Service Learning | The American University of Iraq Sulaimani

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Service Learning

Students Spend Alternative Spring Break at Rwanduz Refugee Camp

Earlier in March this year, a group of undergraduate and Academic Preparatory Program (APP) students, accompanied by three APP instructors, spent their Nawroz break with children at a refugee camp in Rwanduz in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. This is the third consecutive year AUIS students have organized an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) to dedicate their time for community service. AUIS graduate Mohammed Hersh generously donated a large sum for the trip.   The students spent an entire day with the kids doing various interactive and fun activities, including face painting, dancing, drawing, and other games. “My favorite part of the trip was getting to see AUIS students interacting with the refugee children. I loved getting to see a different side of everyone. I didn't know Ahmed was an origami and paper airplane whiz. I had no idea Hazher loved puzzles. Every child, even the super shy ones, would talk to Juman. I got to see Ali ride a bouncy horse! There were so many small moments when I was reminded how amazing everyone is. It made me appreciate AUIS and its students even more,” said Ms. Katy McGarr, one of the APP instructors accompanying us on the trip. “This was my second time participating in ASB, it was well organized and I really enjoyed it. The best part of the trip was the team work. We spent the whole day doing activities for the kids and making them happy. I ended up painting bunnies, Batman and Spiderman on their bright, beautiful faces,” said student Zryan Ibrahim. APP Instructor Valerie Wayson echoed Zryan's thoughts: “The fact that we could make a change, a change that made those children happy, and bring joy was everything to us. Happiness is free, but so is sadness and pain. For us to take away some of their sadness is such a beautiful gift that was given from all our hearts," she said about her experience at the camp.  The students were divided into several different groups to arrange the event. They worked on fundraising, planning the program, transportation, buying supplies, and housing. Participants raised over one million Iraqi dinars from a cook-off hosted at AUIS prior to the event. “I was stunned by the generosity of the AUIS community. I know that AUIS students and staff are caring and compassionate; I see that every day. However, I never in my wildest dreams expected to raise so much money at our cook-off. I was blown away. Students who weren't even going on the trip brought food, worked at the table, and helped clean up. It was incredibly inspiring to see how everyone played a part in the success of our trip,” said Ms. McGarr. >> View a photo story of Alternative Spring Break on our Facebook Page.  There were also several anonymous donors, and the largest donation of USD 1,500 was made by AUIS graduate Mohammed Hersh Rashid. His contribution was used to buy supplies such as footballs, notebooks, pencil sharpeners, erasers, coloring books, play dough, and other toys for the children in the camps. The money from the cook-off was spent for purchasing a variety of English and Arabic books. The AUIS community donated books for pre-schoolers, school children, and teenagers, and the students purchased several picture dictionaries, teaching resources, and flashcards. The rest of the funds were used to purchase face paint, coloring books, a tug-of-war rope, and snacks. On April 6th, participants of the 2017 Spring Break met with President Ferguson and Mr. Mohammed Hersh. "As many know our country has gone through a lot because of the war and ISIS in the past two to three years. I personally think the University and the students have done a great job in helping those in need through these charities. As an AUIS alumnus, I thought it is was the least I could do to give back to the University and our community." - Mohammed Hersh Rashid "This was a great event, because it recognized two important themes of AUIS: Alumni supporting the university and the university supporting the community. Mr. Mohammed is one of hundreds of AUIS graduates who are staying connected to the university as they move forward with their lives and careers. As for the service: 2017 was the third year that AUIS students have donated their time and talents to others during the Nawroz Break. This trip was led by Ms. Katy McGarr, and we want to thank her," said Dean Geoffrey Gresk, at the meeting. Ms. McGarr apprecited the genrous contribution by Mr. Hersh to the trip: "As one of the organizers of this years’ service trip, I was blown away by Mr. Hersh's donation. It is a testament to the generosity of the AUIS community and how that generosity and commitment to service extends beyond graduation. It was an honor for the ASB 2017 team to be able to deliver Mr. Hersh's donation to the camps. I know that the many supplies he provided will have a lasting impact on the education and emotional health of the refugees we visited. In addition, I know that his example will inspire current AUIS students and future alumni to follow in his footsteps."  There are three refugee camps in Rwanduz, including Rwanduz, Kawlokan and Akoyan camps, built by the World Orphans organization. Most families are Yazidis/Ezidis who took refuge in these camps after fleeing from Shingal, and others include the Shabak who came from Mosul. There are about 100 families and 200 kids in the camps. The organization has built a school in Soran, and they also provided buses for them.  If you want to be part of the Service Learning Program, please contact Ms. Farah Mousa at [email protected]  Article and photos contributed by Communications student volunteer, Halbast Abdullah. 

