids of Syrian refugees so that they can study in Kurdish schools. Similarly, the VDU volunteers worked with Middle East Research Institute (MERI), Danish Refugee Council (DRC), People In Need (PIN) and others local organizations. Currently, VDU is working on a project – Peace Club – with the Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies (CPCRS) – a center inside the university campus. Under Peace Club, more than 100 volunteers attend capacity building workshops and visit schools and sensitize students on the importance of strengthening civil society to deal with community problems. This also include open discussions and brainstorming with students to come up with ideas to get them involved in developing civil society.

VDU is an amazing initiative for developing the community through promoting the culture of volunteerism and credit goes to Saeed Qasim for pitching this idea, all the staff members for working tirelessly to make VDU a success and especially to the members and volunteers who are spending time for community development. Many thanks for Alex and Karwan who volunteered as advisers. It could not have been possible with the support of University of Duhok President Dr. Moslih and Student Center Manager Dr. Khalil. Here is a video that captures some moments about the history of Volunteers of Duhok University.