The Power of Dialogue

Naomi Yakawich
July 23, 2014

“Young people have the greatest capacity to dream big and think outside the box of past enmities.” – Global Peace Leadership Conference, Ulaanbatur, Mongolia, Dr. Hyun Jin Moon, Chairman of the Global Peace Foundation

The University of Washington chapter of Global Peace Youth hosted lunch for 12 Iraqi youth leaders from the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP). The students are in Seattle for a social media capacity-building program organized by the World Affairs Council.

It was a short moment, but a significant one for both local GPY volunteers and the Iraqi students. They discovered shared values and aspirations of leadership and peace, and explored unique cultural qualities. It’s true, there are few boundaries when you are young, maybe we should stay young forever.

Below is a reflection from Global Peace Youth on the get-together.

Students at the University of Washington

On Friday, July 18, 2014, University of Washington’s Global Peace Youth Corps (GPYC) partnered with the World Affairs Council to host a group of 12 young Iraqi high school students on the university’s beautiful, sprawling campus.

The Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP) is a selective group of highly motivated young people that were partially sponsored by the US Department of State based on their outstanding community involvement, academic excellence, and English fluency.  In an intensive summer long program these students from different corners of Iraq travel from Vermont to Washington learning and experiencing methods of social media and how it affects and expresses current political, social, and economic issues.

GPYC UW gathered a total of 8 members and volunteers to host a lunch and tour for IYLEP participants. With a variety of majors, from Astronomy to Economics to Material Engineering, GPYC instigated a productive discussion over lunch under the theme “How can we become upstanding and innovative leaders with an international point-of-view?”

In small groups, university and high school students spread out across the lawn to exchange introductions and stories about their host families and favorite hobbies.  From under the shade of a cluster of trees one could hear laughter as one UW student exclaimed, “You don’t have a McDonalds?!” One young Iraqi student raised her arm and motioned as if throwing, smiling as she told her group about how she was able to go to Seattle’s famous “Gum Wall” and leave her mark on the monument.

As the discussions went on, GPYC President Joy Mito listened intently as one 17-year-old girl told her she wanted to be a dentist when she grew up. Placing her hand onto her chest, she softly said, “Since a child… it is my dream.”

Lunch went quickly with effortless discussions, and students from IYLEP and GPYC continued the exchange as they walked from building to building exploring UW’s striking architecture and the educational components each building fostered. As they walked, a GPYC student asked his IYLEP peer what she hoped to learn from her experience on the program. She paused for just a second before responding with conviction, “When I go back home, I want to teach others to be like us, like leaders.”

Students walking on campus

After sharing only a couple hours together, GPYC and IYLEP students reluctantly parted as the young Iraqi students left for a blogging seminar.

Ying Ying, a UW student and GPYC volunteer, expressed why she shared her afternoon with the IYLEP students saying, “You sustain yourself by helping others. It’s a process of give and take.”

It is true. The continuous exchange of ideas with a commonality of purpose nurtures stability, which is essential to advance people from every background and raise young people with a vision so powerful, they build up everyone else around them.  Simple interactions like the one displayed by the students of UW and the IYLEP is a shining example of positive peer-to-peer interaction that dissolves barriers and has the potential to develop innovative methods of changing the world.

For more photos visit Global Peace Youth Corps-USA’s Facebook Photo Album, UW International Exchange!

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