Lake Dukan Clean-Up

The students of the Level 2 Academic Preparatory Program are hosting a Service Learning Project at Lake Dukan in Sulaimani on Thursday.    All faculty, students, and staff are invited to join the Level 2 students in cleaning up Lake Dukan. Please email Chris Guajardo at [email protected] if you are interested in joining the event.   Event Info:   When: Students are leaving campus at 2pm on buses that they have organized. Event starts at 3pm and ends approximately 6pm. Some buses will arrive back to campus at 9pm. Where: See attached photos (near Hotel Ashur which can be found on Google maps).    What to bring:  Blue/white t-shirt (AUIS t-shirt if possible) Gloves for picking up rubbish 2 garbage bags large hat or sunscreen water    

APP Students Engage Actively in Service Learning Projects

We are Level 2 students of the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani’s Academic Preparatory Program (APP). We are currently planning and working with our peers on our new service learning projects. Three of our classes have voted to help children of the refugee and internally displaced (IDP) community and three classes have voted to work on environmental action projects with Waterkeepers Iraq. Both sets of classes have formed working groups to raise awareness and collect international donations through websites which we have developed ourselves. The three classes who have voted to work with children have set as our mission is to bring hope and happiness to the children who have suffered the effects from the ongoing political crisis, violence, and sectarian divide. They are also vulnerable to sexual abuse, health problems, early marriage, and to work in poorly-paid labouring jobs. Our overall goal is to raise USD 2000 to provide materials for children at nearby refugee camps. Our first goal of raising funds for 50 soccer balls has been accomplished. We chose that goal so that children have some activities during the summer holiday when schools will be closed. We have also just completed our second goal, which was to raise funds for educational materials for teachers and students at the local camps. For the remaining two weeks of our semester, we will continue to raise funds and then deliver these materials to the camps. We also want to raise awareness in our society to let people know what is happening to these children. Please act now, and help us bring a smile to the children’s faces once again. For more information on helping the cause and updates on our stories, please follow us on social media.  AUIS Helping Refugees (AHR) Facebook Blog Crowdfunding - donate online to our cause  AUIS Environment Keepers Facebook    -- Mohammed Khidr, APP student 

AUIS Students Visit Refugee Camp for Alternative Spring Break

  This story has been published with contribution by AUIS student Biryar Bahhaalddin. Photos by AUIS student Rozhin Salah. April 5, 2015: A group of AUIS students chose to spend their spring break volunteering and spending time with the children living in a refugee camp in Duhok. The “Alternative Spring Break” started as a trend in the USA, where instead of vacationing, students volunteer their time for community service during their spring break. This year, AUIS students decided to do the same, supported by teachers and Dean of Students, Geoffrey Gresk.  The current crisis in Iraq and Syria has led to a massive influx of refugees and internally displaced people to Kurdistan, especially to Duhok, which hosts a large refugee community. AUIS students volunteered to spend their Nawroz break with the children in one of the refugee camps there. “We are very proud of the 23 students who participated in the service trip to Duhok. AUIS students have been donating their time and talents to the larger community for years, but this is the first time that so many students have had a focused service project during Nawroz break.” said Gresk. The team traveled from Sulamani to Duhok on March 22nd and returned on the 26th. The AUIS students and several faculty and staff members spent time in an IDP camp located in Sumel, west of Duhok. “We painted faces, led songs, and encouraged the children to express themselves in art classes. Several of our AUIS students are planning an exhibition of some of these drawings.” explained Gresk. “We believed that a week’s break is not a short time to try and bring some change to the society. We cannot put an end to the conditions inside the camps or fulfill their yearnings for their hometown Shingal. But, we were successful in bringing happiness and smiles to the children’s faces and we were able to build a strong connection with them,” said student volunteer, Biryar Bahhaalddin. “The children spent these three days with music, dancing, and painting away from thoughts of conflict and war. On the last day we went to the Bazar of Duhok, and we bought school materials for the children. We wanted to motivate them to continue their education because we believe that they will build the future of this country,” continued Bahhaalddin. “ The Alternative Spring Break was a great chance for us to experience a different city and culture, but also to build new friendships. Most of the group members did not know each other at the beginning, but during this week we became very close friends.” The “ASB Family" - as the volunteer team members called themselves - raised almost US$2,000 for the trip. About $600 of this went to pay for the transport while the remainder was used to buy school supplies for the children in the camps: US$1,000 for notebooks, $100 for pens, etc. Volunteers covered their own costs. “We tried to have this as a student-run event. Team members worked on fundraising, planned the program and arranged the travel and housing details. I would especially like to thank my co-leader, Mr. Hazhy Rozh, for all the work he did. The trip would not have happened, much less have been the success that it was, without his efforts,” said Gresk. “I would also like to thank Dr. Esther Mulnix, Dr. Aso Salih, Ms. Rachel Laribee, and all the other staff members who contributed to this success.”
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