“When Khalid, Maryam and I returned to Baghdad after Legacy’s Iraqi Youth Leadership Program, (IYLEP) in US, we decided to start a project that helps poor people in Baghdad.  We looked for students in our schools that have the same interests. We were really surprised to get support from a lot of the students.”

U.S. Department of StateWritten by  Abdulaziz Alazzawi in collaboration with Khalid Waleed Aboud and Maryam Ali Ghazala

The IYLEP program is supported by the US Embassy Baghdad and administered by Meridian International in partnership with Legacy International.

Iraqi Young Leaders help the poor

Young Iraqi leaders bring aid to poor neighborhoods in Baghdad

They continue describing their project: “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 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.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.

Iraqi Youth receive help from Iraqi army

Iraqi Youth  receive help from Iraqi army to distribute aid to the poor

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!

During our 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.

Iraqi young leaders help the needy

Neighborhood receives goods collected by youth

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.  We didn’t know how to start such ideas plus we didn’t have that confidence.   Now everything has changed — we now believe that it’s not only important to change ourselves.  It is extremely important to engage others.”

Abdulaziz Alazzawi,  Khalid Waleed Aboud and Maryam Ali Ghazala were among the 275 teens from Iraq trained  in dialogue and leadership at Legacy’s Global Youth Village. Over 200 US teens had the opportunity to make friendships, develop dialogue skills and share laughs during these international summer programs.

meet iraqi youthLearn more about young leaders from the Global Youth Village.

Learn more about Legacy’s signature curriculum LivingSidebySide®