The Green Music and Arts Festival

Iraq’s first environmentally themed festival, The Green Music and Arts Festival, is picking up steam.  Head over to http://greenartsfestival.wordpress.com/ for the latest.

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Environmental March in Iraq

Participants marching through Sulaimani's Azadi Park

I dropped a grimy styrofoam cup into the burlap sack around my shoulder and took stock of what was going on all around me. Dozens of bikers were chatting as they slowly pedaled past me on my left side. A handful of local artists were holding banners and mock-hangman nooses nailed to 2-meter-long slats of wood ahead of me. A few children holding bamboo shoots scampered beside their parents as they picked up empty water bottles and cigarette butts off of Sulaimani’s main street, and surrounding the entire 200-person-strong entourage was a perimeter of stern-faced police officers marching in formation. A smirk slowly spread to an ear-to-ear smile as I saw with my own eyes the most meaningful experience of my two years in Iraq take place.

Dozens of participants rode bikes to demonstrate easy alternatives to fossil fuels

Climate Action Day Iraq was just one of hundreds of grassroots demonstrations that took place on September 24th, 2011. The umbrella organization which made the demonstration possible was 350.org, named after the upper limit ppm (parts per million) of CO2 in the atmosphere, past which the effects climate change becomes increasingly difficult to reverse, 350. Since co-founding AUI-S’ Development Club in March, I have been able to meet and work with dozens of local NGOs in Sulaimani working towards making their community a better place. When I floated the idea about an environmental march in Sulaimani out to my contacts in Suli-based NGOs, the response was encouraging; Nature Iraq, Development Now, Sulyon, Mercy Corps, and the Green Environment Group were committed to seeing this project take place.

Many of the participants held banners and slogans promoting environmental protection.

I’ll spare you accounts of the mind-numbingly inefficient trips back and forth from the governor’s office to the special police headquarters as organizers and I prepared official permission for the event. According to Nabil Musa, one of the organizers for Climate Action Day and a staff member of Nature Iraq, the process for getting approval for a demonstration has become much more difficult following the heated public anti-government demonstrations earlier this year. In preparation for the event, Nabil, Azar Othman from Sulyon and I scouted the bazaar in search of sponsors for the event. We were able to use dozens of planks of wood thanks to donations from local woodworkers. Local bike shops granted us reduced prices for renting 35 bikes for the day. Not only that but Zara Supermarket not only donated use of its garbage truck but also subsidized bamboo plants which we purchased for Climate Action Day Iraq participants.

It was inspiring to see so many groups of people work together on a project like this. Many of the development club students I had been working with for months took ownership of the issue of climate change in Iraq. A number of my students help prepare the banners and paint t-shirts before the event at Sulyon’s office. Amanj Saeed, the leader of the Green Environment Group wrote much of the initial proposal, which helped many of the organizations explain and fund the project through donors. Local and international media came out to film the event and interview participants, which were able to spread the message of environmental protection to many millions of viewers nationwide.

Have you been involved in this project? Please feel free to rate this project using the stars below and leave specific comments so that projects like this one can become more meaningful over time.

Climate Action Day Proposal

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Location: Suliamani, Iraq Purpose: Awareness of Climate change/ Environmental Protection Date: 24 September 2011 Description: Green environment group, Development Now, Sulyon Group , Iraq nature, Iraq upper Tigers Water keeper are organizing the project climate day action in Sulaimani city. Climate … Continue reading

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مزاد التصوير الفوتوغرافي (Photography auction-Arabic)

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في السنه الماضية, التقيت مع الدكتورة نيكول, بروفيسوره في العلوم السياسية في جامعة ولاية سان فرانسسكو, في احد المقاهي2011 الشعبيه في شمال العراق –السليمانية, ولقد القينا نظره معا على مجموعه من صور التي قمت بألتقطتها مسبقا خلال فتره اقامتي في … Continue reading

