Honduras Mural Exchange: La Colonia 21 de Febrero, Tegucigalpa

I’m honored to represent the United States for the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Community Engagement through the Mural Arts exchange. During the first part (March 16-27), I worked with community members from a neighborhood called La Colonia 21 de Febrero. I’m heading back to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, today to continue my program. For the second half of my exchange, I’ll be working with the community of La Colonia Estados Unidos. Here’s a recap of Part 1:

Continue  

Community Comes Together to Paint Mural in El Viejo, Nicaragua

I’m participating in the Mural Arts Exchange Program through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, currently traveling throughout Nicaragua to meet with youth and other community groups from five different cities. In each location, we’ll be creating murals together. As of now, we’ve completed three and have two more to go. Here’s a recap of the first mural, in El Viejo.

Continue  

12 U.S. Foreign Policy Resolutions for 2015

As we all do, I have been thinking a lot about what 2015 will bring. Here are some of my thoughts, in no particular order, on what U.S. foreign policy must focus on this year. 1) Revitalize NATO NATO is a critical body for international security, but its importance and resources have been waning. As Russia tests the limits of NATO’s resolve, aggravating Cold War mentalities, NATO must stand strong as a coalition to safeguard freedom, security, and democratic values. 2) Finalize and adopt outstanding trade deals Negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)...

Continue  

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  

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