Bringing Peace back to the “City of Peace”

“Activism is action to bring about change in society. It can be trying to make a government change its laws, or trying to make people change what they do.”- Thamer Alyas Once upon a time, Baghdad was known as the City of Peace. After years of conflict throughout Iraq it is fair to say Baghdad is rarely looked at as a symbol of peace any more, but what people don’t understand is that peace is still very present in this city and all over Iraq. Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP) is a highly competitive program sponsored by the...


Applications for Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program for Undergraduate Students Have Opened

This past week, I was fortunate enough to be present for the launch of the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program for Undergraduate Students (IYLEP) 2016 application. While we knew students were waiting for the chance to apply, the results were astonishing. Once the application was released, applications began to arrive almost immediately. Over 250 applications were started within the first 24 hours, and that number has steadily increased.  Currently, nearly 3,000 applications have been created and several thousand more are expected by the application period’s closing on December 1, 2015. Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program for Undergraduate Students is implemented by...


Iraq’s New Generation of Leaders

By Jessi Pascual, Programs Intern Global Connect Division When you have a powerful unit of 99 Iraqi Young Leaders together, you can only expect greatness as an outcome. This summer 99 Iraqi students journeyed throughout the United States as part of the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP). I watched them grow from the moment they trickled into the Grand Hyatt Ballroom to the moment they stood on the curb of P Street in Washington D.C. to say tearful goodbyes. Even before they stepped onto American soil, they were all set to make their mark in the United States and...


IYLEP 2015: Welcome to the Concrete Jungle

Landing in New York City for the first time in life and watching extraordinary hustle and bustle on the roads surrounded by high-rise buildings (which require a 90-degree angle to get a sight of the top) not only dazes but also infuses unusual inquisitiveness to explore each corner of the city especially when you have just three days to work on your wish list. It is almost dreams coming true for youngsters to be among the millions of strangers, yellow cabs, and policemen mostly seen through the lens of Hollywood. These are some of the moments, feelings, and reactions...


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.