• Taylor Koopman

IYLEP-Arabic in Kalamazoo - About to host year three!!

Updated: Apr 11, 2019




IYLEPers at WMU, honorary Broncos!

As we gear up to host IYLEP-Arabic for the third time (in its three year history!) we look back at our program from the pilot year in 2017. Get set for IYLEP-Arabic 3.0, here from July 10-24, 2019!! We are actively seeking host families for this summer.


July 2017 - Colleagues International was proud to have been chosen in 2017 by World Learning as a host organization for the pilot year of the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program- IYLEP Arabic - in Kalamazoo! We had nine teenagers, two adult mentors and two World Learning facilitators arrive on the eighth of July and stay for two full weeks! They came to Kalamazoo to explore leadership development and civic engagement, with a focus on work with Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees so that back home in Iraq they could effectively work with refugees and internally displaced persons in their home communities.


Arrival day in Kalamazoo! Iraqi youth are welcomed by host families, July 8, 2017

While they were here, they stayed in the homes of local people, whose generosity and openness made this program possible. They were able to meet with many local youth through KYDnet and member organizations, as well as Bethany Christian Services, the Kalamazoo Islamic Center and the Kalamazoo Refugee Resource Collaborative to learn about how our city welcomes and assists refugees in resettlement. IYLEP cohort members were also able to utilize and expand their leadership skills through programming completely dedicated to teambuilding.


On their first full day, they were able to complete many challenges together with KYDNet youth at The Kalamazoo Nature Center. In the Global Lounge at Western Michigan University, IYLEP developed their leadership skills through games and discussions with over twenty Kalamazoo youth from various local organizations in a full-day joint workshop.


IYLEP Arabic practicing civic engagement, with a photo op, at Kalamazoo City Hall

This delegation was able to tour Kalamazoo City Hall and meet with municipal officials to gain insight into how the city runs and how officials engage our community, and especially how civic engagement is open to youth too. The Iraqi Graduate Student Union at WMU was a huge component in working with the IYLEP youth in discussing project proposals to be implemented in their home communities. They also helped engage the Iraqi community in Kalamazoo by hosting a cookout for the participants and more than 50 others in a local park to have fun and eat authentic Iraqi foods.


While they did have many productive meetings and workshops, they also had plenty of fun free time! They were able to spend a day at Pretty Lake, dancing on a boat and eating delicious Halal foods, hosted at the home of a local citizen diplomat. After coordinating with host families, the IYLEP program also made sure to visit Michigan’s Adventure. The teens participated in potlucks, pool parties and game nights! Overall, it was such a pleasure for Kalamazoo to be a part of the IYLEP-Arabic program!

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