Volunteers | The American University of Iraq Sulaimani

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AUIS Students Lead Cleanup at Lake Dukan in Sulaimani

August 18, 2016 - Sulaimani (KRG), Iraq: Around 100 students from the Academic Preparatory Program (APP) at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) hosted an event to clean up areas surrounding Lake Dukan in Sulaimani today. They were joined in their efforts by staff and faculty members, as well as AUIS President, Bruce Walker Ferguson.  The event was part of the APP Service Learning Program for the students to encourage learning outside of the classroom, as well as to develop the young students' critical thinking and communications skills.  "AUIS is teaching our students that learning goes beyond classroom.  We want to encourage our students to engage in the community in order to change their environment for the better.  I truly believe that our students are the key to a better Kurdistan," said Rachel Gresk, APP director, who also joined the students at the cleanup.     This year, the students decided on two service learning goals: helping refugees and those displaced by conflict in Iraq, and protecting the environment. Over the course of the last semester, the students have been fundraising and developing close partnerships with local NGOs for their initiatives. The lake cleanup is the latest initiative by the environment protection group, who are partnering with Waterkeepers Iraq (NGO) to find meaningful ways to raise awareness about protecting the environment in Sulaimani and surrounding areas. The students used a crowdfunding campaign to raise $1000 for the cleanup.  The volunteers spent the afternoon clearing trash and litter left by tourists and picnickers on the lakeshore. "We took part in this project because we want to save our environment and our nature. This is our responsibility," said Ismail Jamal, APP student and president of the AUIS Environment Keepers club.    "We regularly hold such activities to raise awareness about environmental issues and to educate people about the consequences of polluting clean water and green spaces," said Mr. Nabil Musa from Waterkeepers Iraq, who accompanied the students at the cleanup. "We encourage students to participate in these activties to protect nature. We are very happy to partner with AUIS on this project and are really proud of what these students have accomplished." Another group of APP students has also raised funds to supplement the irrigation of public parks and newly-planted trees in Sulaimani, in consultation with the Sulaimani Garden Directorate, to find the best ways to preserve green space in the city. To that end, they have raised over a million dinars thus far to pay for water tankers, and are planning to host  a small event on August 27, 2016, to join in the watering of a park.    About the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani Established in 2007 as a not-for-profit institution, AUIS is dedicated to providing a comprehensive liberal arts education for the benefit of young men and women from Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, and the wider region. The University seeks to produce graduates of responsible character with the necessary knowledge and skills for professional and national leadership. The academic program, taught in the English language by international faculty, is designed to develop strength in critical thinking, the ability to communicate well, a strong work ethic, good citizenship and personal integrity.  The growing student body at AUIS represents the region’s diverse ethnic and religious landscape as the University continues to the be the destination of choice of more than 1,600 students. Reflecting Sulaimani’s location at an international crossroads, Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, Ezidis and Christians, live and study together in an open culture fostering diversity and tolerance. Academic freedom is a principle guaranteed in teaching, learning, and research in a manner identical to that found at regionally accredited colleges and universities in the United States.  Follow AUIS on Twitter @auis_news and Facebook @auisofficial for latest information and news. For media enquiries or interview requests, please contact Bzhar Ali Boskani, media and public relations manager, at [email protected] or 964(0)770-4615-385.  

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    

Student Volunteers Help Organize Refugee Talent Show

  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.

Alternative Spring Break 2016

  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.

First Volunteerism Week at AUIS Raises Money, Awareness

  Sulaimani, Iraq - Jun. 16, 2011 - The first annual Volunteerism Week at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani ended today after three successful events encouraging AUIS students, staff and faculty to become more involved in the Sulaimani community and celebrating the service of the dozen returned Peace Corps volunteers who now work at AUIS.  The week kicked off on Tuesday with Hoops for Hearts, a charity basketball game, followed by a clean-up of the Qelyasan River with local NGO Nature Iraq, and ending with an Hoops for HeartsInternational Food Cook-Off.  Hoops for Hearts and the International Food Cook-Off were both fundraising events, which raised 1,160,000 ID, or around $1,000 USD, for the International Children’s Heart Foundation to perform a life-saving surgery in Sulaimani. “Usually when I play basketball, I play for myself and I forget about everything,” said Beyan Salah Tahir, and International Studies major from Erbil and a member of the AUIS women’s basketball team.  “But during Hoops for Hearts, we were playing for something more important than ourselves.  Throughout the game, I kept remembering the children we were raising money for and they inspired me to play my heart out.” “It was a really great privilege to be a part of this experience,” said Hussein Aladdin, an Information Systems and Technology major from Baghdad whose biriyani took second place in Cook Offthe Cook-Off. “It fed my soul, and made me think how great it is when people cooperate with each other to change someone’ life. I am really surprised about the generosity that people showed.” The funds raised by AUIS for the International Children’s Heart Foundation will help pay for a life-saving heart surgery for a local child to be performed this fall.  The ICHF is an international NGO that provides heart surgeries to children around the world without access to proper medical care.  The ICHF has performed twelve surgeries in Sulaimani in the past. River Clean upAUIS also partnered with Nature Iraq for the Qelyasan River Pick-Up.  Nature Iraq is an NGO that works to preserve Iraq’s natural resources.  About a dozen students, staff and faculty teamed up with four representatives from Nature Iraq to clean up a section of the Qelyasan River that is being polluted by trash and those using the river to wash their vehicles.  Over the course of an hour, volunteers hauled away two truck-loads of garbage. "It was an interesting and useful experience," said Miriam Waleed, one of the students who took part in the river clean-up. "I always enjoy teamwork, and it is important to dedicate our time to preserving our environment for future generations." AUIS currently employs eleven former Peace Corps volunteers who served for two years in communities around the world.  Peace Corps is a U.S. government organization that promotes volunteerism.  For more information, please visit the Peace Corps Web site at www.peacecorps.gov.
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