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NetSquared

Photo: Chris De Bruyn

Development Now will be partnering in the near future with the San Francisco-based  nonprofit organization NetSquared, focused on the intersection of technology and social impact. NetSquared is a subsidiary of TechSoup and has been operating since 2005. We are hoping to organize monthly gatherings open to anyone in the Sulaimani region interested in making their community a better place using technological tools. Development Now is the first NetSquared organizer in Iraq although there are:

  •  Organizers on 6 continents
  •  83 NetSquared groups in 64 countries
  • 170 organizers around the world

Feel free to spread the word! Our first NetSquared event is open to anyone in the Sulaimani area that wants to use technology to help its community and is scheduled for the beginning of October, 2011.

Gelişim Kulübü (Development Club-Turkish)

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Yazmak: Chris Debruyn Çevirmek: Srur Muhammed Mart 2011’de  bir grup, Irak-Sulaymani Amerikan Üniversitesi’nde okuyan öğrenciler Geliştirme Kulübü kurdu. Başlangıcın yanadan beri, bu grup yerel  STK’lar ziyaret edilmiştir. kulüp üyeleri, topluluk üyeleri ile toplantı ve konular  Sulaymani , Irak, Kurdistan sürdürülebilir kalkınma ile ilgili analiz edilmiştir. Bu çalışkan gönüllüler, gelişim projelerinin değerlendirilmesi, gözlemlediklerine özetleyen , akran düzenleme, ve kendi bulgularını gönderilecek bu web sitesinde için kararlıyız. Umudumuz yakın gelecekte, Kürtçe ve Arapça  bulgularını alıntılar yayınlamaktır. Bu öğrencilerin özveri ve cesaret olmadan, bu web sitesini mümkün olmayacaktı.

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Why Do We Need to Do Volunteer Work?

An AUIS student helping plant trees at the new campus

People reach a certain stage in life when they realize that they live their life adequately and see that there are others who are destitute, desperate, and distressed in life.  Those people can give help by offering necessary skills that would cost a lot of money elsewhere to the people in need or can aid them economically.  They decide to help the people in need by whatever skills they have.  They try to help them to have a little knowledge about the world around them.  In a way, they are giving something back in order to balance out the opportunties they have had in their lives.

I heard a little about volunteering when I was younger, but after joining AUI-S I have realized how it made a huge impact on many of AUIS’ teachers and faculty.  Many teachers volunteered years of their lives serving in orgnaizations like VSO (Volunteer Service Oversees) and Peace Corps.  Still, after finishing those, they are continuing to do other volunteer work in other places they have been to, including Iraq.  In my university, we did several volunteer works like assisting refugee kids, cleaning rivers and streets, and helping raise money for children who have cancer, etc.  At the beginning, I did not see that much benefit for the teachers and faculties, but after experiencing volunteerism firsthand I now realize that it helps the poor in one side and the volunteer on the other.

Loading goods to be donated to Iraqi IDPs

After a while, I realized that there are huge benefits from it for the inside of the volunteer.  The way you feel after helping a person and seeing that person smiling gives you a joy that cannot be measured.  Additionally, there is another amazing benefit from this job, which is making friends.  People have easily made friends with the people they are helping, and also with the other volunteers because both have a parallel aim in life, which is lending a hand. I personally have made many friends through my volunteer work.  My teachers had the same advantages while they were in other countries through Peace Corps; they connected with new communities and got a better understanding of differnet cultures.  Interestingly, I have also realized that they have learned new languages, different cultures, and new skills from their experience as well.

I become very happy when I see poor people being remembered and helped by others.
My volunteer work made me be a more mature person and feel that I am born with a reason, which is helping others who are unable to live a happy life.  In addition, it makes me feel comfortable and proud of myself because it shows me that I can be a part of raising a new generation in a good way.

Picking up trash in the Rizgary district of Sulaimani, Iraqi Kurdistan

I hope that people can volunteer more and more because there are many desperate people out there waiting for help. As Albert Pike said, “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal,” so we can see that the advantages from volunteering are infinite.