Countries: Iraq, United States
Duration: September 2013 to May 2017
Funder: U.S. Department of State
The Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP) is a four-week summer exchange program in the United States which brings English-speaking secondary school students from Iraq to explore the themes of leadership development, civic rights and responsibilities, respect for diversity, and community engagement. On the exchange funded by the Department of State, competitively-selected American students join Iraqi participants in all U.S. activities.
Participants are between the ages of 15 and 17 and are recruited from all provinces in Iraq. Iraqi adult mentors who accompany the students are educators and/or community leaders who work with youth and have demonstrated an interest in promoting youth leadership and social development.
The program continues after the U.S.-based exchange with follow-on activities in the participants’ home communities, including through alumni activities focused on leadership development.
To see these groups - which are in conflict at home - interact in the program is very inspiring. They are eager to build bridges and make connections with their American peers and dispel stereotypes of Iraqis.
IYLEP program associate
Students travel to the United States in July/August to World Learning’s SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT; followed by homestays in cities across the United States; concluding their program in Washington, DC.
Alumni conferences following the six-month completion of the exchange may be held in Erbil.
Program Goals & Objectives, as defined by the Department of State
The goals of the program are to:
- Promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of Iraq;
- Enable the participants to understand civic participation and rights and responsibilities in a democracy;
- Promote community engagement among Iraqi youth;
- Develop leadership skills among Iraqi youth; and
- Foster understanding and relationships between people of different ethnic and religious groups.
I learned that with our skills and knowledge, we can develop our country and help improve the situation. We, as a team of members from different parts of Iraq with different ethnicity and beliefs, can work together to help rebuild our country. - 2014 IYLEP participant
IYLEP Alumni Projects!
Basra Is Your Home – Alumni in Basra created a network of volunteers to help refugees and internally displaced persons in Basra. Volunteers have collected and donated money, clothes, food and medicine to over 300 families. The group has a large social media presence with over 4,000 Facebook followers to raise awareness about their mission.
Youth Passion – Alumni based in Dhi Qar and Baghdad are using social media to inform fellow Iraqis about the most pressing issues their country faces and to facilitate conversations about possible solutions to these challenges. Topics include bullying, the environment, health and politics.
Iraqi Clothes Bank – Alumni in Sulaymaniah have organized a clothing drive in order to donate clothing to IDPs and people in need in their community. The long term goal of this project is to have a branch in each province of Iraq. Through the IYLEP network, the project has already spread to Baghdad.