Leading with Courage: three Iraqi teens apply leadership training to serve in Baghdad

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GYV and IYLEP alumni collaborating with the Iraq army to serve poor families in Baghdad

Sometimes doing the right thing is hard.  We might be scared of getting hurt, we may lack the confidence to try new things, we might believe we are too small and insignificant to really make a difference.  A group of three Iraqi students, alumni of Legacy International’s Global Youth Village, didn’t let fear get in the way of making a difference in the lives of poor families in war-torn Baghdad.

Utilizing the leadership training they received during Legacy’s international summer program, these teens recruited other young volunteers, collaborated with the Iraqi Army, and managed distribution logistics during the day of their service project.  They did this all among rising violence and terrorism in their country’s capital.  (Talk about leading with courage!)

U.S. Department of StateThe Iraq Youth Leadership Exchange program (IYLEP) is supported by the US Embassy Baghdad and administered by Meridian International in partnership with Legacy International. 

Here is their story:

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Baghdad child waiting patiently for food a clothes collected and distributed by team of teen leaders

“When Khalid, Maryam and I returned to Baghdad after the Iraqi Youth Leadership Program in US, 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 have to get permission of 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 they agree to partner with us]. We made a search for the areas in Baghdad that are under control the army, and  [identified families most in need of food and clothing].

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Young leaders collaborating to distribute supplies during day of service

We sorted the clothes and made bags containing a blanket and clothes for kids and adults.  Other team members went to the market to buy 45 kg meat.  The next day, we went to an area called  ”Hey-Dragh.” We selected 50 households and gave each family 1 kg of meat and 1 bag.

So our idea worked and we were so happy because at the early stages we felt so terrified that it would not work. We also found a new goal  — to inspire other youth.  Imagine if each high school has team like we have and conducts a similar activity 4 times a year!

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A community in Baghdad, received supplies collected by young leaders

During the [Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program] reunion in early February, we planned to do this again in the summer and some of the other IYLEP participants will do the same in their cities.  We are also planning to share the idea with youth by visiting schools and tell them what we are doing and how they can help us and help our community.

In the end we are so grateful that we had the chance to be creative and active in our society.   Without the training of Meridian International and Legacy International, we couldn’t do this.  [Before our training}, we didn’t know how to start such ideas, plus we didn’t have the confidence.   Now everything has changed — we now believe that it’s not only important to change ourselves, but also extremely important to engage others.”

Written by  Abdulaziz Alazzawi in collaboration with Khalid Waleed Aboud and Maryam Ali Ghazala GYV/ IYLEP ’13

Doing good is hard sometimes,  we will face obstacles, like Abdulaziz, Khalid and Maryam did.  But just because it is hard, doesn’t mean it is impossible.  With the right training, a supportive team and a lot of courage, we can all make a difference in our community and the world.

Want to learn the leadership skills Abdulaziz, Khalid and Maryam did?  Visit: http://www.globalyouthvillage.org/participate/gyv-programs/

Leave your comments below so Abdulaziz, Khalid, Maryam and their team can read your support

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3 comments:

Mary Helmig02/11/2014 at 8:59 amReply

“It has really been a wonderful experience working with more than 300 young Iraqi leaders since 2007. Their sense of humor, resilience, and deep love for their community are always in the forefront. They have high standards and excel in their studies because they see themselves as integral players in moving this country with ancient roots forward. Erbil was a beautiful place and it was amazing to be standing in one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. “

Leila02/11/2014 at 10:01 amReply

I am so inspired by what these young people have accomplished! Thank you for sharing this story!

Sarah Phillips02/20/2014 at 1:40 pmReply

So honored to have gone to GYV with these three! I will never forget them, and am very proud of the actions they are taking in Baghdad. Congrats!

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