A group of 23 AUIS students, along with the Dean of Students, Mr. Geoffrey Gresk, visited the Khanke camp in Dohuk to spend their Nawroz break with the children in the refugee camp.
Story and photos contributed by student volunteer Halbast Abdullah.
The Alternative Spring Break (ASB), which was first initiated in America, is a program in which students dedicate their time for community service, and AUIS has organized this activity for two years now. “I am very proud of how the group members contributed to the project, both before and during. Masti Khalil, an AUIS student, was a very good co-leader. This is the second year we have done this, so it is becoming a tradition, and it is a good one,” said Mr. Gresk.
There are many refugees in Kurdistan, especially in Dohuk, due to ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq. The refugees are going through a really hard time and most have lost everything, including family members. Our aim was to spend time with the children in the refugee camps and to divert their thoughts away from destruction even if it was just for a while. “It's hard to imagine all the pain and loss these refugees feel every day, but being on the ASB trip really opened my eyes to their struggles. Just seeing the smiles on every child's face while we were there with them made me want to do more to help in any way I can,” said ASB team member Avan Mohammad. “I am the happiest for making all those people happy, especially as they are my people,”said Shakir Salam, an Ezidi student at AUIS.
The students were divided into different groups to arrange the event. They worked on fundraising and planning the program, such as, transportation, buying materials, and housing. The group raised US $1,400 through arranging activities like a cook-off and a lemonade stand. Two AUIS professors also contributed to raising the sum. The funds were used to buy school supplies, notebooks, pens, erasers, color pencils, face-paints and kites for the CSM school in Khanke camp. They also bought office supplies for the teachers in the school and administrators of the camp, such as staplers, binders, etc. Also, less than $200 was spent for the cost of the trip for those students who couldn't pay all the money by themselves.
The team left for Dohuk on March 22nd and returned to Sulaimani on the 25th. They spent the two days on various interactive and fun activities with the children in the camps, including face painting, games, singing and drawing.
The group also had a meeting with some female Ezidi photojournalists who are being supported by Z-Agency, UNICEF, RDO and Italian government. Most of them are studying in high school and one is studying psychology in the University of Smel. They have already had two photography exhibitions at the Galawezh Festival and at AUIS during the conference on the future of the Ezidi community earlier this year.
This trip has changed our views almost entirely. We all have learned that together we can do anything. Certainly, I think we did our best in making the children happy and we succeeded. The children opened up to us really quickly, and when we interacted with them they quickly became our friends. Our mission was to spread happiness, some sort of help that can leave its trace forever in their hearts.