What have you been up to since the program?
I graduated law school as one of the top three students in Ishik University, Erbil, Iraq, and started working in an international NGO with the rise of the Syrian refugee crisis. My position had me auditing in an office, rather than allowing me to be more out in camps interacting with refugees like I wanted to. So I shifted my career into a whole different level, which was banking. I spent almost a year and a half in Lebanon through an on-the-job training program where I settled to take charge of the legal department in the bank, an experience that was truly enjoyable, on both a personal and a professional level.
After returning to Erbil from Beirut in late 2015 there was an enormous crisis regarding Internally Displaced Perons (IDPs) who flee their homes from ISIS to have a safer life in Erbil.
Some managed to live in camps while some live out in the streets, either in tents or unfinished buildings. My old passion for helping refugees reappeared. I initiated a fundraising campaign through Facebook collecting money, clothes, blankets, food and toys. I started my own informal charity team (Shine Together). We are now able to help hundreds of people.
I am volunteering as a team leader of fundraising campaigns in the Hugh O'Brian Youth foundation in Iraq, gathering teenagers to be a part of campaigns helping IDPs and refugees. Recently I joined the global shapers community (Erbil hub), where a team of youth with remarkable skills volunteer to start community service projects.
What was the most influential experience you had while in the US with the Civic Initiative?
The whole experience was very influential for my personal growth. I was always curious to learn more about other cultures, especially the American culture. And at the end of the road aren't we all the same? That's what I concluded and it had a great impact over my perspective and also it helped me to learn how to adapt in any environment within its diverse customs and traditions.
If given the opportunity to spend one day back in Amherst, what would you choose to do?
I would introduce my culture more to the people I meet there.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a person chosen to participate in this program?
Don't waste a second! It is a remarkable learning experience. Explore the cities you go to, talk to strangers, tell people your story, interact in every part of the program and share memories with teams of other countries participating in the same program as you are. Try to enjoy getting out of the box. You are an ambassador of your country.
What is next on your To Do List?
Getting a master's degree and starting a formal charity foundation.