Unless you’ve taken a summer holiday from Facebook, you’ve probably noticed your newsfeed flooded with videos of people dumping cold water on their heads.  What is known as the Ice Bucket Challenge encourages people to either donate to the ALS Association in the United States or pour a bucket of ice water onto their head.  The challenge has mixed reviews – some argue is wastes precious water, some say it is raising awareness and funds for a debilitating disease that plagues many and is discussed by few.


Whatever your view on the Ice Bucket Challenge, there is no doubt that it is getting people talking and thinking about critical issues.


One of these people is Sylvana, Yousif from Duhok, Iraq, a GYV and IYLEP 2011 Alumna.  She heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge while watching the news with her family in their home in Duhok, Iraq – a week later, she has created her own challenge that involves ice and water, and benefits the scores of Northern Iraqi refugees seeking shelter in her home city.


“I saw some of my friends doing the ice bucket challenge without donating,” explains Sylvana, “then, two days [later] one of the displaced people knocked on our door asking for ice, so we gave him [some].  Many of the displaced people are still in need of cold water in the scorching heat of summer…”


Current high temperatures in Duhok, which is about 80km north of Mosul, are as high as 110 degree F (or 43 C).  In this weather, a cool drink of water is a small, but much appreciated relief for people who have fled their homes to seek safety in Duhok.


After helping the man who came to her door asking for ice, Sylvana had an idea.  She would create her own version of an Ice Bucket Challenge, but instead of dumping ice water on her head, she would bring ice and water to the displaced people who are living in schools, mosques and unfinished buildings in her neighborhood.


Sylvana freezes sauce pans full of water to bring cold water to displaced Northern Iraqis living in the schools and mosques of Duhok

Sylvana freezes sauce pans full of water to bring cold water to displaced Northern Iraqis living in the schools and mosques of Duhok


In 2011, as a participant at the Global Youth Village, and delegate of the US State Department’s Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program, Sylvana participated in an activity called Open Space.  Open Space poses a question or challenge to a group of people and then creates a space for those people to find answers to the question.  That summer, the Open Space question was “What Is Wrong with the World Today, and What Can I Do To Fix It?”  While three years ago, Sylvana had no way of knowing what the current state of her region would be, today, she is certainly thinking about practical ways to fix the problems she sees in the world.


As is customary in the ALS challenge, Sylvana also called out a few of her friends on social media to continue her new challenge.  She has also challenged “every house in Duhok to deliver ice and a dozen water bottles” to locations throughout the city where displaced people are living.  The movement is using #icedwaterforourpeople and #ICEDSAUCEPANS to track photos of the water and ice being delivered.


When asked what challenges she has faced completing her new challenge, Sylvana responses, “All the schools, mosques, churches, even new unfinished buildings are full of people” says Sylvana “they are in the neighborhood [brining water and ice] is so easy to do.”


Good, bad, indifferent – whatever your opinion on whether dumping ice onto your head is helping fix the world’s problems, we can all agree that one girl in Iraq is taking what she learned about seeking practical solutions to problems, meshing it with a viral trend, and is truly making a differences in the lives of those affected by the crisis in Iraq.