Visit to Hiwa Hospital

Written by Karzan Fadhil

Hiwa hospital is a cancer patients hospital established in Iraq-Sulaimani, which includes over four hundred children diagnosed with cancer. The hospital does not only include Kurdish children, but also it has accepted various children from different parts of Iraq with open arms. Today, a group of students from the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) organized a visit to the hospital, and gave the children many gifts. The trip was organized by Jwan Farhad, a student in the undergraduate program at AUIS. During the visit the  students met the children and closely talked with them to make them happy. For most of the students it was the first time to visit the hospital and see their hard circumstance, but ultimately during their discussions with the children’s mothers their eyes filled with tears, and they sympathized with children’s parents.

In the hospital, there were many children diagnosed with cancer at different ages, ranging from one-year-old to their early teens. The AUIS students met a group of approximately 35 children. The children’s mothers complained about the cost of medicines that sometimes there is the lack of medicines, so they have to buy them outside the hospital, and they are too expensive for them because many of them do not have a good financial situation.

Despite the fact that the children are terminally ill, they became happy when they were given the gifts, and their mothers smiled at their optimism, so AUIS students tried to wipe sadness off their faces as much as they could. At the end of our visit, we talked with Kak Nariman, an official at the hospital, about the patients’ conditions. He assured us that a few of them have hopes to be cured, but it is the matter of time. Also, he hoped that our visit would not be the last visit to the hospital. Finally, he expressed his thanks and appreciation towards AUIS students for their visit, and he thanked them for the initiative that they took.

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Conference Calls Bridging Worlds

Four Iraqi university students during the teleconference with American students.

Sixty Iraqi students collected in a conference room, eyes glued to a TV that showed about forty American students smiling back.  After a brief introduction from both sides, students bravely shuffled forward to sit in a chair fitted with a microphone and a webcam with their peers surrounding them.  Students’ hesitation turned to confidence as the conversation progressed.  The questions morphed from the innocuous “What do you do on the weekends?” and “Why are Americans always smiling?” to the contentious “Do you ever feel physically threatened?” and “Why does the American government like controlling the whole world?”.  Thought provoking answers fell on fascinated ears from both ends.  As it turned out, both sides shared similar interests and difficulties.  Almost everyone enjoyed going to the movies and hanging out with friends and almost everybody faced too much homework and hard economic times.  After an hour and a half of meaningful exchange, my Iraqi students exited the conference room beaming on account of the bridge they had just constructed linking the two worlds.

The teleconferences were held via skype and projected onto a screen.

The idea started as a small pen pal exchange and quickly evolved into a full teleconference.  Students exchanged questions before hand, setting the basis from which a fantastic cross-cultural conversation blossomed.  Using the first conference as a stepping stone, I organized another one albeit with a more intimate atmosphere.

Four waving Iraqi students sat in a row facing a webcam and a microphone.  On the other end four American students waved back.  Based on information exchanged before the call, they traded probing questions about problems facing their societies.   The protests sweeping the Middle East including Iraq were of particular interest to both sides.  Identifying the corruption that runs like rain through Iraq, one student emphasized “before the war, we had one lion: Saddam.  Now we have many lions”.  Discrimination, corruption, and economic issues were highlights.  Of course, with the American students being in Cleveland, my Iraqi students were curious as to how a river could catch on fire.  Though we all had a good laugh about that one, it was a sad reminder about the pollution problems that both societies face.  As the conversation pushed on, superficial differences melted away, and students again realized that the similarities outweighed the differences.  After an hour and a half, everybody was all smiles; another bridge had been erected.

Out of focus students realize that there is much more that brings them together than that drives them apart.

The most recent teleconference involved about twenty of my Iraqi students and five American students.  Though politics made a brief appearance, they mostly wanted to escape to the land of pop culture.  Excited students listed American TV shows they loved (24, Prison Break, Lost) and exchanged their opinions on pop icons.  Sadly, only one American student knew some Arabic pop culture (none knew any Kurdish pop culture) but the others replied that they were eager to learn.  At the end of the teleconference, everyone was enthusiastic about continuing the conversation.  The American students set up a Facebook group and invited the Iraqi students to join.  They have since traded numerous messages back and forth.

This Fall I am planning a more intricate teleconference with Development Now members discussing sustainable development issues and conflict resolution in Iraq with masters students in America.  I hope it will be as successful as the other teleconferences have been bridging worlds.

Iraqi students and their English instructor

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Development Club

Development Club A group of students studying at the American University of Iraq- Sulaimani (AUI-S) formed Development Club in March 2011. Since its onset, Development Club members have been visiting local NGOs, meeting with community members and analyzing issues related sustainable development in Sulaimani, Iraqi Kurdistan.

 These hard-working volunteers are committed to assessing developmental projects, summarizing what they observe, peer-editing and finally posting their findings on this website. We hope to publish excerpts of their findings in both Kurdish and Arabic in the near future. Without the dedication and courage of these students, this website wouldn’t be possible.

Development Club members on top of a tank at Sulaimani's Red Museum

A special thanks to Development Club members:

  • Ali Adnan
  • Ari Hammed
  • Awan Ahmed
  • Chawan Mohammed
  • Dastan Sabah
  • Dlpak Ali
  • Hawkar Rafiq
  • Karzan Fadhil
  • Mariam Khalid
  • Mina Bassam
  • Noor Al Janabi