On June 20, 2016, the Arbat Refugee Camp near Sulaimani in Kurdistan Region of Iraq came alive with lights, sounds and music as refugees took part in an entertaining talent show organized by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Iraq. The “Refugees Got Talent” contest was hosted to mark the World Refugee Day and showcased diverse talents and skills of young refugees in Sulaimani. An energetic and dedicated team of more than 20 students of the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) volunteered with UNHCR to help organize the event.
“I think it’s an amazing event,” said AUIS student Shanyan Hassan, volunteering as organizer on the day of the event. “Nothing can make you feel better about yourself than making children happy. And here in this camp, we encourage the children to showcase their talent. It reminds them that they have talents just like other people all over the world.”
The AUIS students responded to volunteer request by UNHCR, facilitated by the Student Services Office. During the month before the talent show, the students attended numerous UNHCR meetings and helped out with logistics and organization of the rehearsals and the final show.
Zhino Luqman, another AUIS student thought that working with others at the camp was an excellent learning opportunity for teamwork. “This is the first time that I have taken part in such an event. It’s a really good opportunity for the refugees, and it has brought so much happiness to the participants,” he said.
Majid Ali Esmail, refugee and trainer of a dancing troupe at the talent show from Qamishli, echoed Luqman’s thoughts, “Despite all the difficulties we face in the camp, we still have hope in the future. That’s why I have put so much time and energy into training this young group from the camp.” Fatima Saed, a member of the same dance troupe, said, “Our goal is to make the camp people happy, remind them of our Syrian traditions that will stay with us forever no matter where we are.”
Marco Rotunno, one of the main organizers of the event from UNHCR, appreciated the hard work put in by the AUIS volunteers’ team. “June 20 is the national refugees’ day. We are here to celebrate with them their day,” he said, talking to AUIS communications volunteer, Wud Salam, who accompanied the event volunteers on the final show. “AUIS students helped us a lot in organizing this event. They were great. They were with us from the beginning until this day. Each one had a different role and they helped us in different levels. They helped us in organizing the event, registration, administration process, editing, count control, and many other jobs,” he said.
Well done to all the students who contributed to the talent show in keeping with the strong AUIS tradition of community engagement and volunteering initiatives.
Interviews and photographs by Wud Salam, AUIS communications student volunteer.